drawing lines

Moral absolutes make me nervous. It’s not that I don’t acknowledge that some exist. Some certainly do. Killing, for example, is wrong. I don’t see any situation in which I could ever kill and feel justified, unless it was in defense of my children. Rape is wrong. Causing pain is wrong, torture is wrong. These are things I don’t have to think about in order to acknowledge them.

Lying, I feel, is wrong. That is, I feel that it’s almost always wrong. When it comes down to debating the fine points I will say that there are some situations in which a lie is justified. If I were a soldier, I were caught by the enemy and they asked me for information I wouldn’t bat an eyelash about lying. Suddenly I feel my moral absolutes becoming squishy. I also feel that stealing is wrong, but if it came down to steal or starve I don’t know how long I could stand on my moral soapbox.

Then there are things that I feel personally, but I don’t know about their morality. I don’t want to have sex with other women. If I did, I’d be going against my nature. I like men. But I’m not sure if that means that any woman having sex with any other woman is necessarily immoral. It is what I feel about myself, not what I feel about the world. While I find using foul language with the intent of causing offense distasteful, I don’t necessarily feel that cursing is immoral. It’s crude, it could make people uncomfortable having their kids around you, but is it a real offense against God? I don’t know. I doubt it.  I was raised by people who believed that tattoos were vile, and yet I have one. I was raised in an area where getting a body piercing or dying your hair an unnatural color was also considered wrong. Yet, check box one and two. I’m guilty there, as well. Some people feel that women wearing “male” clothing is wrong, some people feel that having electricity is wrong.  Once you start drawing moral lines it’s really hard to tell where to stop. What is true morality, what is personal preference, and what hinges solely on the dictates of lifestyle choices? Monks may choose to live a life of chastity to honor God, but that doesn’t make it the only way. That doesn’t mean that sex in and of itself is dishonorable. Mennonites may choose to live a life as free from the constraints of the appearance of riches and possessions as possible to honor God, but does that make acquiring worldly goods a sin?

Where are the lines?

I can’t believe that all morality is a matter of personal urges- I couldn’t simply “choose” to believe that taking a life is justified, or that torture is at any point excusable. I also can not go the other way and say that the only path to morality is that which others have illustrated. What they feel to be what God desires simply does not apply to everyone. How could it? While one might argue from a Biblical standpoint that the only path to God is through Jesus, one cannot make that same argument for living a life of meager possessions, dressing a certain way, speaking a certain way, behaving by particular dictates.

Jesus is far more than a list of rules and requirements. Christianity is about more than drawing lines. It’s about renewing your way of thinking, changing not just the way you behave but the way in which you view the world around you. It’s about love and passion, charity, mercy. Those principles seem to be at odds with a mindset in which the way we come to know God is through obeying strictures.

Or maybe I’m a moral relativist, and should be shunned.


7 thoughts on “drawing lines

  1. Since we’ve just “met” I’m a little reluctant to say too much on this one…First of all, I’ve never been very good when it comes to these sort of discussions..it is so easy to not hear what the other person is really saying…it’s hard enough in marriage to misunderstand when you are face to face…repeatedly someone will make a comment on my blog and I’m thinking to myself…they never really heard me in the first place..and I must have pushed some buttons by their response…
    oh oh…our company just got here so I’ll have to come back later…I do have a couple of thoughts..

  2. Amen Sister Shush!

    I firmly believe that Jesus is much more interested in who we are rather than what we do. God provided 10 moral absolutes in the OT. We call them the Ten Commandments. Jesus reduced it to two: “Love the Lord your GOD with all your heart, soul, mind and strength and love your neighbor as yourself.” Covers pretty much all the important stuff, right?

    member of the March 19th Five Years of War Blogswarm

  3. DM: I’m interested to hear what you have to say. Please don’t be concerned with the possibility of offending me- I myself am still largely ambivalent and put this out there more to hear what other people have to say than as to some kind of testament to my own belief. I do believe there is absolute good in moral choices and that there is objective morality which comes from God, it’s just that it’s hard to really put my finger on where objectivity begins and subjectivity is introduced.

    Matthew: Growing up near an Amish community, one of the biggest lessons I learned is that you CANNOT define yourself but what you are NOT- it’s who you ARE. thanks!

  4. It really does come down to a relationship with Christ. We get into trouble when we start attempting to tell other people what that looks like. Martin Luther reportedly said :”Love God and do what you want.” I’ve had a chance on a couple of occassions to spend several weeks meeting with people who were spiritually searching…we would look at the scriptures, have lots of laughs..and I would watch the Spirit of God draw people to himself….it is always such a miracle. never once have I ever touched on any of those ” moral issues” you listed…but by themselves, I watched a young couple make several major lifestyle choices…all w/o me saying a word….to expect people to “act” like Christians when they are not, is to lay the foundation for legalism. I don’t expect people who do’t have a personal connection to Christ to sound and act like people who do…and those of us that do…well, there’s a certain amount of freedom in that as well…we have to be VERY slow to think we have the right to speak into someone else’s life…usually not w/o invitation. If you and I are in a conversation and you ask me point blank what I think about this or that, I will tell you..but not over the internet, and not w/o your initiative

  5. DM: I sincerely believe that if we love God and actively try to live a life worthy of our salvation, we will find what we were made to be. It’s just not as easy as saying, “do this,” because it’s not about the actions so much as the intent. If I do a good thing intending to look good, that doesn’t mean the same thing as doing a good thing because I believe in it’s value.

    Thank you so much for your comment. I think I understand you better now.

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