The Fear of Moral Decline

Parents ought to be alarmed that a school district is teaching sex education. It is a gross usurping of a parent’s responsibility and it implies an ethical instruction not determined by the parents as such.

The horror of the moral deterioration of contemporary Western culture does not end here! No, it gets worse, we are told, because now schools will have to respond to the gender-preferences of students who claim some form of transgendered orientation.

That people should demand that their preferences be treated with sensitivity is a recipe for moral chaos. How can we expect children not to bully the ‘boy’ who decides to be a girl? How can we build a society on the ethical imperative of honouring every persons chosen identity? What will become of our culture now that everybody wants a say?

Only, I do not think these are the questions Albert Mohler, or people in his camp, are really asking or should be asking. This kind of statecraft, or narrating of a universal ethic, allows the one narrating a privileged position of not only participating in society but also determining the rules of who else may, and how they do.

As Mohler’s ethical rhetoric reverberates around increasingly deserted churches, so others will begin to narrate their ethical vision. This is merely the next stage of the Enlightenment process which allowed first, the nation-state to shape itself according to its values and second allowed a free market of ideas and expressions. Today we are observing the inevitable development on this: The autonomy of the human person and the struggles of attempting to reconcile this autonomous self in a world of other selves.

And this is terrifying for a church which has grown large and comfortable by aligning itself with the popular piety of the aspiring upper-middle class.

So it thrashes around screaming “Think of the children!”, sowing fear since that is how it seeks to retain some social acceptability.

I propose that this scheme is not only doomed, but a shamefully embarrassing way for the church to step out of the moral centre. It is the vision of a smelly old coot rambling “you’ll be sorry! You’ll all see!” on his way out of the village.

Well church is not welcome in the village any more. Fine.

Instead of yelling to a world which has rolled up the window, to be more moral, lets try being moral.

Stanley Hauerwas makes a pithy observation that the gay community have managed to be a more consistent moral force in the world than Christians. Homosexuals got themselves banned from the military! They were unified enough by their shared ethic that the world responded to them as a group, under one identity.

Could Christians get themselves banned from military service?

Yes, if they could become a unified ethical community.

As it is, it seems there are a great many persons and institutions which stand to lose a great deal as Christian ethical aspirations are traded for alternatives. The fear of losing this power drives many like Mohler to contempt, fear mongering and baseless appeals. Yet when the seminaries, mega-churches and transnational ministries evaporate there will exist still a community of people who affirm that they are made, they do not make themselves and that they will follow one Lord.

So long as that is the reality, I don’t think the church has much to fear at all.

But Daniel resolved that he would not defile himself with the king’s food, or with the wine that he drank. Therefore he asked the chief of the eunuchs to allow him not to defile himself. (Daniel 1:8 ESV)

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