Some years ago, when the news broke that Joseph Stalin's daughter had defected from
Communism and Russia, many people were startled. Her statement, given to reporters who met
her plane in New York, told why she defected:
"I found it impossible to exist without God in one's heart. I came to that
conclusion myself, without anybody's help or preaching. That was a great change because
since that moment the main dogmas of Communism lost their significance for me. I have come
here to seek the self-expression that has been denied me for so long in Russia."
That woman's struggle was a terrible one. To leave Russia, she had to leave two
children in Moscow and realize that it would be, as she said, "impossible to go
Pascal said there is within every person a "God-shaped vacuum." He's right.
Historians Will and Ariel Durant observed in their summary volume, The Lessons of
that "there never has been a significant example of morality apart from belief in
Morning Glory, February 5, 1994.
What does the cheating scandal at the U.S. Naval Academy say about military honor? Last
week, Navy investigators reported that 81 midshipmen had obtained a copy of a 1992
engineering exam before exam day and that many of them then lied during an internal
investigation, some to protect classmates. Former Assistant Secretary of Defense Richard
Armitage, who chaired a review of the academy's honor code, blames the widespread cheating
on the Navy's emphasis on skills like technical proficiency over character development. A
1967 Annapolis graduate, Armitage notes that one point of honor is still pounded into all
midshipmen from Day 1: "Never bilge (endanger) a shipmate." That credo cuts two
ways, says James Q. Wilson, author of The Moral Sense. It explains why some midshipmen
betrayed their personal honor by lying to protect their classmates; but, says Wilson,
those same people will never let their buddies down during times of war. He adds, "I
wouldn't worry that this indicates a decaying moral fabric of the next generation of
U.S. News & World Report, February 7, 1994,
Consider the results of a survey conducted in 1988 by the Rhode Island Rape Crisis
Center. Some 1,700 students between the sixth and ninth grade attended adolescent assault
awareness classes conducted in schools across the state. Each boy and girl was asked if a
man should have a right to force a woman to have sexual intercourse if he had spent money
The results were shocking. Nearly 25 percent of the boys and 16 percent of the girls
said "yes"! Then 65 percent of the boys and 47 percent of the girls in the
seventh through ninth grades said it is okay for a man to force a woman to have sex with
him if they have dated for six months or longer. And 51 percent of the boys and 41 percent
of the girls said a man has a right to force a woman to kiss him if he spent "a lot
of money on her" -- which was defined by 12-year-olds as $10 to $15.
I must admit to being shocked by these findings, and yet, not really. These young
students merely learned the lessons they were taught by the value-free educational system.
Their teachers taught them in sex education classes that there is nothing right or wrong,
no standard for moral judgment. "It all depends on how you see the matter,
Johnny." It turns out Johnny sees it rather brutally.
Johnny's older brothers learned their lessons well, too. In a classic study at UCLA,
Malamuth and Feshback found that 51 percent of male sophomores said they would rape a
woman if they knew they would never get caught. This is the legacy of moral relativism,
just one generation removed.
J. Dobson & Gary Bauer, Children at Risk, Word, 1990,
There was a time when most Americans respected the Bible, and you could quote it with
authority. In 1963, according to Gallup, 65% believed the Bible literally; today the
number is only 32%. There was a time when most Americans were familiar with biblical
doctrine. You could say, "Believe in Jesus," and at least they knew what you
meant. But today most would be mystified. Newsweek tells of a child who saw a
asked, "Mommy, what's that man doing?" There was a time when most Americans
accepted absolute standards. They might disagree on what those absolutes were, but they
knew that some things are really right or wrong. Today 70% reject moral absolutes.
Colson, Christianity Today, November 9, 1992, p. 112.
A recent Barna Research Group survey on what Americans believe confirms what this brief
scenario illustrates: we are in danger of becoming a nation of relativists. The Barna
survey asked, "Is there absolute truth?" Amazingly, 66 percent of American
adults responded that they believe that "there is no such thing as absolute truth;
different people can define truth in conflicting ways and still be correct." The
figure rises to 72 percent when it comes to those between the ages of 18 and 25.
Christianity Today, October 26, 1992, p. 30.
In his 1983 acceptance speech for the Templeton Prize for Progress in Religion,
[Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn] recalled the words he heard as a child, when his elders sought to
explain the ruinous upheavals in Russia: "Men have forgotten God; that's why all this
has happened." He added, "If I were called upon to identify briefly the
principal trait of the entire twentieth century, here too I would be unable to find
anything more precise and pithy than to repeat once again: 'men have forgotten God.'"
John Wilson, reviewing Solzhenitsyn and the Modern World, in Christianity
7, 1994, p. 57.
Modern thinkers have rejected the very idea of objective morality: Darwin, who reduced
morals to an extension of animal instincts; Freud, who regarded repression of impulses as
the source of neurosis; Marx, who disdained morality as an expression of self-interest.
Charles Colson, Christianity Today, March 7, 1994, p. 80.
It is no wonder that in 15 years of asking high school students throughout America
whether, in an emergency situation, they would save their dog or a stranger first, most
students have answered that they would not save the stranger. "I love my
dog, I don't
love the stranger," they always say. The feeling of love has supplanted God or
religious principle as the moral guide for young people. What is right has been redefined
in terms of what an individual feels.
Dennis Prager in Good News, July/Aug, 1993, quoted
in Christianity Today, Oct 25, 1993, p. 73.
Dr. Lawrence Kohlberg, a Harvard psychologist, has pinpointed six plateaus of moral development. Let's venture a
guess as to where we're located.
Stage one: obedience and punishment. Right is what authorities command. The underlying motive is fear of
punishment, not respect for authority or values.
Stage two: back-scratching. When people begin to seek a return for their favors. It's the "I'll-do-for-you-but-only-if-
you-reciprocate" mentality. Kohlberg terms it "the morality of the marketplace."
Stage three: conformity. Good behavior is that which pleases or helps others, and is approved by them. The
evaluations and expectations of peers are particularly strong.
Stage four: law-and-order. What is right is doing one's duty, showing respect for authority and maintaining the given
social order. What the law commands transcends all other considerations.
Stage five: social contract. Right is defined in terms of the general rights of individuals, as agreed upon by the whole
society (e.g., U.S. Constitution).
Stage six: universal principles. Morality is based on decisions of conscience made in accordance with self-chosen
principles of "right" -- principles which are universal and consistent.
Jon Johnston, Courage - You Can Stand Strong in the Face of
Fear, 1990, SP Publications, p. 89.
If there are no absolutes by which to judge society, then society is absolute.
In South Africa, naturist club owner Beau Brummell was irked by accusations from morals watchdogs that a shriveling Transvaal
drought was brought on the the "sin" of nude togetherness at his 1000-acre farm. So he asked his 370 visitors to get dressed.
And, for the first time in two months, it poured rain. "It's enough to make me become a monk!" Brummell said.
Ingrid Norton in Rand Daily Mail, Johannesburg.
"I think it's fairly obvious why I was married. As strange as it may sound, I am a very moral woman. I was taught by my parents
that if you fall in love, if you want to have a love affair, you get married. I guess I'm very old-fashioned."
Elizabeth Taylor after seven marriages, five divorces, in the
San Francisco Chronicle.
All across this country, the undermining and destruction of the values that children were taught at home is going on in
public schools. One of the first things a family tries to teach its children is the difference between right and wrong. One of
the first things our schools try to destroy is that distinction. The up-to-date way to carry on the destruction of
traditional values is to claim to be solving some social problem like drugs, AIDS or teen-age pregnancy. Only those few people
who have the time to research what is actually being done in "drug education," "sex education" or "death education"
courses know what an utter fraud these labels are.
For those are courses about how right and wrong are outmoded notions, about how your parents' ideas are no guide for
you, and about how each person must start from scratch to develop his or her own way of behaving.
Thomas Sowell, Creators Syndicate, quoted in Reader's
Digest, March, 1993, p. 178.
One of the most famous trials in history was that of Benjamin Francois Courvoisier in London in 1840, who is now
immortalized in Madame Tussaud's Wax Museum. Courvoisier was a Swiss valet accused of slicing the throat of his elderly
employer, Lord William Russell. What made this trial notorious was the argument for the
defense. The police had bungled the investigation. The evidence against Courvoisier was entirely circumstantial or had been
planted. One of the officers had perjured himself, and the maid's testimony brought suspicion on herself. The defense
attorney, Charles Phillips, was convinced of the innocence of Courvoisier and cross-examined witnesses aggressively.
At the beginning of the second day of the trial, however, Courvoisier confessed privately to his lawyer that he had
committed the murder. When asked if he were going to plead guilty, he replied to Charles Phillips, "No, sir, I expect you to
defend me to the utmost."
Phillips was faced with a dilemma. Should he declare to the court that the man was guilty, or should he defend
Courvoisier as best he could? Should he break the confidentiality of the client-lawyer relationship, or should he
help a guilty man to possibly go free? Which is more important -- truth or professional duty?
Phillips decided to defend the guilty man. But despite Phillips's efforts, Courvoisier was convicted. When the dilemma
was later made public, Phillips's decision to defend a murderer horrified British society and brought him a great deal of
Klyne Snodgrass, Between Two Truths - Living with Biblical
Tensions, 1990, Zondervan Publishing House, pp. 11-12.
Allan Bloom writes: "Openness - and the relativism that makes it the only plausible stance in the face of various claims
to truth and various ways of life and kinds of human beings -- is the great insight of our times. The true believer is the real
danger. The study of history and of culture teaches that all the world was mad in the past; men always thought they were right,
and that led to wars, persecutions, slavery, xenophobia, racism and chauvinism. The point is not to correct the mistakes and
really be right; rather it is not to think you are right at all."
Charles Colson, Against the Night, pp. 84.
As Dorothy Sayers observed, "In the world it is called Tolerance, but in hell it is called Despair.. the sin that
believes in nothing, cares for nothing, seeks to know nothing, interferes with nothing, enjoys nothing, hates nothing, finds
purpose in nothing, lives for nothing, and remains alive because there is nothing for which it will die."
Charles Colson, Against the Night, p. 93.
I have come to the conclusion that it is impossible to have a moral community or nation without faith in God, because without
it everything rapidly comes down to "me," and "me" alone is meaningless. Today Americans have stopped acting in terms of
their own moral, ethical and religious beliefs and principles. They've stopped acting on what they knew was right -- and the
"me" has become the measure of everything.
However, moral societies are the only ones that work. If anyone thinks there is not a direct and invaluable relationship between
personal integrity in a society and that society's prosperity, that person has simply not studied history. And this should not
surprise us. Great moral societies, built upon faith in God, honor, trust, and the law
blossoms because they are harmonious; because people love or at least respect their fellowman; because,
finally, they have a common belief in something beyond themselves. It simplifies life immensely; you do not waste and
spend your days fighting for turf, for privilege, for money and power over your fellowman.
Alexis de Tocqueville said it best when he realized even at the very beginning of our national life, "America is great because
America is good. If America ceases to be good, she will cease to be great."
Georgia Anne Geyer, Bits & Pieces, September 17,
1992, pp. 23-24.
It's out, and it's hot: a discussion guide on sexuality for Lutherans. Released last month, it is sure to spark debate both
in and out of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) between now and the next ELCA assembly in 1993. "Human Sexuality
and the Christian Faith," a 55 page document produced by the denomination's Division for Church and Society, was designed to
prompt dialogue and set the stage for a future ELCA social statement on sex issues. The material urges readers to examine
with an open mind different views about marriage, promiscuity, and
At it's core the document questions biblical passages concerning homosexuality and suggests that scriptural references to same-sex
relationships need to be re-interpreted in light of modern theories about sexual orientation. "We must distinguish between
moral judgments regarding same-sex activity in biblical times and in our own time," the report states. It differentiates
"exploitative" homosexual activity from same-sex relationships" in which there is mutual love and commitment." The document
challenges ELCA members to evaluate prejudices against homosexuals, insisting that "what we personally find offensive
is not necessarily sinful."
Members of a 24 person United Methodist Church (UMC) panel could not agree on whether homosexuality is a sin, so the committee's
14,000-word report on the subject was referred to the denomination's national policy-making body, which will convene in
Louisville, Kentucky, in May. The report contains a majority statement, signed by 17 committee members, recommending the
removal of an assertion in the church's book of rules that homosexual practice and Christianity are incompatible. A
minority report, signed by four members, argues for retaining the current language. The panel agreed that biblical references to
sexual practices should not be viewed as binding "just because they are in the Bible." Fierce debate is expected at this year's
General Conference because at least 35 of the UMC's 72 regional bodies have approved resolutions calling for preserving the
Copyright 1992 by Media Management, P.O. Box 21433,
While an estimated 74 percent of Americans strongly agree that "there is only one true God, who is holy and perfect, and who
created the world and rules it today," an estimated 65 percent either strongly agree or somewhat agree with the assertion that
"there is no such thing as absolute truth."
Christianity Today, September 16, 1991, p. 48, from George
Barna, The Barna Report: What Americans Believe, 1991.
During a recent meeting of college educators at Harvard University, Cornell president Frank Rhodes rose to address the
issue of reforms, suggesting that it was time for universities to pay "real and sustained attention to student's intellectual and
moral well-being." Immediately there were gasps, even catcalls.
One indignant student stood to demand of Rhodes, "Who is going to do the instructing? Whose morality are we going to follow?" The
audience applauded thunderously, believing that the young man had settled the issue by posing an unanswerable question. Rhodes sat
down, unable or unwilling to respond...Basic human nature dictates that when an individual is left to make moral decisions
without reference to some standard above self, he or she invariably makes those choices on the basis of self-interest.
Relativism results in radical individualism. As sociologist Robert Bellah concluded after an exhaustive survey, Americans
have two overriding goals in life: personal success and vivid personal feelings.
Charles Colson, Jubilee, April, 1988.
I recently saw the story of a high school values clarification class conducted by a teacher in
Teaneck, New Jersey. A girl in the class had found a purse containing $1000 and returned it to its
owner. The teacher asked for the class's reaction. Every single one of her fellow students concluded the girl had been "foolish."
Most of the students contended that if someone is careless, they should be punished. When the teacher was asked what he said to
the students, he responded, "Well, of course, I didn't say anything. If I come from the position of what is right and what
is wrong, then I'm not their counselor. I can't impose my views."
It's no wonder that J. Allen Smith, considered a father of many modern education reforms, concluded in the end, "The
trouble with us reformers is that we've made reform a crusade against all standards. Well, we've smashed them all, and now
neither we nor anybody else have anything left."
Senator Dan Coats, Imprimis, Vol. 20, No. 9, September 1991.
Few executives can afford the luxury of a conscience. A business that defined right and wrong in terms that would satisfy a well-developed contemporary
conscience could not survive. When the directors and managers enter the board room to debate policy,
they park their private consciences outside. If they didn't they would fail in their responsibility to the company that pays them.
The crucial question in board rooms today is not, "Are we morally obligated to do it?" but rather "What will happen if we don't do
it?" or "How will this affect the rate of return on our investment?" No company employs a vice president in charge of
ethical standards, and sooner or later the conscientious executive is likely to come up against a stone wall of corporate
indifference to private moral values. In the real world of today's business, he is almost surely a troubled man.
Dan Miller, Chicago Daily News, July 29, 1970.
What is moral is what you feel good after and what is immoral is what you feel bad after.