Sunday, March 25, 2007

"A morality of an indeterminate origin" - Previously, this page discussed the strange new moral code espoused by Al Gore in his meetings last week on Capitol Hill. By way of making the case that global warming was no longer an matter of science but an question of morality, Mr. Gore joined the growing cacophony of voices coming from the Christian Left that seek to corporatize and externalize morality, thereby rendering personal morality a moot issue (even as they and their fellow travelers amongst the burgeoning secular Left aver that Christian Evangelicals should not collectivize their values as it pertains to abortion and same-sex marriage.)

Unlike most moral codes, Mr. Gore's morality is entirely unconflicted, and surprisingly - considering the source - without nuance. It lacks any sort of constructive tensions between the individual and the group, belief and behavior or means and ends. As one gazes across Gore's ethical landscape, one sees no valleys of benighted confusion or clouds of doubt. All paths are straight and all roads lead upward and onward.

For example, if global warming is an enduring phenomenon, a reasonable person might conclude that agricultural growing seasons might be lengthened, at least in some parts of the world. If that were the case, it might suggest that more of the world's hungry might be fed with much less effort than is required presently. But in Mr. Gore's moral worldview, there is no ethical balancing required between the potential for increased global food production on the one hand and stable global temperatures on the other.

As noted earlier, Mr. Gore's moral abstractions are of a piece with those of others on the Left. Most notably of late, Rev. Jim Wallis, Ph.D. has repeatedly made the case that the budgets are moral documents "that that reflect the values and priorities of a family, church, organization, city, state, or nation." As discussed elsewhere, he has been particularly effective in making the case in his bestseller God's Politics.

Other priorities were just more important to the Bush administration than poverty reduction. Tax cuts that mostly benefited the wealthy were more important, the war in Iraq was more important, and homeland security was more important — all without the key recognition of how poverty, despair, family instability, and social disintegration undermine our national security. A budget based on a windfall of benefits for the wealthy and harsh cuts for poor families and children is an unbiblical budget... One result of the lack of White House leadership has been the steady rise in the number of people, families, and children living in poverty in each of the last three years, according to the 2003 U.S. Census report. And that is a religious issue.
To be sure, the morally sound among us are very much concerned about poverty and deprivation. But here too, Dr. Wallis' seems (naively in this writer's opinion) obsessed with the collective morality of government - as evidenced by its expenditures as opposed to its efficacy on behalf of the poor. If anything, the beneficence on government towards the disenfranchised should at least be viewed as an open question rather than accepted as a given.

Unfortunately the collateral effect of the implementing of these moral substitutions is the negating of any consideration of individual morality. So it is that many progressives - particularly those among the Hollywood power elite whose personal lives are an ethical cesspool - can conclude that George Bush is the most ethically challenged president in modern history. It also informs the behavior of college sociology professors and campus counselors who suggest that students may engage in any sort of debouched sexual activity as long as they practice "safe sex."

All of these supposed moral behaviors and others like them have one thing in common. They all provide a promise of a new "morality" This new morality holds out the promise of unlimited good for everyone, and most importantly, it promises a moral framework without internal conflict or cognitive dissonance. It can do so precisely because its adherents are bound to keep no commitments to anyone. This is a morality comprised solely of good intentions; to paraphrase George Stephanopoulos, it only keeps the promises it intends to keep. As noted elsewhere, in the end, this is not a transcendent moral code at all. It is but an orthodoxy whose primary value is the convenience of the individual who can externalize fault, culpability and shame.

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