Friday, September 16, 2016

Combating Moral Relativism with Virtue

I apologize to my faithful readers for being late this week.  It’s been a very busy week for me and here I am, on Friday morning, with some time on my hands.  That is not to say that Thursday passed me by without my having any thoughts.  That is impossible, of course.  So, here we go.

Have you noticed that there is a serious lack of virtue in our world today?  I’m talking about basic human virtues ... those qualities that commit a person to do the right things for the right reasons.  The Catholic Church defines cardinal virtues (prudence, justice, temperance, and fortitude) and theological virtues (faith, hope, and love).  All of these are qualities from which good habits flow.   Examples of the good habits are kindness, patience, compassion, and perseverance.  Why is there a serious lack of these things in today's world?  

Could it be the fact that the “moral worldview” of people has changed in recent years?  Could it be that people no longer believe in “moral truth?”  We now live in a world of what has come to be known as “moral relativism.”  We have become so accustomed to our freedoms that an “anything goes” attitude has taken over.  “I’m free to do anything I want whenever I want.”  In such a culture, there is no “real truth.”  There is only “my truth,” or “your truth.”  People are only accountable to whatever “truth” they are feeling at a given time.

I think first we must give a correct definition of “freedom” here.  True freedom is not simply the ability to make whatever choice we prefer when confronted by a particular issue, i.e., to do anything I want whenever I want.  Rather, it is the power to choose what is right and to then exercise that power.  We need to return to a value system in which certain moral standards are considered fundamental, imperative, and right.  In short, we need get back our faith in God, hope in Him and love Him (think theological virtues), and then we need to become “other-centered.”  The Book of Deuteronomy has this to say:  “Hear, O Israel!  The Lord is our God, the Lord alone!  Therefore, you shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength.  Take to heart these words which I enjoin on you today.  Drill them into your children.  Speak of them at home and abroad, whether you are busy or at rest.  Bind them at your wrist as a sign and let them be as a pendant on your forehead.  Write them on the doorposts of your houses and on your gates.” (Deut 6:4-9).  Sounds like this is important, doesn’t it? 

Once faith in God, hope in God, and love of God are restored, then comes love of neighbor, i.e., becoming “other-centered”:  “Love your neighbor as yourself.”  (Luke 10:27, Matt 22:39, Mark 12:31).  These commandments say it all.  If someone should argue a particular point, we should try hard not to get angry.  Be patient.  Be kind.  Be thoughtful.  Be compassionate.  Have courage.  Present arguments based on truth.  Work hard not to offend.  Be a light to the world.  Show the people with the opposing viewpoint that your worldview makes you extraordinarily happy (if it does).  Let your happiness shine through.  Do the right things for the right reasons, instead of for profit, fame, or esteem. 

Pray to God that you will have a proper disposition and demonstrate virtuous behavior in your life.  It may be that you don’t convert a particular person to your worldview.  But at least they will see how happy, patient, kind and compassionate you are, and some of that has to rub off.  

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