Giant African snails have invaded our country. They can grow up to 10 inches long and four inches wide, lay about 1,200 eggs a year, and carry a strain of non-lethal meningitis. Other than that, they’re lovable creatures. Now they’re thriving in a southwest Miami subdivision. Why are they such a problem? In 1966, a boy visiting Hawaii brought three of them to Miami, where his grandmother released them into her garden. Soon there were more than 18,000 of them slithering around. It took authorities a decade and $1 million to remove them. Doing battle with the snails this time promises to be even more costly.
I find in this snail invasion a cultural metaphor. A generation ago, a group of moral theorists began arguing for “relativism”: morality is subjective and individual. “Truth” is the result of our personal experiences, interpreted by our personal reasoning. Your experiences are not mine; your understand of the world is just as valid for you as mine is for me.
Like snails in a garden, ideas multiply in the soil of a culture and soon shape its future. Now the future of moral relativism has arrived.
David Brooks is one of my favorite columnists. His recent op-ed in The New York Times offers a window to the frightening landscape of our ethical crisis. He profiles a new book which is based on in-depth interviews with hundreds of young adults from across America. Researchers discovered that this generation has no framework for dealing with ethical issues.
To them, moral choices are purely a matter of individual taste. “It’s personal,” the respondents often said. “It’s up to the individual. Who am I to say?” How do they make decisions? “I would do what I thought made me happy or how I felt. I have no other way of knowing what to do but how I internally feel.”
The point is not that this generation of young adults behaves in ways that are less moral than before. Some do, though many do not. It is that they have no objective way to understand their moral options. What is to be done? Brooks describes the problem but doesn’t offer a solution. However, God does.
How can we know the truth? Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:31-32). When we make Christ our King by obeying his word and will, we know and live in the truth. Then we can “speak the truth to each other” (Zechariah 8:16) because we “love truth and peace” (v. 19). By “speaking the truth in love,” we will “grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ” (Ephesians 4:15).
What moral choices are you facing this morning?