Thursday, May 7, 2009

Stand in the Gap

"If it feels good do it" This was the slogan of the first new age philosophers, otherwise known as the hippies, back in the 1960's. (The fact that they are currently running our country is another topic) This rally cry like most slogans exposes one aspect of the truth and hides the rest. It is centered around the very moral & ethical word "good" and presupposes that our feelings are what really matter. In my discussion today I will propose that the slogan of the 60's is still the slogan of today and that the majority of citizens in our country live by it. Alasdair MacIntyre, philosopher, writes in How Can We Learn What Veritas Splendor Has to Teach in his comments on Pope John Paul II's great encyclical. "There is in the dominant moral culture of our particular time and place a widespread and influential conception of human beings as individual who initially confront a range of possible objects of rational desire, a range of goods, among which each of them has to make his or her own choices, and which each individual has to order for himself or herself, in accordance with his or her set of preferences. It is in accordance with those choices and that rank ordering that individuals formulate their principals, attempting in so doing to arrive at agreement with other rational persons, so that each in affirming and implementing his or her own preferences and choices may do so in a way consonant with others. Hence it is on the basis of individual preferences that values an norms, including those of morality come into being and from those preferences and choices that they derive their authority." This is just another way of saying "if it feels good and I can get somebody to agree with me, then it is good." How often have you heard that morality is a personal thing left to the individual or that morals have to change with the times. As The Stranger in the Strange Land will tell you most people think this way. The root causes of this can be debated; the rejection of the Natural Law (a great read on this subject is "What You Can't Not Know" by J. Budziszewski) the rise of individualism, the rise of secularism, liberal Protestantism, all which lead to situational ethics and moral relativism. In our culture it has lead to a deep polarization, especially in the political realm. When teaching authority (The Catholic Church) is rejected, ridiculed, and eventually outlawed, the void is filled by "if it feels good, do it". Morality, because of free will is always a choice. Watch any movie or television show and I guarantee you will see that at some point the antagonist, the main character if you will, reaches a point where a moral or ethical dilemma confronts them. That of course is an integral ingredient of tension in a dramatic situation. It evolves around either killing somebody, infidelity (cheating on spouse), stealing, or a host of other immoral actions. Rarely will you see someone make the correct moral choice (as you used to in movies in the 40's and 50's). Sometimes there is a price to pay and other times the intention of the film is to say "it's ok to be immoral at times, maybe even noble". "If it feels good, do it." Premarital sex, drinking, drugs, excessive consumerism, (many young people are addicted to shopping, buying something makes them feel good, so it must be good) are all things that one can intellectually comprehend (natural law) as not good, and self-destructive. Yet, the underlying truth is that our culture, by accepting the "if it feels good, do it" philosophy condones it and young people know that. It is our moral obligation to "stand in the gap" and voice the truth. Sometimes the right thing to do doesn't feel good, that doesn't mean it isn't good. Jesus taught us that "we must die to ourselves" and "pick up our crosses" and sometimes that just doesn't feel good.

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