Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Ultimate Right and Wrong

During the conference I attended last month, I came across a quote by Lincoln that I hadn’t encountered before: 

“This, and this only (will satisfy the South): cease to call slavery wrong, and join them in calling it right…. Holding, as they do, that slavery is morally right, and socially elevating, they cannot cease to demand a full national recognition of it, as a legal right, and a social blessing…. Let us be diverted by none of these sophistical contrivances….such as groping for some middle ground between the right and the wrong….” –Lincoln

In short, either slavery is wrong or it is right. It isn’t possible for it to be both. It isn’t possible for it to be right sometimes, or right for some people. The concept of calling slavery wrong is an ultimate truth.  

In the class on culture wars I attended, where this quote was used, the teacher, Brett Latimer (an American Heritage professor) pointed out that, according to Lincoln, “If slavery is not wrong, nothing is wrong,”[1] and if you couldn’t judge by what was right and wrong, then it was only a matter of who had the power. 

Prof. Latimer shared so many things that I’d like to pass along. But here is the beginning in a nutshell, that on other days we may refer to with specific topics. 

There is ultimate Good (big G). While we recognize that there is ultimate Good, it is a human tendency to define, moralize, and specify how to get there. In other words, there is dogma (little g). 

Those who don't believe in ultimate Good believe instead in relativism, the assumption that there is no big G, and that dogma therefore is always wrong, because all beliefs are equally true and relevant (b=b=b). 

But if you take away the big G, then you leave a vacuum that must be filled by something. It is one thing to say that individuals are entitled to their own beliefs, and that we respect their right to their beliefs. It is something else to say that the beliefs are all equivalent. As soon as someone is in a position to make policy (law, rules, education standards, etc.), then that someone’s belief is being imposed. If there is no standard big G to go by, then the relativistic belief of the person(s) in power becomes the enforced belief. In other words, without God-given ultimate truth, the standard becomes man-made truth.

        The Good (G)
        Dogmatization (g)
        Relativism (b=b)
        Man-Made “good” (B) 

As a society we will either be supporting the ultimate Good (G), or we will be supporting the mad-made “good,” or enforced belief (B). 

One of the basic truths I talk about in the Civilization section of the Spherical Model, is that Family Is the Basic Unit of Civilization. If indeed that is an ultimate truth, then several additional truths hang on that, among them the meaning of marriage. 

Marriage cannot be “the sexual union of a man and a woman, exclusively and permanently bound to one another, benefitting the offspring they produce” and also be “the current sexual attachment of any two beings without regard to exclusivity, permanence, or possibility of offspring.” It isn’t possible for “b” to equal “b.” They aren’t the same thing; they do not offer the same thing either to the persons involved or to society as a whole. 

We can’t say, “For the sake of getting along, let’s just call marriage and homosexuality the same thing,” any more than we can say, “For the sake of getting along, let’s just say that ‘slavery is wrong’ and ‘slavery is right’ are equally and simultaneously true.”  

It isn’t possible for the law to remain neutral. Either slavery is against the law or it is supported as lawful. Either marriage is the permanent and exclusive union of one man and one woman, or it is something other than that. Either religion is an appropriate subject in schools, or it is not.  

It is not possible for government policy to be neutral. If schools are “secular” to avoid teaching “someone’s dogma,” then the dogma that will be taught will be secularism—i.e., that God is not allowed as part of the teaching. 

During the coming fourteen months of election season, there is some movement to “focus on the economy,” or “focus on the war on terror” as the issues that should be getting our full attention. Personally I do give attention to these big issues. But I cannot agree that protecting marriage or the right to religious expression are merely distractions.  

What we need to know from our candidates is, “What is your worldview?” “Do you believe in ultimate Good?” “What do you view as ultimate Good?” Because the answers to these questions will tell us whether this person can lead us economically (we will know whether they believe in the sanctity of life, liberty and property, which leads to economic thriving), politically (we will know whether they believe in the proper role of government to protect life, liberty and property, but not to engage in coercive “charity,” which always limits our freedom), and toward civilization (with a moral people committed to personal responsibility, strong families, and voluntarily helping one another).

These ultimate questions aren't distractions; they are the central questions we need to keep asking.

[1] Lincoln statement on March 26, 1864, to former Senator Archibald Dixon, Governor Thomas E. Bramlette, and Albert G. Hodges, editor of the Frankfort, KY, Commonwealth, later put in writing per Hodges’ request. See more here:

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