Pulpit Reflections

Pulpit Reflections by the Rev. Robert Grossman Providence Reformed Church Are the millions of Americans who were shocked, horrified and angered by the events of last Sept. 11 right to react to terrorism in this way? Or are we simply being one-sided and allowing our patriotism to get in the way of clearer thinking?

The fact is that such events raise most vehemently the question, "Are there moral absolutes?" Is terror, or genocide, or torture of fellow human beings ever justified, or is it always wrong? If you are saying with me, "Of course there are moral absolutes, this kind of killing of innocent people is never justified," I say, hurray! But I want to challenge us to be much more consistent in our recognition of moral absolutes in private and public morality than we have become accustomed to being in recent years here in the U.S.A.

On the other hand, if you truly think there are no moral absolutes, I want to challenge you with the monstrosity of the kind of acts that result from such thinking. The Taliban government not only tolerated international terrorism, it practiced terrorism against its own Afganistani citizens. Just because this was done in the name of Islam does not make it right. It is always wrong, wrong, wrong to murder, rape and pillage innocent people.

Yet this idea that there are no moral absolutes arises again and again in modern America. We find it, for example, in the disguise that says, "If it gives me pleasure, it must be OK, and you are wrong to criticize me." When the apostle Paul in Romans 1 describes homosexuality as "leaving the natural use of the woman, men burned in their lust for one another," he is observing that such a practice violates a moral absolute that God has built into nature itself.

When we in America subsidize single motherhood by providing welfare only to families with no resident father while refusing to help families that stick together, we are dooming thousands of women and children to abuse, and are providing a social ghetto in which criminality will flourish. The fact that the Bible and civilized society in world history have forbidden sex outside of marriage is not by chance, it is simply observing a moral absolute. The same things are true of stealing and lying; even thieves and liars do not want to be stolen from or lied to.

We cannot have it both ways, terrorism and torture violate moral absolutes, but so do theft, adultery and lying. In fact, theft, adultery and lying are simply less violent forms of hurting people, and in the end they hurt our whole society.

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