Superbowl 50: a marvelous defensive game, particularly by the Denver Broncos. Close fought, except for the final score. Two dueling quarterbacks with different styles, one a rising star who moves well, the other the veteran epitome of a pocket passer. Blend in a bit of controversy, with the losing quarterback giving a short, curt postgame interview, one that garnered a load of comments, mostly negative, prompting him to explain his conduct.
But lost in the resulting discussion was the subtext of Cam Newton's explanation, a concept that far transcends who won the game and how the loser responded. In literature or conversation, subtext is the underlying meaning that is often subtle. The values that lie beneath the specifics. A subtext there concerns me.
Cam's explanation: "But at the end of the day, people pick and they do things of that sort, and the truth of the matter is, who are you to say that your way is right? That’s what I don’t understand. We’ve got all these people who are condemning and saying, ‘Oh he should have done this, that and the third,’ but what makes your way right?"
I have no clue if Cam realized the depth of his statement. Truly, what makes anything right? Or wrong? Cam seems to imply this choice resides in each individual. How can you say you're right and I'm wrong? That relativism permeates our current culture, and the question has great importance. I don't care that much about his response (maybe because my team won), but I care greatly about his epistemology, or how we choose our values. Obviously, no one owns the right to say chocolate fudge ripple ice cream is the best flavor for all people, so let's get serious.
How do we decide that some rules apply to all? Don't say culture is right unless you have a great explanation about the Nazis, or Rwanda, or Cambodia, or Syria, or...In each, large parts of the culture accepted and joined in the slaughters. And while some cultures share some values, enough variance occurs on significant issues, like killing or pedophilia, that I won't give that authority to any culture composed of people.
And be careful if you decide that individuals can freely choose morality on all issues. Ted Bundy justified killing and torturing at least 30 people. The Tsarnaev brothers set off pressure cooker bombs that killed 3 and injured 264. Just read the news to see instances of humans doing inhuman acts upon other humans, while believing they were justified.
In an age of relativism, chaos lies just around the corner. Now, God gives us all the ability to choose our morals. But he also holds us accountable for our values and actions. Consequences will occur. They may come instantly, or greatly delayed. But we will all stand before him.
In no way do I wish to force any moral code upon you. But I encourage you to carefully consider where you get it, from culture or self or...And, explore how that source can be used to bring harm. To my earlier examples of culture and self as sources, add family, or tradition, or religion. They all have similar issues, being easily abused.
As for me, I chose to accept the authority of the biblical God, since he is the author of the universe and life. He knows us best. This method can have problems when people ascribe to God what they desire, so we need to rigorously study all that God has said on any issue. And when I say God is my epistemology, that doesn't mean religion. Religion has often corrupted God's intent, so I focus on what he's already said.
The hook for the spiritual life? I guess you can figure that one out on your own.
Kick Starting the Application
Think carefully about your epistemology, or where you get your values. Add sources such a pragmatism, whatever works; your heart; success; what helps you get ahead, either financially or relationally. How much authority do you give to God?
Regarding the absolutes, the biggies, how consistent are you with exceptions? Yes, adultery is wrong, unless my spouse cheated first. Yes, stealing is wrong, unless they made a mistake and gave too much change. What can you do this week to craft a more consistent and God-driven set of values?