Tuesday, July 21, 2015

The Flexibility of Morality

Going about our daily affairs and being exposed to the depressing news of the evils that people gradually learn to put up with, we comfort ourselves with the thought that there is a limit. There are things up with which we will not put, to paraphrase a great man.

I am not so sure.  There are things we would not put up with today, that we would riot in the streets against. I have seen people who I hadn't thought had much moral backbone at all suddenly rise up and say "No.  You shall not pass." But ten years later, twenty years later, I don't know.

Some of us are entirely influenced by the current fashions in morality, though we don't perceive that. We would take to the streets for certain causes, without realising that those causes are the ones on their way in, the ones where any inconvenience would be quite temporary, and the payback in self-righteousness great. There is a vast pool of folks for whom the popular morality is the only real morality, though we don't see that.

Beyond that, there is a greater pool who are partly influenced by the trends of the day.  I am certainly one.  I have reflexive suspicion of This Tuesday's Great Cause; yet I also have a reflexive suspicion of those who still cling to causes from the immediate preceding era that are no longer much noticed.  Dead-enders, we call them. Why die on that hill? Why beat a dead horse?

I have near-certainty that God takes his measure of real goodness entirely separately from either consideration, and I can't find strongholds in myself to dig in with Him. He may take such extenuating circumstances into account in judging us, but I doubt they are even a feather's weight in his scales of what is good and what is evil. When I wake in the middle of the night and cannot get back to sleep, and worry that I have lost moral determination rather than gained it over the decades, it is very disquieting.

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My wife's prayer at church this week reminds me:  we blithely talk about "God's Promises," often quoting partial verses that are general wise observations (Wisdom Literature) or promises to the Nation of Israel alone, without certain individual application. Yet God absolutely promises in several places that if we pray for wisdom, that he will give. Pray for wisdom.


Grim said...

It worked for St. Augustine.

james said...

WRT promises:
He also promises that in this world we'll have trouble.

Many years ago (high school, I think) in the church I was in someone suggested a study on the promise verses of the Bible. There were several of us troublemakers: one got to John 16:33 first, so I offered Isaiah 4:1 . We didn't do the study.

WRT variable morality: I think that may be a big part of what Jesus meant when he commanded us to watch. I've been a big proponent of the notion that our lives are built of millions of tiny bricks of choices, though it is true that there are critical moments of decision. It is really easy to accept the language and the definitions of our neighbors--and that generally gives away the store.