Relative Morality

This is almost certainly the only time you will here the word "orgy" on this blog! (If you are here because you searched for the word "orgy", sorry you are in the wrong place. But stop doing it anyway.)

The press has been full over the last couple of weeks of stories of F1 boss Max Mosley and his alleged "Nazi-style" orgy. Mosley has taken out a court case claiming breach of privacy by a newspaper. The coverage has been fascinating.

The crux of Mosley's complaint seems to be less the accusation that he had a wild night with 5 prostitutes (which he doesn't seem to be contesting) than that the evening had a Nazi theme. It seems that to suggest the latter is felt by Mosley (and the newspapers) to be a matter of shame. That the wild night happened in the first place almost passed without comment. One is tempted to think that in our culture, while a Nazi orgy is frowned upon, a common-or-garden orgy is absolutely common place. However did we get to the point where one can admit to that, or print detailed newspaper stories in public, without a single blush of shame?

The fact is that in a relativistic climate, our view of morality descends to a comparison with the worst case. Its OK to frequent prostitutes because at least we aren't playing make-believe Nazis. We justify ourselves not on the grounds of our goodness, but on that of not being as bad as someone else's badness. Of course papers love this stuff (providing they aren't getting sued) because it sells copy. But our culture loves the salacious details because it lets us tut (slightly voyeuristically) at the really bad people, and be satisfied that, though we may not be good, we aren't as wicked as them.

Relative morality is invariably negative morality. We look good by comparing ourselves with the worst. Were we to compare ourselves with the best we might look distinctly less impressive. But negative morality is a downward spiral. There will always be the next more degrading spectacle that drags us ever downwards.

The Bible's call to holiness is the exact opposite of negative, relative morality. Rather than set the lowest standard, it sets the highest: be holy because our Heavenly Father is holy. Rather than put revolting details in front of us it demands that we put whatever is lovely, noble, beautiful and true before our eyes. It demands that we distinguish right from wrong and moral beauty from ugliness by dint of practice. It urges us to flee the seduction of the salacious and pursue the delight of the holy.

If relative morality tends to the negative precisely because it is relative, biblical holiness is awe-inspiringly beautiful and positive precisely because it is not relative. God is the most beautiful being. People are morally beautiful to the degree that we submit to him, delight in him and model his character.