America's Culture War: Situation Ethics
One Code of Morality
The social turbulence of the 1960s created a revolution in societal mores among the baby boomer generation. The stated philosophy of “do your own thing” literally has “gone to seed” in American society. The result is that many Americans live their lives and make their day-to-day moral decisions on the basis of a hodge-podge of values drawn from a variety of sources. Situation ethics is the order of the day, and the average person simply acts on his feelings and personal opinions. Morality is now individualistic—with each person formulating his own belief system and then measuring his behavior against that subjective, personal, moral framework. Concomitant with the development of this circumstance is the corresponding sentiment that no one should “judge” anyone else’s beliefs or actions, and everyone should be “tolerant” of the diversity of viewpoints that permeate society. When such a state of affairs holds sway, one should not be surprised to encounter jurors who are lenient with a woman who murdered her husband in cold blood. One should not be surprised when millions of law-breaking, illegal immigrants are tolerated and even excused. One should not be surprised that repeat offenders who rape, maim, and murder are allowed to circumvent the criminal justice system and perpetuate their atrocities on innocent citizens.
The Founding Fathers of the American Republic would be deeply saddened to see the extent to which our civilization has slumped from its original high moral ground. In a letter from Paris dated August 28, 1789, Thomas Jefferson wrote to James Madison: “I know but one code of morality for men whether acting singly or collectively” (1789). He was simply expressing the widespread view of the Founders as well as the populace of the United States at the time. Indeed, he merely articulated biblical reality, in which moral value, good, and evil, are defined by the Creator in His Word, the Bible. By that Word and by that standard, every human being’s life will one day be measured. In the words of Jesus Christ: “He who rejects Me, and does not receive My words, has that which judges him—the word that I have spoken will judge him in the last day” (John 12:48). Indeed, the day is coming when
the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. These shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power, when He comes, in that Day, to be glorified in His saints and to be admired among all those who believe (2 Thessalonians 1:7-10).
Jefferson, Thomas (1789), “Letter to James Madison,” The Works of Thomas Jefferson in Twelve Volumes, ed. Paul Leicester Ford, [On-line], URL: http://memory.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/r?ammem/mtj:@field(DOCID+@lit (tj050135)).