Ours is a society who's thoughts, beliefs and practices trend toward a kind of human emancipation, a kind of liberation which at times is lawful and expedient but not wholly beneficial. Are all of our current societal changes healthy, productive and organically right? This question presupposes the idea that there is a universal notion of right and wrong, that there are things in life that are normative, natural and holistic.
Modern assumptions of this idea challenge most notions of rightness and wrongness. To these adherers and many of us, there is moral ambiguity which resembles a moral relativism. This has become the forest of the times in which we live. And with these challenges there have come new ideas and so-called new truths.
Today is a time where notions of abortion, in some sectors, have been re-termed (and redefined) as re-productive rights. And same-sex unions have now been redefined as marriage/marriage equality, and equated on par with civil rights; the idea that same-sex activity merits a legal right to be widely recognized not just as a private act but vindicated publically as a legal mandate describes our new times.
The preacher in the Old Testament work (Ecclesiastes 1:9) notes that there is nothing new under the sun. The so-called new ideas, notions and beliefs are themselves repackaged as forms of humanism dressed in colorful language. If an apple was dressed up as a banana, would that now make the apple a banana?
Moral relativism attempts to blur the lines regarding truth. Truth is redefined often times, classifying right as wrong and wrong as the new right. Good is bad and bad is really good. Meaning and truth is all understood in the mind of the one who is determining it. Another way of saying it is that truth and reality is solely determined by the one advocating for it.
This reminds me of the story of the college student who wrote a paper entitled, "There Is No Such Thing As Wrong." The young man eloquently and cogently argued and debunked the merits of the notion of universal truth, right and wrong. The student's paper was strengthend by his impressive and lucid writing style, grammatical sophistication, and strongly supported research. Impressed by the student's work, the grading professor glowingly jotted his remarks on the student's paper. When the student received his paper back, he was greatly distressed. As he made his way back to the grading professor, he asked why he received a failing grade, "this is not fair." The professor gazingly remarked, that "your paper was so impressive, cogent and convincingly argued, that you even persuaded me. I agree with you that there is no such thing as wrong, fair or unfair, therefore I gave you a failing grade."
If we are to staunchly promote and argue for the merits of relativism, then we must be prepared to live with its subsequent effects.
[Jamal-Dominique Hopkins (Ph.D., University of Manchester, U.K.) is the author of Thinking Out Loud: Thoughts and Reflections on Life, Faith, Culture and Crisis (Journal Publication, 2013), and "Duty or Responsibility? The African American Evangelical's Identity" in the Journal of African American Christian Thought (2009). Hopkins is available for preaching, speaking or conducting workshops or seminars. You may contact him via the Institute for Advanced African American Christian Thought (IAAACT), a non-profit Christian think tank, www.iaaact.weebly.com.]