The Dictatorship of Relativism
Absurdity Reigns — For Now
Does it kind of feel like folks have lost their minds? That we’ve taken a collective walk through the looking glass and nothing is logical, nothing really makes sense? That you can look people square in the eye, assert a scientific, biological fact such as “if you have an x and a y chromosome and you have male sexual organs, then you are not a woman,” only to have them accuse you of being a hater or on the wrong side of history?
Or take abortion. Even some of the staunchest abortion supporters admit a fetus is a baby is a human being. But that doesn’t matter, because a woman has a right to do what she wants “with her own body.”
It’s sort of kooky. How have we reached this level of absurdity?
Well, as I explain in a recent article at Intercollegiate Review, welcome to “the dictatorship of relativism,” which, as Pope Benedict said, “does not recognize anything as for certain and which has as its highest goal one’s own ego and one’s own desires.”
As I explain in the article, I first encountered this kind of pervasive relativism as an undergraduate at Yale. I came from a working-class background, I actually believed in the truth, that it was beautiful, and worth living for and even dying for.
Imagine my surprise when I arrived at Yale (whose motto is “Lux et Veritas” — Latin for “light and truth”), to find out that much of the faculty and student body didn’t believe in Truth with a capital “T”. No, there were many truths, which of course told me that there was really no truth at all.
Chuck Colson said to test the validity of a worldview, follow it to its logical conclusion. The logical conclusion of relativism is absurdity. Non-sense. A worldview that undermines its own premises.
Not long after I graduated from Yale, Allan Bloom wrote his famous book, The Closing of the American Mind: How Higher Education Has Failed Democracy and Impoverished the Souls of Today’s Students. (There’s a subtitle for you!). Bloom wrote that “almost every student entering the university believes, or says he believes, that truth is relative. If this belief is put to the test … they will be uncomprehending. That anyone should regard the proposition as not self-evident astonishes them, as though he were calling into question 2 + 2 = 4.”
Bloom then tells the story of his students’ response to the Hindu custom known as sati: burning a widow alive on her husband’s funeral pyre. The British, of course, banned the custom, and sharply reminded the Hindu priests that the British had a different custom: hanging men who burned women alive.
How did the students react? Bloom said his students were so steeped in relativism they could only meekly reply “that the British should have never been there in the first place.” Heaven forbid they’d admit it’s wrong to burn women alive.
With relativism so deeply ensconced in our schools and culture, it’s no wonder that Christianity is increasingly viewed with a jaundiced eye. After all, Christians assert that there is a capital “T” Truth, and that we are made in His image — and that therefore every human life is precious. We dare to believe in inviolable moral laws as well — you know, like marriage is sacred and adultery is wrong. We’re kind of crazy like that.
But remember this next time you feel like despairing over the trajectory of our culture: The dictatorship of relativism is built on a self-contradicting foundation of sand. The truth, as Shakespeare wrote, will out. Always.
I’ve got more to say in my article The Dictatorship of Relativism Comes to Campus.
Originally published on Breakpoint.org: BreakPoint Commentaries, September 21, 2016.
Republished with permission of The Colson Center for Christian Worldview.