Moral vagueness
0 comment Friday, December 5, 2014 |
Another aspect of this pestilential 'niceness' is the moral agnosticism that usually goes along with it.
This seems to be an increasingly common problem in our society, and I think it is certainly a part of what ails us.
We've really taken to heart the idea that making a moral judgment or even a 'value judgment', in the namby-pamby social scientists' phrase, is to be avoided at all costs. We have to see everything in shades of grey, with ambiguities aplenty.
For example: two people of your acquaintance, both of them presumed 'friends' or at least people you purport to 'admire', are in a dispute. The moral agnostic 'nice' person makes sympathetic noises to both parties, and shrinks from making a judgment about which party is the wronged party, or which has right on his side. It may be that in rare instances, neither side is wrong, and neither is fully right, and it may be that the dispute is a mere misunderstanding or miscommunication which can be clarified by some detached third party stepping in and correcting the wrong signals.
But in my experience, when judging conflicting ideas or individuals, there is a preponderance of right on one side. Of course, a flawed human being will seldom be completely blameless, but the fact of human frailty does not mean that we can never, ever discern who is right, for the most part, and who is wrong, who was the aggressor or instigator and who was the recipient of the aggression.
I tend to think it's moral laziness to refuse to try to discern, or to seek to walk a tightrope, privately uttering sympathetic words to each side separately, while taking a neutral stance publicly. Or is it cowardice? Or a selfish desire to maintain oneself in the good graces of both sides, while feigning support to each party in secret? If so, that's also duplicitous and insincere, which the Bible condemns.
To refuse to take the right side in every case in which it can be discerned is immoral, and yet somehow these days, this is the default position of many people. Might it also be that so many people are deathly afraid of taking an unpopular position, and being isolated or ostracized for it? We certainly see many examples of this attitude.
The Bible also speaks against double-mindedness and having a 'double heart', or 'speaking guile.'
Psa 12:2 They speak vanity every one with his neighbour: [with] flattering lips [and] with a double heart do they speak.
I find that when someone takes the spineless way out and tries to have it both ways, working both sides of the street, I lose all respect for that person.
This is especially so when the wishy-washy person turns a blind eye to someone's aggressive or cruel behavior because they 'like' the person. Usually this is the case when one party is socially popular or influential, and many people, being in awe of social influence or prestige, will give the person a pass on reprehensible or uncharitable or immoral behavior because of who they are, or because of their personal charm or social status. This is what the Bible calls 'respecting persons.' We are not to be 'respecters of persons' or to hold the offender's 'person' in regard.
But we are supposed to be respecters of truth.
Suppose one party gossips, maligns, and slanders another party, and perhaps bullies that person in direct or indirect ways. Do we continue to be friendly with the wrongdoer and the wronged party? Why would we do this? The bully or the slanderer is not a person who should inspire our loyalty or regard, yet many people will refuse to call out the bad behavior or shun the wrongdoer, preferring to turn a blind eye, trying to justify their moral agnosticism by saying 'but he's a nice guy, and he hasn't done anything to me.'
Again, I cannot respect the person who behaves this way, even though they may fancy that their behavior amounts to being an impartial or above-the-fray 'peacemaker' between the two estranged parties. Either we believe that certain actions are right, and others are wrong, or we don't. It appears many people don't want to be so 'controversial' as to believe unequivocally in right and wrong, and to support the right side openly. But we are supposed to take a side, the right side, whenever there is a moral conflict. We are not allowed to sit out the battle.
Many of the people I know are very fluid in their principles, being easily moved one way or the other, based on their feelings and emotions. For instance Christians who claim to oppose things like abortion or homosexuality or illegal immigration will, if they meet with a likeable individual who is an advocate of abortion, or a homosexual, or an illegal immigrant, will not be able to separate their liking for these individuals from their opposition to the actions of these individuals -- so what gets lost? The principles. If they meet a personable and charming gay activist, they will begin to say 'well, we mustn't be narrowminded. Times change.' Many people are swayed by the immigrants they meet and sympathize with, and soon say 'we have to make it easier for these people; the laws for immigration are inhumane.'
Most conservatives and Christians of a traditonal sort deplore the moral relativism or facile moral equivalency at which the liberals are so practiced, but it seems they too are falling prey to the tendency.
And in most cases, we are drawn in that direction by our personal feelings, through being charmed by certain individuals, or perhaps we are flattered at being drawn into the circle of a prominent or influential person, so we overlook or justify the bad behaviors this person practices, whether it's sexual immorality or social cruelty and arrogance.
'But this man does so much good! He gives to charity; he supports a lot of good causes.'
Or: 'he's a brilliant man, very intellectually stimulating, a great thinker, a champion of our side,' -- so they tolerate, or worse, justify his petty unkindness towards his 'lessers', and his belittling of those he sees as rivals, intellectually or socially or politically.
Where are the lovers of justice and truth and goodness? We seem to be, too often, respecters of persons, covetous of the social approval of those we admire or like, regardless of their moral worth.
This can apply on a national scale, with the idolizing of morally reprobate celebrities and amoral politicians, or with those we look up to in other, smaller spheres. We have our favorites and our little idols, and we are happy to turn a blind eye to the harm they do -- simply because we 'like' them. They make us feel good in some way, and we are hooked on 'feeling good.' Or they flatter us, and we feel grateful that they include us in their circles, so we happily cluster around and applaud their every pronouncement, regardless of its worth, in gratitude for their deigning to notice us.
In some cases, some rather sad people identify with some high-achieving or notable person, and vicariously partake in their successes, and that this person may be an amoral, self-seeking egotist or an immoral, deceitful manipulator matters not at all to their admirers.
It all seems to boil down to our loss of fixed principles and morality, with a loss of regard for truth and right and justice. It's all about who we 'like', or how we feel about something, rather than about the question of goodness and worthiness.
I've had more people giving me unsolicited statements about who they are voting for, and so often I am struck by the utter incongruity of their choices. People I would least expect to hear these statements from tell me 'I'm voting for Obama', or 'I'll vote for McCain', while giving no sound reason for doing so. Their choices seem utterly illogical, at least based on what they have said over time, or based on what they purport to believe in. When we cut ourselves loose from our moorings in reason, logic, or established principles of any kind, and behave according to our shifting feelings and moods, there can only be more irrational and morally derelict behavior.
I suppose it makes a twisted kind of sense, if we have outlawed judgements, to base our decisions mostly on personal feelings and whims, and on a sense of loyalty only to persons, not to solid beliefs as to what is right and what is wrong.

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