I have had an email conversation with a Christian at work. I’m not saying he speaks for all Christians, but his comments are remarkably similar to the comments I see elsewhere. It seems to me, from my conversations, that there is a need for absolutes amongst believers. My code of ethics won’t work, so I’m told, because it lacks moral absolutes. Guess what – life is relative!
The emails started with my challenging the notion as to why Christ had to die for us to be saved (still an absolutely bizarre notion to me). I received back a few questions that were designed to help me find God. I was asked how do we know cold without heat? Also, I was asked if I believed torturing babies was wrong.
I answered that cold and heat are actually arbitrary labels we throw onto objects. All objects have some level of heat in them and there is a universal cold limit known as Absolute Zero. Nothing can get colder than that. Liquid oxygen may be a few tenths of a degree Kelvin, but there is still some heat there. The analogy (and what is religion besides a bunch of really goofy analogies) breaks down because the measurement of temperature and labeling “hot” and “cold” is purely relative. On a hot day a 33 degree Fahrenheit beer may be called “cold”. If it were left outside and reached 80 degrees Fahrenheit, it might be called “hot”. However, the universe doesn’t really care about these labels. The beer has some measurement of heat regardless of whether it appears hot or cold to the human observer.
On to the baby killing… Of course I’m against baby killing. I don’t need a God to tell me this is wrong. I turned it around though and asked about baby starving. Is it OK to starve a baby? I’ll admit it here, I’ve starved my own child. It’s true. When he was seven weeks old and we had to switch him to formula (due to food intolerances), I was responsible for the 3AM feedings. His cries would wake me from my sleep and I would turn the monitor off so my wife could continue sleeping. Now my son, who I love more than anything, found himself awake, alone, scared, in the dark, and for all practical purposes he was starving. And what did I do? I would go to the bathroom and urinate for a minute before attending to him. I left him starving and crying and took care of my own needs before feeding him. I’m sure plenty of parents have made the same decision too. My point? Starving a baby is relative too! It’s all friggin’ relative.
However, my believer friend insisted that God is the ultimate authority and that’s why we know baby killing is wrong. I asked about Numbers 31 where Moses ordered the slaughter of all male children and non-virgin women. His response?
“Let me ask this - Is it possible that God's action in commanding Israel to wipe out the Midianites was actually a benevolent act? If the Midianites were part of Satan's plot to interfere with the coming of the promised Messiah - the one to save the world from sin, is it not a good thing that such a plot would be brought to an abrupt end? The Midianite children - is it possible that by dying early they were actually saved? The answer requires that you think outside of the earthly box and see what's going on in the spiritual realm. If you do not even accept the existence of God, how can you accept an answer involving God's plan for the world? How could you possible see how death can bring life?”
So let me get this straight, an entire group of people were possessed by Satan and they were better off being massacred because at least this way they would be saved? Sorry, the bullshit flag has to come out on this one. God is a rationalization for a massacre here. Someone decided these people had to go and then used absolutism to excuse it. Anyone who didn’t agree was told that it was part of God’s plan and we can’t question Him. Using theology this way, just about anything can be rationalized. Under relativism, we (as a tribe, family, society, individual) are asked to challenge authority. With God’s absolutism, manifest destiny and the “kill ‘em all and let God sort it out” mentality can run wild (and has).
Plenty of people claim to speak for God. Ted Haggard was once a highly respected preacher in the Evangelical community. He eventually got outed for frequenting a gay prostitute and buying meth. He eventually admitted to having a homosexual affair while preaching against the sin of the gay lifestyle. The entire time he fooled an entire religious community. He later claimed to go through a three week transformation where he is now 100% straight and seeks to help others in his position. Is there a Holy Spirit detector that we could have used on Ted while he was having a gay affair? Can we use the detector now to see if he is truly moved by the Spirit? Of course not! There is no Holy Spirit that moves us. Ted spoke for Ted just as he speaks for Ted now. I’d be willing to bet a substantial sum of money that it’s only a matter of time before he’s back to being gay.
So the options come down to relativism or absolutism. Relativism requires careful consideration and a challenge of authority. Absolutism requires blind obedience and crediting decisions with the divine. Of course, no one can really tell who is speaking for God or not, because anyone who claims to speak for God is really speaking for their own subconscious. Before I close on this subject, I’d like to give a shout out to a young reader who goes by Master Jedi Dan. I would like to point out that Obi Wan Kenobi told a young Anakin Skywalker, “Only the Sith deal in absolutes.”