Relativism in Action

6a00e00988aca988330168e58749b6970c-320wiWe hear a lot these days about the dangers of moral relativism, or about what happens in a society that has abandoned its commitment to objective morals.This emphasis on objective morals is important, but it is equally important to remind ourselves what moral relativism looks like on ground level.

Last week for his Breakpoint program, Chuck Colson told about the recent experience of Dr. Stephen Anderson, who teaches philosophy at A.B. Lucas Secondary School in Ontario, Canada. His students had just finished a unit on metaphysics and were about to start one on ethics. Colson writes about Dr. Anderson's plan for getting the conversation about ethics going.

To jump start the discussion and to “form a baseline from which they could begin to ask questions about the legitimacy of moral judgments of all kinds,” Anderson shared with them a gruesome photo of Bibi Aisha, a teenage wife of a Taliban fighter in Afghanistan. When Bibi tried to get away from her abusive husband, her family caught her, cut off her nose and ears, and left her to die in the mountains. Only Bibi didn’t die. Somehow she crawled to her grandfather’s house, and was saved in an American hospital.

Writing in Education Journal magazine, Anderson relates how he was sure that his students, “seeing the suffering of this poor girl of their own age, [they] would have a clear ethical reaction,” one they could talk about “more difficult cases.”

But their response shocked Anderson. “[He] expected strong aversion [to it], … but that’s not what I got. Instead, they became confused . . . afraid to make any moral judgment at all. They were unwilling to criticize,” as he said, “any situation originating in a different culture. They said, ‘Well, we might not like it, but maybe over there it’s okay.’”

Anderson calls their confusion and refusal to judge such child mutilation a moment of startling clarity, and indeed it is. He wonders if it stems not from too little education, but from too much multiculturalism and so-called “values education,” which is really just an excuse for moral relativism.

Anderson writes, “While we may hope some [students] are capable of bridging the gap between principled morality and this ethically vacuous relativism, it is evident that a good many are not. For them, the overriding message is ‘never judge, never criticize, never take a position.’” Anderson wonders whether in our current educational system, we’re not producing ethical paralytics? Well, if the horrifying example of the students’ reaction in this case is any indication, Anderson already knows the answer.

 

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Normalizing Sex

In the latest edition of Salvo Magazine (which you can subscribe to by clicking here), I pointed out that one of the subversive features of the over-sexualized environment our children are growing up in is that they are becoming desensitized. In a society where sex is used to sell everything from shoes to vegetables, the danger is that children become so used to it that they cease to consider things to be sexual which clearly are.
 
This struck me when the BBC did a documentary on the sexualization of children and Sophie Raworth visited 13-year old Chloe. Dressed skimpily and imitating the erotic dancers she had seen on television, Chloe’s dream is to go all over world as a dancer. Raworth asked Chloe if she was trying to be sexual. Chloe confessed that there was nothing sexual in her mind when she was dancing. Moreover, she said, as long as she kept her clothes on, there was nothing inappropriate about her moves.
 
Certainly the self-evaluation of a 13-year old girl should be taken with a heavy pinch of salt. Yet as I point out in my Salvo article 'Sex & the Kiddies: The Sexualization of Children & How Advertising & Entertainment Change Their Brains', I think there is an important lesson to be learned from the fact that Chloe failed to acknowledge the obvious eroticism of her behaviour. As our children are bombarded with more and more sexual stimuli, one effect is that they cease to even see certain things as sexual, with the consequence that important barriers are lowered.

Chloe found this out in a rather disturbing way when she was eleven. A stranger who had seen some of the dance moves Chloe posted online contacted her to tell her how sexy she was. Chloe panicked and immediately removed all the videos.
 
ReichYet the question remains: how have young people like Chloe managed to convince themselves that all but the most explicit displays (in Chloe’s case, taking off her clothes) are non-sexual and benign? And do the products and media that girls like her are able to so easily access have anything to do with this?

The answer to this question may lay in the thought of one of the early pioneers of the sex education movement. In his book The Sexual Revolution, Wilhelm Reich (1897–1957) described the means for achieving a society that would not put any obstacles in the path of sexual gratification. I have discussed Reich in my Salvo article, in which I point out that

For all his moral anarchism, Reich was perceptive. He realized that in order to achieve the type of sexual utopia he desired, he must first move society away from the shyness and embarrassment surrounding sex. In particular, he argued, people must lose their reluctance to expose erotically important parts of their bodies. Reich attempted to facilitate this by having psychotherapy sessions in which he would require his clients to remove all their clothes.

Reich would be pleased if he coWReichuld see a European summer today, which is more in keeping with his ideal than what we find in brothels. In a brothel, women have overcome the natural shyness surrounding erotically important parts of their bodies in order to advertise sex; on a sunny beach, scores of women can be seen who have overcome this natural shyness with no thought of sex at all. Indeed, by refusing to explicitly acknowledge the erotic implications of minimalistic attire, we are fast approaching Reich’s goal of a society in which shyness has been overcome and sex is flattened of its inherent potency. “Profane” best describes Reich’s ideal and its realization in the contemporary situation, given that the term originally meant “to treat as common.”

The current debate about the sexualization of children needs to be charted within this same rubric. Certainly when low-cut blouses are marketed for 13-year olds, when music videos for children are saturated with sexual imagery and when sex is constantly used to sell products to young teens, the result is going to be that many girls will become hyper-sexualized. However, such saturation can equally have a desensitizing effect since it unconsciously orients youth to treat their sexuality as something trivial, benign and commonplace. Either way, it primes girls for perverts like Reich: the former because hyper-sexualized girls will want to have sex; the latter because girls are less likely to guard and protect that which they have been oriented to treat as being merely common.

To read more about this, subscribe to Salvo magazine and turn to my article, 'Sex & the Kiddies: The Sexualization of Children & How Advertising & Entertainment Change Their Brains.'

Reframing the Sexualization Debate

The center for Normalizing Any & All Sexual Preferences doesn’t actually exist, at least not yet. At Salvo Magazine we invented the CNASP because it comes very close to the truth about how our society tends to approach sexuality. ‘If it happens, it’s natural. If it’s natural, it’s OK.” That is the topic of my article for the latest edition of Salvo Magazine, I pointed out that the debate over the sexualization of children (which was particularly strong in Britain last year) has centred primarily on quantitative questions. Are our young people being exposed to too much sex? Does this exposure happen at too young of an age?

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Now certainly questions like these are important, especially when we ask who profits from the sexualisation of a 13 or 14 year-olds. I think few would doubt that the beneficiaries include the growing network of pedophiles in Britain.
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What I find interesting, however, is that by framing the debate solely in terms of the above questions, the discussion has excluded crucial qualitative distinctions we need to be making.

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Don’t get me wrong. Certainly we should be concerned if media and marketing are influencing the next generation to think about sex when they ought to be thinking about dolls and trains. However, shouldn’t we be even more concerned if the marketing, media and the entertainment industries are subtlety influencing children to think about sex in the wrong type of way? We need to be asking not just whether children are being sexualized too early, but how they are being sexualized.
The stimuli children are bombarded with are, in fact, orienting them towards an illusory understanding of their sexuality. Embedded in the products now available to children, especially childrens’ TV and music videos, is a subtle false narrative about what it means to be a man or a woman.

The narrative I have in mind is one in which sex is disengaged from the secure relationship of marriage. It is a narrative which evacuates from sex any emotional, let alone ethical, underpinning, thus reducing it to something purely animalistic. It is a narrative which tends to associate the good life with what is fashionable, cool and up to date. In short, it is a narrative which says, ‘If it happens, it’s natural. If it’s natural, it’s OK.”

To keep reading my thoughts on this subject, subscribe to Salvo magazine today and receive issue 19. Look for my article “Sex & the Kiddies The Sexualization of Children & How Advertising & Entertainment Change Their Brains!” 

Fall of the Berlin Wall

Twenty-two years ago on this day, 9 November, I remember watching the evening news with my parents as the Berlin wall come tumbling down. Though I was only a child, the event had a marked effect on me.
 
You see, three years earlier, when I had been eleven, my family had traveled to West Germany. One afternoon my dad drove us to see the wall separating West and East Germany. I still remember how ominous the electric fence looked which divided the free world from the “evil empire.”
 
As we emerged from the car, we were met by a chill, drizzling rain. On the other side of the fence a lone guard stared gloomily at us. The rest of my family had their picture taken about thirty feet from the fence, but I was too afraid to venture near. A few minutes later I plucked up the courage and asked my dad to photograph me next to the terrible barrier, or as close to it as I dared approach.
 
That was three years before that evening in 1989 when I sat with my brothers and parents to watch the wall being torn down. Communism had collapsed and Eastern Europe was finally free.
 
A year after these momentous changes, we went back to Germany. This time there was no fence preventing us driving into the Eastern section. We traveled to Berlin where the remnants of the wall still zigzagged through the city like a serpent. In some areas there were portions of the wall still intact. Here and there I saw people dismantling the remains of this hated emblem of totalitarianism.
 
There was something strangely moving in seeing the broken concrete all over the ground and thinking, “So this is all that is left of a regime that tried to turn the state into God.” I stooped down and collected some big chunks of the rubble, determined one day to show them to my own children.
 
The fall of the Berlin Wall on 9 November 1989 reminds us that God judges regimes that try to usurp His place as redeemer. Make no mistake, for that is exactly what the communist parties of Eastern Europe did. In preaching that government was the solution to all of society’s ills, in teaching that public policy can bring civic regeneration and utopia, the communist parties of Eastern Europe presented a parody of the true gospel and a false narrative of redemption. The fall of the Berlin wall twenty-two years ago reminds us that government cannot be God, and all attempts to deify the state are doomed to end in abject failure. The fall of the Berlin wall revealed the utter futility of what David Galland recently called the “unblinking faith in an all-caring, omnipotent ‘Godvernment’.”
 
While the communism of the Eastern block may have failed, idolatrous attempts to deify the state continue. 
 

Blessed are the Communists?

JesusWasACommunistMatthew Modine is turning to Jesus. His new short film "Jesus Was a Communist" offers "a discussion of the New Testament's messages in the context of poverty, pollution and political unrest." The film will "also address the Occupy Wall Street movement happening throughout the world and how it relates to the Bible."

How timely. It's the new meme.

Socialism = Christianity. C'mon Christians, obey your Lord Jesus like good little boys and girls.

Or so say the atheist and agnostic secularizers.

 

 Consider:

  • Jeremy is a college student friend of mine. Today his Ethics professor told the class that Jesus was really about socialism and Marxism because under those arrangements everyone selflessly spreads the materials around to help the poor. (This same professor also suggested giving thanks to the Earth, land, and water, rather than any Creator – yes, giving thanks to your food, rather than for your food ...)

  • Bart Ehrman, a non-churchgoing, agnostic professor of religious studies who has elsewhere charged that some of the New Testament writers were liars, commented, "Jesus believed the whole system was corrupt. The people who ran things were empowered by the evil forces of the world and his followers had to work against these powers by feeding the hungry, housing the homeless, and caring for the sick."

And what theological perversion revision wouldn't be complete without artwork?

Jesus occupy_wall_street

This would be comical were it not so life and death serious. Matthew Modine, the occupiers, and their sympathiers may be turning to Jesus, but it's a different Jesus from the one who said "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me."

There are two ways of interpreting the teachings of the historical Jesus. One is authentic. The other is an inversion, which makes it a perversion.

Christianity: What's mine is yours.
Socialism: What's yours is mine.

Christianity: I am my brother's keeper.
Socialism: My brother is my keeper.

These are antithetical, mutually exclusive approaches to life, both personal and societal. One is the way of grace and liberty. The other is the way of tyranny and oppression. One is the way of Jesus. The other is the way of hell.

The best thing about the "Jesus Was a Communist" film is it acknowledges that the Occupy Wall Street movements are just the sort of Marxist uprisings of which Communist  advances are made. The worst thing is that too many people may nonetheless fall for it.

Which one prevails will literally be a matter of life and death.

 

A Deeper Look at Facebook’s Annoying Changes

A couple years ago a fellow journalist suggested I join the social networking site Facebook. By using the site to post links to articles I write, she said, my writing would have greater visibility.
 
My friend was right. Since being on Facebook the amount of people who read my articles has doubled. Moreover, I have found it to be an invaluable tool for networking with other intellectuals, many of whom have contributed valuable insights to my own projects.
 
At the same time, however, Facebook is not without its drawbacks. In particular, the more I use the service, the more I have become aware of certain worldview assumptions implicit in the project.
 
This was impressed upon me last month when Facebook supposedly “improved” its layout. The normal news feeds are now duplicated with a “ticker” on the right hand side that offers a constantly changing stream of details about what my friends are doing in real time. For example, right now my ticker is showing me that one of my friends just finished listening to Schumann’s “Carnaval”, that another friend is telling his wife how much he loves her, and that another friend just managed to get her children to school on time.
 
Almost nobody is happy with the changes which allow you to “Facebook while you Facebook.” And although they keep saying it’s possible for individual users to revert back to the old style, I haven’t yet figured out how to do that.
 
OK, so it’s annoying, but is there anything deeper going on?
In an article I published today with the Chuck Colson Center, I argue that the answer to this question is yes. To read my observations, click on the following link: