“If Christianity goes, the whole of our culture goes. Then you must start painfully again, and you cannot put on a new culture ready-made. You must wait for the grass to grow to feed the sheep to give the wool out of which your new coat will be made. You must pass through many centuries of barbarism. We should not live to see the new culture, nor would our great-great-great-grandchildren: and if we did, not one of us would be happy in it.” — T. S. Eliot
An article appeared in the Wall Street Journal with the title “Why Our Children Don’t Think There Are Moral Facts.” It was written by Justin P. McBrayer
Of course, no one really believes there are no moral facts. When morality becomes personal, everybody wants other people to be moral, otherwise theft, rape, and murder have no moral context, and neither your person or property are safe from those who act on the belief that there are no moral facts.
Voltaire (1694-1778) is reported to have said to his mistress, Marguerite, “Whatever you do, don’t tell the servants there is no God or they’ll steal the silver.”
So while young people say they might believe there are moral facts, they generally do not live consistently with that belief.
McBrayer writes the following in his WSJ article:
“What would you say if you found out that our public schools were teaching children that it is not true that it’s wrong to kill people for fun or cheat on tests? Would you be surprised?
“I was. As a philosopher, I already knew that many college-aged students don’t believe in moral facts. While there are no national surveys quantifying this phenomenon, philosophy professors with whom I have spoken suggest that the overwhelming majority of college freshmen in their classrooms view moral claims as mere opinions that are not true or are true only relative to a culture.”
Students in elementary school are being taught that something can only true about a subject if it can be “tested or proven.” How does a person prove that murder is a moral wrong? It can’t be done since it can’t be tested since moral precepts can’t be observed. All that can be proven is that a person was alive, and now he’s not. Science can most often tell how a person died, but not whether it was morally right or wrong to end his or her life.
The moral relativists have created quite a moral witch’s brew. Moral relativism is a given these days, but only in regard to some things. Don’t ever try to bring morality into a debate over abortion or same-sex sexuality.
Kay Haugaard has taught creative writing since 1970. As with most of her classes, students read and discussed Shirley Jackson’s short story “The Lottery.”1 Jackson’s lottery isn’t about winning millions of dollars by picking the right Lotto numbers; it’s about human sacrifice that a modern-day small town accepts and takes part in with no questions asked. Of course, the premise is absurd. Or is it?
“Students who had never read this story,” Haugaard writes, “were always absolutely stunned by it – as though they personally had been struck with the first ritual stone.” Kay Haugaard, “The Lottery Revisited,” Unriddling Our Times: Reflections on the Gathering Cultural Crisis, ed. Os Guinness (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1999), 138. Also see Greg A. King, “The Heavens Fall.”))
As the years of teaching this story have passed, Haugaard began to see a change in the moral perceptions of her students. Their views on right and wrong had been dulled by the rhetoric of moral neutrality, “the danger of just ‘going along’ with something habitually, without examining its rationale and value.”2 Haugaard’s closing comments are chilling:
“No one in the whole class of more than twenty ostensibly intelligent individuals would go out on a limb and take a stand against human sacrifice.
“I wound up the discussion. ‘Frankly, I feel it’s clear that the author was pointing out the dangers of being totally accepting followers, too cowardly to rebel against obvious cruelties and injustices.’ I was shaken, and I thought that the author, whose story had shocked so many, would have been shaken as well.
“The class finally ended. It was a warm night when I walked to my car after class that evening, but I felt shivery, chilled to the bone.”3
We’ve become a nation of moral bystanders. Deep down we know certain behaviors are wrong, but we’ve been cajoled into believing that nothing can be said in objection to the new amoral climate. If we do react, we are labeled “intolerant” and “insensitive” to different “lifestyle choices.”
Christians are told that they are not being “loving” when they enter an opposing opinion on moral questions. These changes in moral perceptions and attitudes have been stunning. “After the horrendous crime against the World Trade Center towers on September 11, 2001, a young Yale student has this observation: ‘Absent was a general outcry of indignation . . . [M]y generation is uncomfortable assessing, or even asking, whether a moral wrong has taken place.’”4
- Shirely Jackson, “The Lottery”: also see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Lottery [↩]
- Haugaard, “The Lottery Revisited,” 138. [↩]
- Haugaard, “The Lottery Revisited,” 141. [↩]
- Peter Jones, Capturing the Pagan Mind: Paul’s Blueprint for Thinking and Living in the New Global Culture (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman, 2003), 50. [↩]