PC Pharisees

December 13, 2007

Two Christian apologists have helped us define the moral dilemma that America has been in for at least a decade. In his book “The Christian in Today’s Culture” Chuck Colson describes the death of what is called “A Moral Consensus”. Moral consensus is a culturally shared belief that there is a set of right and wrong actions that all members of that society must adhere to. Though this is not the true basis of law, the principle of Moral Consensus is the only way that we can be truly outraged when someone does something wrong. Moral Consensus allows us to lay consequences on those who break the law. Moral Consensus allows us to censure those who will not live their lives according to accepted ethical and moral standards.

But with the development of the idea that we cannot tell other people how to act in their private lives we allowed our Moral Consensus to be eroded. We now have a molehill of moral imperatives where we used to have a mountain. No longer can we say that fornication is wrong, infanticide is wrong, debt is wrong, hatred is wrong, treating parents with contempt is wrong. If we do, we are meddling in the affairs of others. So instead of making moral statements, we have traded them in for a more innocuous, and perhaps more sinister form of societal censure. I am speaking of being politically correct.

Here is where Ravi Zacharias comes to our aid. In a series of messages he delivered at Yale University earlier this year, Ravi said that we have replaced our moral imperatives with a series of societally accepted phrases and haute couture ideas that really don’t mean much at all. Instead of doing something about a morally offensive problem, we rename it in nicer sounding words so that people don’t have to feel alienated. Someone isn’t committing adultery, they are simply being polyamorous. We aren’t in debt, we are investing in the economy.

Politically correct language has replaced Moral Consensus as the basis upon which we feel and express our ethical/moral belief system. Unfortunately, this is not much different from what the Pharisees did. Instead of honoring their parents, they found ingenious ways of giving their money to other religious causes instead of helping mom and dad. They became expert at sounding like biblical geniuses but only talked the talk…they didn’t walk the walk.

Today’s Pharisees are those who demonize how people word their criticisms of society instead of focusing upon the real moral issues themselves.



  1. Sadly, I see little passion for moral consensus within the church, as well. Sure, we have a few groups that line up for battle on the national issues. They are the folks who usually saddle up to the Republican Party to get their voice heard. On a side note, can a person be a Christian AND belong to the Democratic Party? If so, please explain. But back to the topic at hand: at the local level, I see an icy indifference to personal morality among believers. I once tried to gently point out improper behavior to a mature believer only to be told that the behavior was a commonly accepted practice within this person’s profession. In other words, everybody else was doing it so it was acceptable. If we are sincerely listening for God’s voice, why do we not hear what He has to say about our personal morals? Too many believers are afraid of this subject, or they do not care. I bet those reading this posting will not give a #*@!. And so, there will be few comments. Please, prove me wrong!

  2. Look at what happened with the baseball players being named in the Steroid scandal by the Mitchell report on Thursday. There were so many of them that Mitchell’s recommendation was to “do nothing and let everyone have a pass”. That is a former senator announcing this…a lawmaker if you will. He is bowing down to the ultimate pressure of “if everyone is doing it, can it really be wrong?”. In the case of a society without a moral consensus if everyone is doing something it is not wrong to that society.

    Anon., the problem we have now, and you have underscored it, is without a moral consensus, there is no basis to even begin a discussion on whether something is right or wrong. When you can’t even find a context in which to talk about something being bad and wrong, then there is little we can do except put politically correct labels on everything.

    I admit, there are Christians who unwittingly fall into the trap of society and feel uncomfortable with mentioning morals and ethics. Some are afraid that by talking about right and wrong we will degenerate into a discussion akin to legalism. There are issues that are debatable when it comes to morals. The heartache I feel is when we accept everything as being negotiable and nothing as being absolute. That has happened in society at large. Woe unto us if we let it creep into our own lives.

  3. Below are some questions I saw in a Sacramento Bee article regarding right and wrong. They are a light hearted way for a person to test his or her ethics.

    Have you ever:

    Nibbled from supermarket produce bins? (By the way, with the exception of Whole Foods, stores DO NOT want customers to sample on their own).
    Tossed litter from your car?
    Examined the neighbor’s mail when it was delivered to you by mistake?
    Stood in the 10-items-or-fewer line when you knew you had more items?
    Knowingly driven above the posted speed limit?
    Returned clothing to stores after it had been worn?
    Ignored your dog’s pile on your neighbor’s lawn?
    Illegally used a disabled placard so you could park close?
    Rolled through stop signs in your car or on a bike?
    Left a shopping cart in a parking space?
    “Borrowed” from your child’s piggy bank?
    Sneaked snacks or beverages into movie theatres?
    Driven solo in the car-pool lane?
    Taken towels or robes from hotels?
    Called in sick when you were not ill?
    Found a purse or wallet and not attempted to return it to the owner?
    “Fudged” on a company expense report?
    Moved to more expensive (empty) seats at a ballpark or arena?
    Dumped your garbage in a neighbor’s container without permission?
    Taken work supplies home?

    And one of my own creations:

    Moonlighted on company time?

    The Bible says to hunger and thirst for righteousness. It is time for Christians to be obsessive about our ethics. Otherwise, we are no different than anybody else. We can love on people all day long, but what good does it do if we are as crooked as everybody else?

  4. By the way, this posting has had fewer responses than the one on sex. You people are hopeless, I think I’ll abandon the church and join the Rotary Club. Oh wait, maybe this one will get a response:

    Have you ever had sex when you were not married? And don’t ask me to define sex!

  5. This is a very interesting topic to me as I am currently making my way through C.S. Lewis’ “Mere Christianity”. If you haven’t read it, (to the half way point I’ve read so far) he builds a case for Christianity from the perspective of logic. It’s an excellent read and on topic for our discussion here. Of course Lewis’ approach comes with it’s own set of assumptions and constraints, so setting those aside for this discussion: Anonymous made a comment about Christians being obsessive about our ethics. The reason I bring up Lewis is he makes a comment about men and their obsessions that I believe applies to our discussion.

    He states, “… a man with an obsession has very little sales-resistance.” While his use of this was to highlight unhealthy obsessions I believe the same concept can apply as we turn our obsession to God. While God isn’t trying to sell us anything, our free will does require that we buy into God’s way of living.

    What would happen if we were as obsessed with God and his ethics as we were about paintball, music, books, TV etc?

  6. Being obsessed with God is called by a different name. Several people in Scripture asked God “Show me your ways.” God commends others as ones who “walk in my ways” and “follow my statutes”. An obsession with God will convert the mind and will to a mindset where one does not want to go against the revealed standards of God. A. W. Tozer said that the most moral of men is the one who is one privately and if followed will yield the same results than if he knew he were being followed. Tozer concludes by saying “What a man is in private, that’s really all he is”.

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