“If you continue in my words, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.”
In our pluralistic society truth is becoming a victim to modern thinking. Anyone who thinks that truth has an objective or absolute standard for determining right or wrong is seen as being out of step with the tolerance and inclusiveness demanded by multiculturalism today.
Indeed, society encourages that truth be seen as relative to the person and their situation. Right and wrong are accordingly considered subjective judgments by the individual and morality is otherwise seen as relative to culture. In other words morals are determined either by personal opinion or group consensus. Accordingly, all views are correct as all moral values are only opinions and therefore have equal weight.
One of the benefits claimed of the moral relativism that is practised is that it promotes tolerance and a tolerant society. There is a problem with that view as tolerance implies that there is a right and wrong moral position. Tolerance in effect allows the wrong to exist alongside the right without transforming it into being correct. Given that moral relativism states that all views are correct and of equal weight the idea of tolerance has no application whatsoever in discerning right from wrong in a society that views all moral positions as having equal validity.
Further, if there are no fixed standards of right or wrong, as the modern thinkers would have us believe, then no criticism could be made for the atrocities committed in Nazi Germany or in Stalinist Russia, as both were accepted by group consensus as being correct for their time. Holocausts and gulags are hence normalized. Killing is accepted as a legitimate means to an end. Why legitimate? – because the society of the time deemed it acceptable practice and hence made it true.
In John’s gospel Christ tells us about truth: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but by me. If you had known me, you would have known my father also; henceforth you know him and have seen him”. To a Christian, the truth is determined not by individual personal opinions as to what is morally valid or by group consensus as to what is correct, but on a person namely Jesus Christ.
Christ makes it plain what he wants from each of us. “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your strength, and with all your might; and your neighbour as yourself”. Christ wants us to live our life as love. Firstly, there is the vertical love of man ascending to God and God’s love descending to man. Secondly, there is a horizontal love that we should have for all our fellow beings and creation. Hence, to the Christian, morality is absolute and centered on Jesus Christ who tells us all to follow him. We cannot love God and reject our fellow man nor can we focus on our fellow man and reject God. The two must go together.
So what has the above discussion to do with anything in particular? It occurs to me that during the current debate over the asylum seekers, some of whom are losing their lives to come to Australia, that a clear understanding must be had as to what is going on. A lot of people in Australia talk of these “illegal queue jumpers”, who flout our laws and place our Defense personnel in danger by their dangerous behaviours, as being less than acceptable to us. These people would say that the ethical morality in this case is formed by group consensus and the group consensus says these people are not welcome as they do not go through the normal channels to earn the right to live in Australia. Accordingly, they should go back to where they came from.
A minority see these people as they really are – namely human beings created in the image and likeness of God. They say that each human life is intrinsically valuable and any problems associated with the arrival of such people is of only secondary importance which must give way to the humanitarian needs of these unfortunate people.
The latter view of course is how Christ would want us to show his love for him. “I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and he came to me” when asked when this occurred Christ answered “truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me”
There are absolute values, of this is no doubt. To the Christian morality is focused on a person who tells us to love one another as he loved us. With that directive in mind how can we then reject the plight of these poor people who have thrown themselves at our mercy? Can we deny mercy and then ask for mercy from the master for ourselves? Now that is a question to ponder.