I have just published a new book called Letters to Sophie. This is a short (116 pages) easy to read tract containing 24 chapters, or “letters” addressed to a young woman living at some time in the future. The sub-title explains the book’s basic premise: Why God should matter in an age of deconstruction. Sophie, in her childlike innocence, knows nothing of those conflicts today which will inevitably form her future world and its ideologies. So how would you explain to this young woman of tomorrow the current battle for the soul of Western culture?
Th modern age has been a truly epic contest between the traditional values of Christianity and that creeping materialistic naturalism exemplified by Relativism. To date the relativists have consistently taken the offensive in the struggle while Christians by and large have been content to play defense. And while defense is an important element in any strategy, it doesn’t generally win wars or football games. Whether we like to admit it or not, the 21st century reality is that Christianity has already effectively lost the culture war, which might also explain why we now find ourselves in such a precarious political situation. What we are now seeing is simply the enemy’s “mopping up” operations.
Does such a dire diagnosis mean that Christianity is dead? Not by a long shot! After all, we have been here before. Remember that Christianity began in a Roman world that was completely hostile to the Christian message. Christians started out as counter-cultural and today we are again become the new face of counter-culture. But the challenge the Church faces today is somewhat different from what those early Christians faced. They were confronted by old world paganism. We today are confronted by an ethos far more insidious than the worship of clay idols, we are besieged by moral Relativism ~ the belief that there are no absolutes such as God, right and wrong, truth or falsehood. Relativism is a system whose “golden rule” according to Chris Stefanick is that there are no rules.
To insist as a moral absolute that there are no moral absolutes is, of course, self-contradictory. Unfortunately logic is no longer taught or much esteemed, so that millions of people now thoughtlessly accept the basic premise of Relativism that nothing is true absolutely. That means that each person becomes his or her own authority which naturally destroys the objective, impartial basis for any authority. The greater tragedy is that a large number of Christians, perhaps even a majority, have unwittingly subscribed to such Relativism, even among the clergy. Of course their thinking is rarely, if ever, thought of as Relativism. Instead it is branded as “pluralism,” “equality,” or “tolerance.” And who is in any position to criticize or oppose such high sounding values? In the relativist’s view truth, morality, etc. is all a matter of perspective ~ and various perspectives, much like different cultures and cuisines can assume a wide array of flavors.
If your morals and beliefs can not claim any more validity than my own, it means that all moral codes are basically equal ~ even those which may happen to be polar opposites! It is my duty, therefore, to tolerate your moral values no matter how repugnant I might find them. This is the inevitable outcome of basing truth on variable human perspectives rather than on one objective universal standard. Murdering innocent people may be okay for a Muslim terrorist but not for me because the terrorist has a different point of view than mine. Abortion in my lexicon is killing an innocent pre-born child but for someone else it may mean rescuing some teenage girl from a life of poverty. And many Christians have fallen into this trap of false compassion because they are relativists without even realizing it.
Relativism always involves some degree of rationalizing which we humans too easily confuse for reasoning. We tend to make our own human points of view, rather than some transcendent objective criteria, the basis of truth, right, and wrong. Christianity holds that the point of view we all begin with is called Natural Law, namely to do good and avoid evil. Every other perspective beyond that we learn or acquire over time. Natural Law thereby implies that there are certain objective moral standards which bind all human behaviors and judgments. Yet this is the very limitation that so greatly irks relativists. One clever solution they employ is to change the terminology to short circuit any absolute kind of judgment.
I give as one example John Money, the father of modern day transgenderism. Decades ago Money coined the term “sexual orientation” as a replacement for the clinically used term “sexual preference.” Orientation is arguably an inherent trait whereas preference implies a free choice. This neatly removed any moral connotation or accountability regarding what now became no-fault sexual proclivities. Again, the word “perversion” magically became “paraphilia,” defined as a faulty or abnormal love. (One might have have paraphilia for chocolate mint ice cream but that would hardly be considered a perversion.) Money used the prestige of Johns Hopkins University, where he performed his research, to advance his thoroughly relativistic sexual ideology. Later on his infamous “twins study” of gender identity was severely criticized both for doctoring the data and falsifying study results. Tragically, both of the identical twins used in that study died young, one from a drug overdose and his brother by suicide, after learning the truth that they had for years been shamelessly manipulated by Money.
There are countless other examples of how language is distorted in the cause of Relativism. One of the more egregious euphemisms has been to label support for the pre-natal murder of infants as being “pro-choice.” Such word play is invariably intended to maneuver people into thinking with their emotions rather than their minds. The very essence of Relativism after all is to induce people to act on their passions rather than with their reason.
Through such surreptitious methods, and without their conscious realization, Relativism has become imbedded in the minds and wills of many unsuspecting Christians. And this relativist ideology gradually morphs into a kind of tyranny as Pope Benedict XVI accurately pointed out. Consequently, anyone who believes in or defends the idea of one objective truth or morality risks being labelled as a bigot, an enemy of the people, or a menace to society. Ironically, in the end, Relativism leads not towards greater tolerance but in the opposite direction as we are now seeing. Few would argue that today’s relativistic culture is more deeply polarized and fractured than perhaps any time since the Civil War.
Instead of promoting dialogue and honest debate or any true diversity of thought, Relativism has bequeathed us a culture of group think, identity politics, racial antagonism, gender ideology, and social disintegration. These in turn breed the worst sort of intolerance as manifested by the recent riots. It seems that we can no longer agree to disagree civilly. Worse, in the absence of any absolute truth or morality, the strongest will ultimately prevail over the weak because, in the end, Relativism returns us back to the Law of the Jungle.
Time is a continuum and perhaps, armed with such important information about the present age, Sophie and her generation will be able to better navigate the challenges of her own time and place. If they at least know that truth is not something on shifting sand but sits on Divine bedrock then there is great hope for their future. At the very least this knowledge is the one valuable gift we can leave to our posterity.
Francis J. Pierson + a.m.d.g.
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