Saturday, March 26, 2005

On Being Morally Neutral

I came across a column written by David Brooks for the New York Times. He is discussing moral relativism in regards to Terri Schiavo and making the distinction between the beliefs of the conservatives and the liberals:

The core belief that social conservatives bring to cases like Terri Schiavo's is that the value of each individual life is intrinsic. The value of a life doesn't depend upon what a person can physically do, experience or achieve. The life of a comatose person or a fetus has the same dignity and worth as the life of a fully functioning adult. (snip)

The weakness of the social conservative case is that for most of us, especially in these days of advanced medical technology, it is hard to ignore distinctions between different modes of living. In some hospital rooms, there are people living forms of existence that upon direct contact do seem even worse than death.(snip)

The core belief that social liberals bring to cases like Ms. Schiavo's is that the quality of life is a fundamental human value. They don't emphasize the bright line between life and death; they describe a continuum between a fully lived life and a life that, by the sort of incapacity Terri Schiavo has suffered, is mere existence. (snip)

The central weakness of the liberal case is that it is morally thin. Once you say that it is up to individuals or families to draw their own lines separating life from existence, and reasonable people will differ, then you are taking a fundamental issue out of the realm of morality and into the realm of relativism and mere taste. You are saying, as liberals do say, that society should be neutral and allow people to make their own choices. You are saying, as liberals do say, that we should be tolerant and nonjudgmental toward people who make different choices.(snip)

If you surveyed the avalanche of TV and print commentary that descended upon us this week, you found social conservatives would start the discussion with a moral argument about the sanctity of life, and then social liberals would immediately start talking about jurisdictions, legalisms, politics and procedures. They were more comfortable talking about at what level the decision should be taken than what the decision should be.

Then, if social conservatives tried to push their moral claims, you'd find liberals accusing them of turning this country into a theocracy - which is an effort to cast all moral arguments beyond the realm of polite conversation. Once moral argument is abandoned, there are no ethical checks, no universal standards, and everything is left to the convenience and sentiments of the individual survivors.

We are a nation seeking answers to a moral dilemma and we are bankrupt because we lack the wisdom necessary to make a moral decision. We have become a society so convinced that neutrality is the only "tolerant" option that we have abandoned core principles based on truth. Alexis de Tocqueville wrote in the 1830's about the greatness of America,
I sought for the key to the greatness and genius of America in her harbors...; in her fertile fields and boundless forests; in her rich mines and vast world commerce; in her public school system and institutions of learning. I sought it in her democratic Congress and in her matchless Constitution.Not until I went into the churches of America and heard her pulpits flame with righteousness did I understand the secret of her genius and power.America is great because America is good, and if America ever ceases to be good, America will cease to be great.The safeguard of morality is religion, and morality is the best security of law as well as the surest pledge of freedom.The Americans combine the notions of Christianity and of liberty so intimately in their minds, that it is impossible to make them conceive the one without the other.Christianity is the companion of liberty in all its conflicts-the cradle of its infancy, and the divine source of its claims.
Spunky

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