THE DANGERS OF MORAL RELATIVISM
by Dr. Steve Elwart
How terrible it will be for those who call evil good and good evil, who substitute darkness for light and light for darkness, who substitute what is bitter for what is sweet and what is sweet for what is bitter!
— Isaiah 5:20, (ISV)
You Have Your Truth, We Have Ours
General Sir Charles James Napier (1782–1853) was a general of the British Empire. For a time in the late 1840s he was commander of all British forces in India.
A story for which Napier is often noted involved Hindu priests complaining to him about the prohibition of Sati by British authorities. This was the custom of burning a widow alive on the funeral pyre of her husband. As first recounted by his brother William, he replied:
“Be it so. This burning of widows is your custom; prepare the funeral pile. But my nation has also a custom. When men burn women alive we hang them, and confiscate all their property. My carpenters shall therefore erect gibbets on which to hang all concerned when the widow is consumed. Let us all act according to national customs.”
Napier practiced a concept of moral absolutism. He believed in a single, triune God — an absolute Lawgiver. If there is an absolute Lawgiver, there must be an absolute law. Hindus, on the other hand, do not have a concept of one God. To them, God is utterly beyond form and definition; he is both unknown and unknowable. Their concept of god is more attune with the forces of nature, therefore there are many gods. If there are many gods, then there are many “truths.” That means “the truth” is relative. Your truth is different from my truth. All truth is valid.
Today, it seems the moral relativism that is insinuating itself into society is making its way into the American armed forces. Recent actions by the United States Army against a decorated soldier have exposed a long-standing stance the military has taken of looking the other way toward atrocities committed by foreign nationals in countries where American troops are stationed.
It has come to the attention of at least one U.S. Congressman that the U.S. Department of Defense is discharging Sergeant First Class (SFC) Charles Martland after a distinguished 11-year career in the Special Forces. His crime? Confronting a man who was sexually assaulting a youth while Martland was serving in Afghanistan.
The incident occurred in 2011 during the sergeant’s second deployment in Afghanistan. After learning an Afghan boy was raped and his mother beaten while attempting to stop the rape, Sgt. Martland and his team leader confronted a local police commander. This was the same man they trained, armed and paid with U.S. taxpayer dollars. When the man laughed off the incident, they physically assaulted him.
They were punished by the Army at the time — but exactly why Martland is now being discharged is a matter of dispute. Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.) is looking into the case. With regard to the incident, Hunter told Secretary of Defense Ash Carter: “To intervene was a moral decision, and Sargent Martland and his Green Beret team leader felt they had no choice but to respond.” Martland is described by many of his teammates as the finest soldier they have ever served alongside.
Why did Martland believe he had to respond? Apparently, “don’t ask, don’t tell” wasn’t a policy that applied only to homosexuals.
Homosexual abuse of young boys in Afghanistan is a practice called bacha bazi(boy play), and American soldiers and Marines have been instructed not to intervene — in some cases, not even when their Afghan allies have abused boys on military bases, according to interviews and court records. When troops reported such abuse, they were instructed to look the other way.
This was a practice abhorrent to Martland who could not sit idly by and allow it to happen.
A Career Cut Short
Martland was awarded a Bronze Star with Valor for his actions. According to one evaluation, he also was “praised” by Gen. David Petraeus, then commander of U.S. and allied forces in Afghanistan. Among his other honors was being named runner-up for 2014 Special Warfare Training Group Instructor of the Year from a pool of 400 senior leaders in the Special Forces.
In part because of his skill in training, he was assigned to train Afghan forces during his deployment. Once there, he realized there was a problem with the men he was training to become local police officers. “We had been hearing for months about raping in our province, not just in Afghanistan,” said Daniel Quinn, a fellow trainer, U.S. Military Academy graduate and the team leader of the detachment sent to Kunduz.
One day in early September 2011 at their remote outpost, a young Afghan boy who was limping and his Afghan-Uzbek mother, visibly bruised, showed up at camp. The 12-year-old showed the Green Berets marks on his hands where he had been tied. The mother explained one of the Afghan police commanders in the area, Abdul Rahman, abducted her son and forced him to become a sex slave, chaining him to a bed. She explained that since “her son was such a good-looking kid, he was a status symbol” coveted by local commanders. When she sought her son’s return, she herself was beaten. Her son eventually had been released, but she was afraid it would happen again.
A medic took him to a back room for an examination with an interpreter and confirmed the mother’s story.
After learning of the meeting, Rahman allegedly beat the boy’s mother for reporting the crime. It was at this point, the Green Berets had enough. Quinn and Martland went to confront Rahman. “He confessed to the crime and laughed about it, and said it wasn’t a big deal. Even when we patiently explained how serious the charge was, he kept laughing,” Quinn said.
According to Quinn, “I picked him up and threw him onto the ground.” Sergeant Martland joined in, he said. “I did this to make sure the message was understood that if he went back to the boy that it was not going to be tolerated,” It was the only way to get their point across, according to Quinn. “As a man, as a father of a young boy myself at the time, I felt obliged to step in to prevent further repeat occurrences.”
Rahman walked away bruised from getting shoved and thrown to the ground, but otherwise OK, according to teammates. But Rahman quickly reported the incident to another Army unit in a nearby village. The next day a U.S. Army helicopter landed and took Quinn and Martland away, ending their work in Kunduz Province.
Both men were relieved from their positions and sent home. Their war was over. Then effective Nov. 1, 2015, the U.S. Army ordered Martland to be involuntarily discharged from service.
According to a Los Angeles Times article, an Army colonel last week was quoted as saying of Martland and Quinn, “They put their team’s life at risk by doing what they did, by risking catastrophic loss of rapport” with local Afghan officials.
Representative Hunter responded: “To say that you’ve got to be nice to the child rapist because otherwise the other child rapists might not like you is one of the stupidest things I’ve ever heard — totally insane and wrong. … It’s sad to think that a child rapist is put above one of our elite military operators. Sergeant Martland was left with no other choice but to intervene in a bad situation. The Army should stand up for what’s right and should not side with a corrupt Afghan police officer.”
Part of a Reoccurring Theme
This was not the first time this had happened, nor was it the only time the Army was made aware of the problem.
In 2012, Lance Cpl. Gregory Buckley Jr. called his father from his bunk in southern Afghanistan. He said he could hear Afghan police officers sexually abusing boys they had brought onto the base.
“At night we can hear them screaming, but we’re not allowed to do anything about it,” the Marine’s father, Gregory Buckley Sr., recalled his son telling him before he was shot to death at the base in 2012. He urged his son to tell his superiors. “My son said that his officers told him to look the other way because it’s their culture.”
This is the logical outcome to moral relativism.
Moral Relativism is Not Moral
Followed to its logical conclusion, relativism will ultimately lead to moral anarchy and the disintegration of civilization. If we were free to decide our own standard of morality, laws would be meaningless and human rights could not exist.
Laws are standards that govern behavior—more accurately, standards that restrict behavior. Laws are byproducts of absolutism. They apply to everyone equally and are not open to private interpretation. They tell people how to act whether they want to or not.
Relativism leads to moral anarchy on a broad, cultural scale just as readily is it does on an individual scale. This is especially clear in the modern world where cultures bump up against one another. In a relativistic world, international peace is impossible. If standards of right and wrong were culturally controlled, one nation could never condemn the actions of another nation.
One nation could never condemn the actions that another nation takes even against its own people. The systematic slaughter of 6 million Jews during the Holocaust of World War II would have been allowed because it was not “against the law” in Nazi Germany. The Nazis believed the Jews were vermin to be exterminated.
Relativism is Illogical
Moral Relativism also fails to correspond to reality because is that it flies in the face of the laws of logic. For example, the law of non-contradiction is foundational to all rational thought and communication. All truth depends on this necessary first principle. But relativism violates the law of non-contradiction. Like pluralism as a whole, it takes blatantly contradictory truth claims and states that both are correct. This is logically impossible.
Christianity and pantheism cannot both reveal the true nature of God because their respective Gods are conspicuously different. Indeed, they are mutually exclusive. Likewise, if a man justifies adultery and his wife condemns it as sin, both opinions can’t be correct. It’s either sin, or it’s acceptable behavior: it can’t be both at the same time. Logically, relativism does not make sense.
Relativism is inconsistent
No one lives the philosophy of relativism consistently. In daily life, all people live and behave according to the same understanding of what makes up reality. One of the clearest examples of this is in the area of ethical behavior.
For example, adultery may be acceptable in some societies, but no society allows a man to just take any woman he wants. Stealing may not be a sin if carried out against another tribe, but you do not steal from your neighbor. Lying may be acceptable in certain situations. Killing may be permitted in warfare. But all people agree that it is wrong to steal from, lie to or murder just anyone. The concepts of stealing, lying, and killing are universally recognized as evil, and such acts are strictly controlled in every culture. People may claim ethics are relative, but all people enforce a universal moral code.
Many people believe that truth is relative and that people should be free to behave as they believe. However, people who preach relativism practice absolutism. The best example this author likes to use when one says “you have your truth and I have mine” is, “Fine, I’d like to have my money that’s in your wallet.” Their reaction demonstrates that relativism is inconsistent with the real world. Relativists simply do not practice what they preach.
If ethics were relative, there would be no moral or philosophical grounds for condemning the thief who believes stealing a car is acceptable or for being upset when one’s spouse commits adultery. As Christian apologist Francis Beckwithwrote:
In order to stay consistent, the ethical relativist cannot criticize intolerable moral practices, believe in real moral progress, or acknowledge the existence of real moral reformers. For these three forms of moral judgment presupposes the existence of real transcultural, nonrelative, objective values [i.e., the kind of absolute moral standards we receive from God]
By appealing to the police, relativists acknowledge a universal code of behavior that applies to both them and the thief (remember, laws point to absolutism, not relativism). By feeling pain, the woman is acknowledging that adultery is wrong even if she accepts moral relativity. In both cases, they are acknowledging a standard of right and wrong that applies to other people. This is absolutism.
People talk the talk of relativism but live the life of absolutism. Relativism is a philosophy, a worldview. To be valid, it must work in any and all situations. Otherwise it cannot represent truth. You can’t pick and choose where relativism applies and where is doesn’t. You either live with it or reject it. If you think stealing and adultery are wrong for all people, you are an absolutist.
An Erosive Worldview
This erosive worldview of moral relativism is becoming an ever-increasing threat to Christianity. Thousands of Christians are unwittingly assimilating this philosophy into their thinking, causing them to compromise their behavior, reject the uniqueness of Christianity by embracing religious pluralism, and dismissing Bible precepts in favor of religious experiences.
No matter what “truth” a person subscribes to, as the saying goes, “Reality always votes last.”
WARNING!! AFGHAN ANCIENT TRADITION “DANCING BOYS”
GRAPHIC DETAILS VIDEO FROM FRONTLINE!
AUTHOR’S COMMENTARY: STAND IN THE DOOR WAY CHRISTIANS FOR THESE CHILDREN! STORM THE THE THRONE OF OF ALMIGHTY GOD TO SMIT SUCH EVIL FILTH IN EVERY NATION! IN JESUS NAME. AMEN
Isaiah 5:20-21 (KJV)
20 Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!
21 Woe unto them that are wise in their own eyes, and prudent in their own sight!