Elvis. Tupac. The ivory-billed woodpecker. Sometimes it’s hard to let go and acknowledge when a celebrity or a species has left us. Christians find it particularly hard to come to terms with the passing of the “moral relativist.” Yes, there is the occasional reported sighting in the local university’s philosophy wing or at the late-night dorm room’s impromptu debate club. But compared to this creature’s former range and numbers, they’re all but extinct in the wild.
Many Christian preachers, apologists, evangelists, and writers have taken heed of the declining numbers, but decades of pitting “Christian worldview” against “moral relativism” left habits that are hard to break. You’ll still hear Christians assume that the reason for so much rampant immorality in our culture is because people reject objective right and wrong. Many still assume that discussions over morals are likely to end with, “Well, that’s your truth, but I have mine.” Make no mistake: Disputes over morality are as strong as they have ever been. But if we view these disputes through the lens of “moral relativism,” it’s not only our understanding of our culture that will suffer. Our evangelistic witness will also be severely blunted.
If anything, today we live in an era of constant moral indignation. This magazine has repeatedly observed and lamented the modern outrage culture, especially in its most performative social media outlets (see “Slow Down, You Hashtag Too Fast”). Recent CT cover stories looked at the American outrage culture’s similarities with global shame cultures (“The Return of Shame,” and its tendency toward ...1