By Mark Kelly
We live in an age of protest. On every hand, advocacy groups raise their voices – and sometimes their fists – against wrongs real and imagined.
The chaos is confusing.
“Abortion is wrong.” “Taking away a woman’s right to choose is wrong.” “Prohibiting prayer in the public schools is wrong.” “Drilling for oil in sensitive habitats is wrong.” “Teaching evolution as fact is wrong.” “Allowing wealthy elites to oppress the poor is wrong.” “Overtaxing job producers is wrong.” “Interfering in Iraq’s internal affairs was wrong.” “Taking away my assault rifle is wrong.” “Forcing your morality on me is wrong.” “Corrupting public morals with TV and movies is wrong.” “Discriminating against someone for their sexual orientation is wrong.”
Everyone is so certain about injustice. It’s all the more remarkable, then, that no one can tell you why anything is wrong.
Oh, they have their explanations, but none of them makes sense.
“It’s wrong because I know it’s wrong.” Do you really trust the human conscience? If something is wrong because your conscience tells you so, what if my conscience doesn’t condemn it? Was the slaughter of millions at the hands of Hitler and Stalin and Mao right if their consciences approved?
“It’s wrong because society says it’s wrong.” Has one society never perpetrated an injustice against another? Does a minority have no right to protest the actions of the larger society? If everyone agrees, is it acceptable for a society to practice slavery or commit genocide?
“It’s wrong because the law says it’s wrong.” No, the law doesn’t say something is wrong; it only says that you will be punished for doing what it forbids. History, even recent history, is full of examples of unjust laws. Was it wrong for blacks to drink from “whites-only” water fountains just because it was forbidden by the law?
“It’s wrong because my religion or philosophy teaches it is wrong.” But aren’t there religions and philosophies that teach people to do things that are plainly evil? If a West African religion traditionally has taught people to sacrifice the heart of a child to ensure success, why would that be wrong? Why are your values right and theirs wrong?
‘Why is that wrong?’
Everyone knows some things are wrong and not just wrong for them, but wrong for everyone. No one seriously argues that slavery or genocide can be justified, but that doesn’t mean they can tell you why it is wrong.
“Why?” is the most useful question of all when it comes to questions of right and wrong. Keep asking “why is that wrong?” and a person gradually works his way back to the universal principle behind his personal morality.
Practically no one can explain why their universal principle is true and good. But don’t let that stop you. Ask one more time: “Why should anyone else agree with your opinion about that?”
At that point, “why?” ceases to be the most useful question in the world and becomes the most annoying one, as the parent of any 4-year-old can tell you. It becomes frustrating when you no longer have an answer for it.
And even the 4-year-old knows “because I said so” isn’t an adequate answer.
The reason most people can’t answer the question “why is that wrong?” is that they refuse to accept the only answer that really works.
For almost 200 years, Western society has believed that only science can tell us what is factually true. We have believed that religion and morals are matters of opinion because science can’t put right and wrong under a microscope.
The problem is that if religion and morals are merely matters of opinion, then nothing is really right for everyone, everywhere, all the time and nothing is really wrong either. And as a result, the Western world has been sliding gradually into chaos for more than 200 years.
Most of the ideas Americans have about justice and injustice, about right and wrong, grew out of Christian values based on the Bible. Slavery and genocide are wrong because human beings are created in God’s image and have inalienable rights to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” (to borrow a phrase). Abusing the environment is wrong because the earth is God’s good creation and he has given us a charge to take care of it.
At America’s founding, John Witherspoon, a clergyman and signer of the Declaration of Independence, still understood that human freedom and dignity stood on the foundation of our creation in God’s image. The Declaration of Independence plainly said our human rights are gifts from the Creator.
The French and most other Europeans of the time, however, followed the thinking of John Locke, who tried to base the principles of democracy on human reason alone. While America’s revolution proceeded to plant the seeds of the world’s first truly just and free society, the French revolution collapsed into chaos, paving the way for Napoleon’s brutal dictatorship. Nowhere else in the world has a non-Christian value system ever produced a just, free society.
If a society rejects God and the Word he has given us, then it no longer can explain why anything is wrong. The United Nations can campaign all it wants for human rights, but it cannot explain why Myanmar or Saudi Arabia should respect them. Anti-globalists can protest the concentration of wealth, but they cannot explain why the oppression of poor people is wrong.
Western society is living on the leftover crumbs of Christian truth. One day soon, the last morsel will be gone. Chaos will give way to anarchy because everyone has his own opinion about what is right and wrong. People will surrender the ideas of justice and freedom to anyone who can restore order.
And the world will have a new “Great Leader.”
It doesn’t have to be that way. God is real. He sent Jesus to show us how God expects us to live. We have God’s Written Word to guide us toward truth and justice. Science and history even prove it’s all true.
It’s our choice. Do we want to live in a world where our neighbor thinks nothing is wrong? Are we willing to live under a dictator’s thumb to escape the chaos? Or do we want the just, free society God created us to enjoy?
BY WAY OF EXAMPLE
Persistently asking “why is that wrong?” can help you press someone back to the real issue: how people know what is right and wrong.
Take for example, the issue of discriminating against someone on the basis of their sexual orientation.
Western society decided in the 1970s that homosexual behavior was neither psychologically abnormal nor morally wrong and therefore should not be forbidden or punished.
Why? Because each person has the right to define who he is. If I have homosexual feelings, and if I am not uncomfortable with those feelings, then why should anyone tell me it is wrong? And why should two homosexuals be punished for what they do in private? The United States Supreme Court, in Lawrence v. Texas, agreed that the right to privacy protects an individual’s freedom to define his own sexuality.
So, if it’s wrong to tell an individual that his sexual orientation is not acceptable, does that also include those whose sexual preference includes animals? Or dead bodies? Or small children?
Even the most ardent advocate of gay rights usually recoils at the mention of pedophilia. But why is it wrong?
Ask, and you’ll get different answers: “Adult-child sexual relationships are inherently unequal.” “Children cannot consent to sexual intercourse.” “No one has a right to impose a sex act upon another person without consent.”
Keep asking “why?” and you will discover that ultimately no one can tell you why. They may state a universal principle, but that is based on nothing but personal or social opinion. They will tell you they feel it is disgusting. They will assault anyone who approaches their child. They will approve of barbaric punishments for anyone who dares to engage in sex with a child. But the fact remains that the same logic that “liberates” the homosexual also “liberates” the pedophile.
They may protest, “But everyone knows it’s wrong!” No, not everyone does. Have you never heard of the North American Man-Boy Love Association? Ask them, and they will tell you they are a minority oppressed like homosexuals were oppressed and that in time public opinion will agree they should be free as well.
And public opinion does change, especially if media elites decide to promote the cause. Didn’t our society’s opinions about homosexuality change?