Friday, August 27, 2010

Moral Erosion

We all want to be moral. But things go wrong. You cut little corners. You make some compromises. Before too long you are shocked at how far you have fallen. You see it in language. A few bad words here and there. Just when you are really upset. Before you know it you shock yourself with what comes out of your mouth.

The same happens with sexual morality. People want to have a high view of sex but they don;t want to be a prude either. So then try and pick a middle ground and they end up cheapening sex way more than they ever intended. We are so good at rationalizing. When we give ground bit by bit we don't see the long term effects.

Alcohol consumption is another good example. Nobody decides to become a drunk. They just want to enjoy a drink or two. Then it becomes more than that. Then it becomes a matter of whether I overdo it occasionally or regularly. Life provides many excuses to push it just a bit further than before.

The solution that Alcoholics Anonymous provides is instructive. There is a lot to it but one of the key pieces is declaring that you will not consume any alcohol ever. No exception. This is the solution to moral erosion. It is called dogma. AA would never use that term because modern man reacts badly to it but that is what it is. It is a teaching you don't control. You must accept it and follow it. It might not make sense to you but you need to trust the source. In this case AA. They know what they are doing so you do what they say. Religiously.

Dogma is generally the only solution to moral erosion. There needs to be a line you won't cross. It needs to be clear and absolute. It can't come from yourself. Anything you define you can change. It needs to depend on something you trust more than your own mind. There can be some principles you develop yourself as a way of living out the central principles. Like not going to certain parties because you might be tempted to drink. But they need to rest on central principles that you can't rationalize away.

But where do we get dogma? Catholics have a good answer to that. Protestants are typically confused. They will deny infallibility but treat some of their doctrines as infallible anyway. But they will pick and choose different positions on different doctrinal questions to treat as infallible without actually saying they are infallible.

Beyond that, each group is going through it's own institutional moral and doctrinal erosion.Some churches do a better job at holding on to standards than others. Often they split into a faithful remnant and a more liberal  majority. In landscaping we know that nothing will stop erosion if it keeps splitting.

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