Gen. Peter Pace was vehemently denounced and condemned earlier this week for expressing a personal moral judgment that homosexuality is immoral. The criticisms excoriated Pace for making a value judgment, while implying that the denunciations themselves were morally neutral. In reality, Pace’s critics expressed a moral judgment, too. They declared his comments wrong, not just factually but morally – and their moral outrage was palpable.
Let me make this clear up front: All people regardless of their sexual orientation or other differences should be treated fairly. We all have equal intrinsic value and dignity. But the goal of gay rights advocates isn't so much to gain rights they are being denied as to gain societal approval. Thus the loud denunciations when Pace made a moral judgment. All the while, these advocates claim that that theirs is the neutral moral position. It isn't, and really can't be. But their objection conveys a fundamental assumption of many in our society today that one side of the public debate is "pushing its morality" on society, when in fact that is what the nature of their advocacy accomplishes.
This reflects one of the most entrenched assumptions of moral relativism in our society today: that there is such a thing as morally neutral ground, a place of complete impartiality where no judgments nor any forcing of personal views are allowed. Each of us takes a neutral posture towards the moral convictions of others. This is the essence of tolerance, or so the argument goes.
Moral neutrality, though, is a myth, as the following illustration shows.
Tolerance and Moral Neutrality
One of the alleged virtues of relativism is its emphasis on tolerance. An extremely articulate example of this point of view was written by Faye Wattleton, the former President of Planned Parenthood. The piece is called, "Self-Definition: Morality."
Like most parents, I think that a sense of moral responsibility is one of the greatest gifts I can give my child. But teaching morality doesn't mean imposing my moral values on others. It means sharing wisdom, giving reasons for believing as I do--and then trusting others to think and judge for themselves.
My parents' morals were deeply rooted in religious conviction but tempered by tolerance--the essence of which is respect for other people's views. They taught me that reasonable people may differ on moral issues, and that fundamental respect for others is morality of the highest order.
Gregory Koukl is founder and president of Stand to Reason, an organization devoted to a thoughtful and engaging defense of classical Christianity in the public square. He is also a radio talk show host and author of Relativism—Feet Firmly Planted in Mid-Air.
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