Archive for the ‘Morality’ Category

FORCING YOUR MORALITY Part 2

FORCING OUR BELIEFS?

What do people, objecting to a Christian expressing his disapproval of behavior that the Bible calls into question, mean when they say that we are forcing our beliefs on others?

Let’s look at this idea of forcing our morality, beliefs or values on others a bit closer. When non-Christians object to our forcing our beliefs on others, what do they really mean? They are basically saying that we are trying to compel others to act in a way that we think is right. But since we have already determined that everyone has some moral point of view, we must seek to understand how we all, in some form or another, attempt to compel others to our moral viewpoint.


Forcing Our View

There are basically two ways that a moral point of view can be “forced” upon another. One is the strong way and the other is the weak way. A strong way of forcing morality would be law enforcement: laws that are enforced by threat of punishment. The second way, a weak way, would be by compelling people to act in the way that you think is right (your moral point of view) in a less forceful way. We often do this by encouraging or discouraging certain patterns of behavior through the means of social approval or disapproval.

How do we force our view? We could use the strong arm of the law to force our view on others. We could frown at behavior we disapprove of in order to get people to reconsider it. Now there may be things that we don’t think are morally weighty enough to deserve jail time but which we would consider valuable enough to frown upon or even exert peer pressure on people in order to get them to comply with our wishes (moral point of view). Call it peer pressure, social approval or social disapproval. Do you see the difference? We use both of these things in our society today.

Since we have two different strengths of enforcement, we have to make a decision in our culture which strength we will use to enforce a moral point of view; it all depends on the moral weight. What’s curious about the nature of the moral climate today is the kinds of things that are enforced and the kinds of things in which people are allowed to have liberty.


High Morality

In the context of our culture, there are some things I would define as falling into the category of high morality and others that would fall into, what we would call, low morality. High morality is those kinds of things that are so critical to the common good, to the notion of fundamental rights – like life, liberty and property – that society must demand their adherence under penalty of severe punishment. For example, it is absolutely critical that property be protected. Therefore, if someone steals someone else’s property, we use the law to punish them. If someone takes another’s life, we use the law to punish them. Sometimes, we even put the guilty to death (extreme force). There are issues related to the common good of society that are so morally weighty that we have to use the force of law in order to get compliance. This is what I would call high morality.

There are a whole lot of other things that relate to the common good on a lower order of morality of sorts: things that are not so critical to the common good that the society must demand their adherence under penalty of severe punishment. Yet at the same time, there are still things that are morally good and good for society. In these cases, we don’t use the force of law. We generally use a different force – the force of social approval and disapproval.

’til next time

Danny

Next: Immoral, Illegal

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FORCING YOUR MORALITY

Have you ever given your Christian opinion on questions of morality to a friend, relative or even a stranger, only to be challenged in return by an intimidating counter-question? As Christians, when our biblical viewpoint goes against the grain (which much of Christian morality does – sexual morality, the morality that relates to the rights of unborn children, same-sex marriage, those kinds of things), frequently we are going to be challenged with the question, “Who are you to force your morality on someone else?”

The first thing you should know is that this challenge is offered in a self-refuting way. It is self-defeating and refutes itself because it is a challenge to you that you ought not force others or ask others to live according to your moral point of view. Yet, that challenge itself is a moral point of view that someone else believes in and is asking you to live by. To put it simply, they’re forcing their morality on you when they say that you shouldn’t force your morality on someone else.

When someone brings up this objection to our Christian moral value we must be ready to help them see the self-refuting nature of their question. I think first of all, we must help them face, honestly, the truth that all of us have a moral point of view that we are seeking to have believed and acted upon in society, and we are seeking to do that by some measure. It may be through very forceful means – the force of law – or it may be through less forceful measures. But one way or another, we all have our moral point of view. Once we can honestly agree with that, there is no escaping the conclusion: we all have a moral viewpoint that we seek to have enforced in some fashion in society, and we are seeking to compel other people to adopt.

Given the fact that we all have a moral point of view that we are seeking to impact society with, the real question then becomes, “Is our moral point of view legitimate? Is it appropriate to have it forced? And beyond that, even if it is legitimate, we have to ask, “How weighty is the moral concept?”, before we can know how much force we need to apply in enforcing this moral concept.

’til next time

Danny

(next time: What do we mean “forcing our beliefs”?)