Somebody should have told Pontius Pilate!
As some of you know, in my day job (which my wife would argue is my only job, since I spend too much time on the couch when I'm home!), I work as a news editorial manager at a local television station, where, among other things, I help shape the content of our newscasts.
For the past several months, we have invited different "newsmakers" to our newsroom to meet the staff and talk about relevant issues that they deal with in their respective fields.
We recently had a local mayor at our station, who shared his perspectives on what it's like to govern a large and complex government body and some of the challenges he faces in doing so.
At one point, the mayor was asked about the moral and legal dichotomy of dealing with entities and businesses, who may be circumventing the law through shady operations but are legally allowed to bid and attain government contracts.
The mayor thought for a minute and then made a curious statement. He said, "What is moral is subject to debate but what is legal is not."
I noticed an awestruck reaction by a couple of our staffers, including one who asked him to repeat it so he could write it down.
I too wrote it down but it was for a different reason. There was something innately wrong with his claim but I couldn't quite place it right away. I spent the remainder of the meeting wrestling with the answer.
It soon came to me. It was laced with a sense of moral relativism that has become all too familiar in the mindset of many in our society.
Pope Benedict once wrote, "We are building a dictatorship of relativism that does not recognize anything as definitive and whose ultimate standard consists solely of one's own ego and desire."
I'm not suggesting the mayor was being egocentric but his answer seems to indicate the prevailing influence of the culture, which promotes that one man's truth is equal to that of another when it comes to morality and everyone decides on that morality, according to their personal perspective on life.
|These really tick me off...|
Now, if morality is debatable then so is right and wrong, good and evil, and fair and unfair.
Moreover, as I told a co-worker who agreed with the mayor, if morality is open to debate, and trumped by the rule of law, then the Nazis rounding up the Jews in Hitler's Germany and putting them to death in concentration camps was totally acceptable, since it was legal, as would be the capture, imprisonment and trade of black males, rounded up in Africa and sold as slaves in the U.S.
Or how about starvation of millions for the "common good," as Stalin did in Russia, or rape, murder and torture; are these also moraly debatable?
Most of us would agree, no matter what side of the political spectrum we call home or faith background, that there are definite truths that transcend personal opinion.
Pilate himself wrestled with this moral dilemma when he asked, "What is truth?," as he considered the fate of an innocent man, whose enemies wanted crucified.
Furthermore, even if morality were debatable, there would have to be a definite moral standard or truth that we could all agree on, or what would be the purpose of debating in the first place?
In Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis wrote, "Quarreling (aka debating) means trying to show that the other man is in the wrong. And there would be no sense in trying to do that unless you and he had some sort of agreement as to what Right and Wrong are; just as there would be no sense in saying that a footballer had committed a foul unless there was some agreement about the rules of football."
Therefore, despite the mayor's catchy quote, which captured the imagination of many in the room, morality is not debatable and trying to justify one's actions by it's legal implications or pressure being applied is like Pontius Pilate washing his hands and letting the innocent man die because of the unruly crowd.
Fulton Sheen said it best, "Moral principles do not depend on a majority vote. Wrong is wrong, even if everybody is wrong. Right is right, even if nobody is right."...