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Jewish World Review April 24, 2002 / 13 Iyar, 5762

David Limbaugh

David Limbaugh
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On root causes and relativism | Some always look for root causes to justify inexcusable behavior in the world. But they search in vain, because a mask of moral relativism obscures their vision. The cause is evil, and it provides no excuses.

I met a lady over the weekend who said she didn't buy into Bush's unsophisticated characterization of the terrorists as evil. She felt that her business orientation compelled her to examine the deeper reasons behind the Sept. 11 attacks. If we could just understand this from the terrorists' perspective, we could respond to their grievances rationally -- as opposed to violently -- and resolve our differences around a negotiating table.

Her analysis proceeds from the worldview that refuses to acknowledge the reality of evil. It is based on the flawed assumption that human behavior, no matter how obviously depraved, can always be explained mechanistically or deterministically.

That is, human beings are not really free agents; they are products of the influences to which they have been exposed. Their actions are the inevitable result of those influences, are beyond their control and therefore devoid of moral content. As such, they are not responsible and shouldn't be held accountable for them.

If I were the author of evil and seeking recruits to implement my agenda, I would disguise my nature and try to maximize moral confusion. I would enlist my servant, moral relativism, to dupe the world into rejecting absolutes -- to erase G-d's law from people's hearts.

What better way to turn the world to darkness than to deceive well-meaning people into becoming G-d-mocking relativists? Having thus turned moral concrete into quicksand, I could more easily convince otherwise reasonable people, for example, that:

  • They have no business making moral judgments -- (And note: I would be particularly judgmental in making this point);

  • Suicide/murder bombings are morally indistinguishable from defensive military responses to them;

  • Boy Scouts are evil for insisting on instilling boys with moral rectitude;

  • America's national interest must be subordinated to the civil rights of Alaskan caribou;

  • A mother who murders her children in cold blood can be seen as a victim;

  • It is desirable for thought police to repress certain political speech in order to promote "tolerance."

  • Fidel Castro is a romantic hero, not a tyrannical thug.

  • A mother's convenience morally trumps an innocent baby's very right to live.

When we deny moral absolutes, we can rationalize anything because we remove any objective basis on which to condemn misconduct. One more chilling manifestation of this is the undeniable wave of anti-Semitism that is currently inundating the world, not just the Middle East. In the last week, I've seen dozens of reports documenting incidents against Jews throughout the world. But true to relativistic form, we are calling it by other names. Who would have thought that this unspeakable evil could be resurrected in such full force so quickly after the world promised it would never forget?

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Once you get past the veneer of relativism, you will see that it is intellectually bankrupt. Dr. Ravi Zacharias, in "Light in the Shadow of Jihad," his fascinating book examining the issues surrounding the events of Sept. 11, exposes the folly of relativism.

"Hidden somewhere in the words of everyone who argues for complete relativism," he says, "is a belief that there are, indeed, some acts that are wrong. The bottom line is this: When someone says that all truth is relative, he or she is making either a relative statement or an absolute one. If it is a relative statement, then that statement, by definition, is not always true. On the other hand, if the belief that all truth is relative is absolute, the very statement itself must be denied, because it denies absolutes. The pure relativist cuts off the branch on which he is sitting while telling you that branch cannot be severed. The landing is mind shattering."

Indeed, secular humanists smugly touting moral relativism are so muddled with contradiction that they don't see that their value(less) system furnishes the fuel that drives the engines of oppression. In this century alone, the totalitarian systems of Nazism, Fascism and Communism that murdered millions of people were philosophically grounded in a virulent antipathy toward G-d and His absolutes.

While many wear relativism as a badge of enlightenment in this post-modern world, it is a singular menace that distorts the mind and punctures the soul. As corny as this may sound, those who still have the clarity to recognize evil must summon the courage to identify and oppose it.

David Limbaugh, a columnist and attorney a practicing in Cape Girardeau, Mo., is the author of the just-released exposť about corruption in the Clinton-Reno Justice Department, "Absolute Power." Send your comments to him by clicking here.