Absolutes in the Grayest of Worlds

This is the time of year when I often take stock of my heart and find myself thinking sincerely about what I believe in the deepest parts of me.

It’s simpler that it sounds, but it usually hurts at least a little. I ask myself questions. I take into account my experiences. And I consider experiences of which I have not had.

Why do I believe what I believe? What does this belief do for my heart? What does this belief mean for the hearts of others around me? And most importantly, what does this belief require of me?

Certainly, it’s heavy, but I think it’s what keeps me firm and grounded and strong in all of the ways I need to be at this season in my life.

It’s also what keeps us sincere, and it’s what keeps us authentic. That being established, I’ve often noticed that many Christians fail to handle a lot of issues, arguments and circumstances in this life in a truly loving manner due to a lack of pure, selfless thoughtfulness.

I’m thinking about multiples incidents right now—on both a local and global scale—so I’m not writing to explore a particular issue.

I’m writing to remind readers of a fundamental, growing reality about our society that I think can help to cultivate sincere thoughtfulness about the disagreements we face every day when it comes to matters of beliefs:  We don’t like absolutes. We live in the grayest of worlds where the black and white principles seem useless, ineffective and flat out false. Consequently, many wonder how such principles could even remotely apply to such a world.

Moral relativism—the idea that there is no absolute truth and that what is right for you isn’t necessarily right for me—runs rampant in modern American society and universities across the nation, and you know what? I get it. I get why people want to believe it. I totally do. I promise I do.

Perhaps the two most profound lessons I’ve learned while going to a seemingly Godless college for four years, is that 1) I am relentlessly loved by God—no matter what (a whole other lengthy concept in itself), and 2) This world hates absolutes with an equal amount of passion that it unknowingly longs for absolutes.

I see this paradox of hating and longing for absolutes in the eyes of the young college girl who is both an outspoken supporter of moral relativism and a committed fighter against human trafficking.

Oh, we want so badly to believe in a right and wrong concept that we feel has so deeply betrayed us.

One of my most defining college experiences happened throughout the course of a class I took called Religious Beliefs.  (I will be forever grateful for this experience.) In this class, we talked about all of the hard questions—all of the questions that lead people to atheism, paganism, and any other ism you can think of. I loved it and I hated it. I loved it for what it showed me, and hated it for what I often felt as a result of what it showed me.

I remember one day in particular the professor showed us a video clip of students who were peacefully protesting tuition increases, sitting outside on their campus grounds. After some time, the police arrived on the scene.  Following some verbal warnings that resulted in silence from the students, the policemen sprayed the students’ eyes with mace.  The students screamed, ambulances were called and chaos ensued.

After showing us this, our professor simply asked; “What’s wrong with this?”

Of course, students in the class pointed out the facts. The protesting students were hurt for simply sitting on the grass of their campus and peacefully exercising their right of free speech. Students were wrongfully attacked, yes, but our professor pushed us to think beyond that. “Yes,” he said, “But in general, what are the police supposed to do? What is their purpose in society?”

And then it hit me in the heart like a ton of bricks as a student quietly responded, “To serve….and protect.”

We live in a world where those who we are supposed to trust with absolute certainty to care for us—fathers, mothers, pastors, policemen—sometimes do the most damage to us.

In such a world as ours, pain, disorder and injustice reign.  In such a world as ours, fathers rape their children, genocides aren’t just things you see in movies and people are unceasingly ridiculed every day in almost every place.

And so we try as hard as we might to “fix” things and people before we really even know what’s there.  We develop the perfect program, campaign or political agenda.  We take these hurtful matters into our own hands once and for all and decide that we know what’s best, all the while claiming that a universal right and wrong must not exist.

We’re frighteningly quick to diagnose based solely on the symptoms, and we very rarely ever really know what has made a heart into what it is or what makes a person do certain things.

There are wounds we don’t have to eyes to see, nor the heart or power to heal. There are situations and histories we can’t even begin to understand. And yet we try, we try as we might.

Consequently, it’s simply easier to not believe in right and wrong. Or, at the very least, it makes more sense to alter right and wrong according to our own perspectives and experiences, because then all of these awful things just make more sense.

If there is a God, why would any of this awfulness exist? The most profound question I think we can ask is that very question. Honestly, this question doesn’t offend me at all, and I admire those who wrestle with it (and I’m baffled by Christians who get offended by such questions—or worse, brush such questions under the rug.) Often, we have to do this, and I think it’s a crucial question to consider when we’re founding our faith.

While the existence of free will accounts for many things, it doesn’t account for every tragedy.  And this, this is where faith comes in.  Believing in something bigger than what we see in spite of not having all (or any) of the answers we so desperately want.  That’s what faith is. That’s a belief.

What I struggle with, with regard to moral relativism, is its problem with faith—a problem of which moral relativists often appear to be genuinely unaware of.

While everyone is free to believe what they want, according to a moral relativist perspective, one cannot believe that something is absolutely true, false, right or wrong.  I ask this: How then, is this a freedom to believe what one believes? Furthermore, what is the point in a belief or faith that is not professed to be absolute truth?  What this kind of logic is really saying is, “You are able to do as you please, but don’t claim that something that is absolutely true, right or wrong in comparison to other opinions. Don’t really believe in anything at all. That is unkind”

Circles and circles and circles, until we realize that belief isn’t belief at all if there is no ascertain of absolute truth.

The purpose of belief is belief.

It is bold to profess a belief. Beliefs transcend personal experiences, stories and specific situations. They’re messy. They automatically cultivate conflict because absolutes are present, and absolutes leave no room for friendly moral relativism.

In a world where power is frequently abused and injustices never cease, asking someone to believe that humans were created to live differently in a certain way for certain purposes is a bold request that I personally believe requires a supernatural shift within the individual.

We are not living as we were made to.  And until a heart realizes this, one won’t see the need for absolutes.

Believing in one ultimate true, all-powerful Being—and believing that this Being is truly good and worthy of our trustis perhaps the bravest, most seemingly illogical and most essential thing I think we could ever do for ourselves.

It’s no mystery to me as to why someone would not want to believe in such a Being, absolute truth or universal concepts of right and wrong—but it is a mystery to me as to how we can get along without it.

So I get along with it, to the best of my ability, all the while knowing we were made for more than what I see. I simply believe that I was made to believe, taking heart in the hopes that one day it will all make sense, even if it doesn’t right here, right now.


About April Dray

Written word is my zeal. I love my cat and she tolerates me.
This entry was posted in college, personal, philosophy, spiritual. Bookmark the permalink.

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