Relativism has a lot to do with America’s present ills. It can be linked to the increasing tendency to dismantle and overthrow what is right and good and beautiful. It’s at least partly responsible for the war on the American way of life and our history. It leads to an emotionally fueled hate for truth.
By Deacon Frederick Bartels
18 July 2020
Pope Benedict often warned of the dangers of a “dictatorship of relativism.” He said that it was so pervasive in culture that it affected people on a subliminal level. In other words, people are unwittingly adhering to it without even realizing what kind of a train they’re on or where its headed. Relativism has seeped so deeply into culture that people seem oblivious to the fact that there’s a curve ahead and the tracks are gone.
Can relativism be linked to the troubles at present in which our way of life is being dismantled? Is it to blame for the way marriage and family are disparaged? Does it have anything to do with the force behind the “cancel culture”? Is it connected to groups agitating against the nation? Is it tied to the shrill cries of “systemic racism” and “hate speech”? Might it be undergirding in some way those groups who want to tear down national monuments and saintly statues in order to erase our nation’s history and remake it in their own image? Is it behind the radical, bizarre, and illogical call for defunding the police?
I think it is linked to these things.
What is Relativism?
Relativism can be defined as the denial of objective, universal truths and moral norms that transcend the human person. Relativism denies moral truths that originate in God and flow to man. It’s the rule of man for man, over and against the rule of God. People who adhere to it believe truth is subjective to the individual, something that can be plied to suit one’s own wishes. Relativists don’t believe in truth as certain and unchangeable and in conformity with reality, but rather that it can be twisted in an attempt to conform reality to their own idea of what they would like it to be. Obviously, relativism is the enemy of reason, logic, and wisdom.
Relativism is most common in the sphere of sexual ethics. In other words, people are most often moral relativists who deny that practices such as cohabitation, same sex “marriage,” transgenderism, artificial birth control, and abortion are wrong. But relativism tends to expand beyond those things because it shapes the way people think and behave. It’s insidious and contagious. It seeps into all the cracks and crevasses of society. It’s not contained merely to the sphere of human sexuality.
Relativism tends to suppress the light of reason and the use of logic because at its foundation it is contra-truth. Support for same-sex “marriage” is an example of this. Young people—and many older Americans—are often programmed by the media, government schools, colleges, and cultural mores to think there’s nothing morally wrong with homosexual activity and, in fact, that supporting and approving of it is an act of fairness and compassion. Their point of view is based on emotional arguments, rather than on arguments from reason, the natural law, and divine law. They will often say things like, “I feel people should be allowed to express their love for each other,” as if that’s a totally satisfactory answer. But it’s not an answer. What if a thirty-year-old man wants to express his love with a ten-year-old girl?
In supporting homosexual activity, relativists reject any discussion of subjects like the purpose and ends of human sexuality or the manner in which same-sex “marriage” harms traditional marriage, families, children, and the common good. Instead of approaching the topic from the point of reason, relativists approach it from the point of emotion, often without regard for morality or authentic goodness. This tends to instill in people an over-emphasis on feelings and emotions and a deemphasis on reasoned discourse.
This rule of emotion over reason bleeds into society on many levels. It’s one of the reasons why pressure groups are so successful when they demand people be punished for saying anything that can even remotely be perceived as opposing their agenda, whatever it might be, even though people are making reasoned arguments against a false claim. Relativism produces a culture that is intolerant of truth.
The Moral Fracturing of Society
Once people are taught that they can believe whatever they want, that truth can be plied to suit their own wishes, society becomes morally fragmented and devolves into a bizarre land without rules, where any sinful idea or behavior is raised up as a sacred belief that must be cherished at all costs. In that atmosphere, all kinds of “isms” become “rights.” Perhaps what’s most disturbing about relativism is that it suppresses a love for what’s true, which fosters an alienation within the human person who is created to know and love the truth, namely truth itself: Jesus Christ. In other words, relativism contradicts what it means to be human.
Furthermore, since relativism breeds contempt and hate for what’s true, it leads to increased intellectual darkness and a proclivity to sin. As our Lord Jesus said, the one who sins becomes a slave to sin (Jn 8:34). And Proverbs 14:12 states: “There is a way that seems right to a person, but its end is the way of death.”
I’ve been saying for a long time that morality is at the center of America’s troubles. We live in a morally fractured society. People often seem unable or unwilling to piece things together in the light of truth. What’s more, not only are we experiencing a loss of wisdom, a complete contempt for what’s true is openly displayed. One example is transgender ideologies that throw common sense to the wind and approve of lashing out at anyone who raises a reasonable objection to the insane notion that sex is non-binary. Another is the way in which anyone who objects to the cry that “whiteness equals racist” is automatically deemed a racist.
Relativism is dangerous. It’s been transmitted for decades in our children’s schools and in colleges and universities. Children are encouraged to switch genders alongside learning to hate America as a nation founded on slavery. When they sit through history classes, the evils of socialism and communism are glossed over while they’re indoctrinated into the LGBTQ agenda. Acidemia’s ideologues have long sought to program their students with a plethora of harmful, secular humanist ideas, including a hate for the Church.
Relativism leads to a kind of immoral insanity. I think it’s capable of dismantling our society. Marxists know full well that one way to undermine America is to promote immorality. For example, one of the communist goals listed as a means of contributing to the takeover of America in Cleon Skousen’s book, The Naked Communist (1962), is to “Break down cultural standards of morality by promoting pornography and obscenity in books, magazines, motion pictures, radio, and TV.”
Tipping Over The Edge
Although there are a lot of opinions about the state of our nation, I think most Americans will agree we’re in real trouble. We’ve reached a tipping point. The fabric of the American way of life, with its freedoms and opportunities and moral structure, is under threat. Several social commentators who I respect are pointing out that the mess we’re in is not really about what happened to George Floyd or racism or the bad behavior of a few police officers who are otherwise decent, caring, honest and morally upright individuals. There’s something far more sinister going on. They think the goal of activist groups is to dismantle America and remake it into a socialist society. In other words, Marxism is the goal.
This should not come as a surprise for several reasons. First, support for socialism has been rising over the last few years. A 2010 Gallup poll showed that 36% of Americans as a whole approve of socialism. Another 2018 Gallup poll shows that 51% of Americans age 18-29 view socialism in a positive light. Second, children and young people are no longer taught in school about the oppressive dangers of socialism and how it leads into communism. It’s estimated that communism is responsible for killing about 100 million people in the 20th century.
Finally, there’s an even more insidious aspect to relativism. It so darkens the intellect, snuffing out a love for truth, that it breeds a love for half-truths, fallacies, and lies. It turns things upside down. In doing so, it denies God, who is absolute and perfect truth. Hate for truth develops into a love for lies. And that love aligns people with the Father of Lies: Satan.
Oh How the Devil Loves It
Satan and his cohorts, the demons, are behind what’s going on. He’s tempting and suggesting and pulling whatever strings he can to foster the darkness of relativism across our nation. The more people turn away from truth, the more they reject it, the more they despise it, the more they turn away from God. Once relativism penetrates society deeply enough, society self-destructs because people begin to heedlessly disregard God and truth. They exchange light for darkness and truth for lies. Over time, society becomes more and more populated by a lost people. That outcome aligns well with Satan’s goals.
The Road Ahead
What’s to be done? That’s the pressing question. We begin with prayer and penance. We must pray and do penance for people whose minds have been tainted by the sin of relativism. Then Christians need to band together and insist on truth. Speak what’s true. Do not remain silent in the face of lies. This will require courage and sacrifice.
We’re also going to need to protect and educate our children. As long as we keep allowing our children to be conditioned by evil thoughts and ideas by the media, and in public schools, colleges and universities, things will continue to get worse. The more we allow so-called educators to push evil agendas, the more society will succumb to darkness. The time has come when we can no longer put up with teachers or college professors who stand at the front of a classroom and push moral relativism.
We can no longer tolerate transgender library days. We can no longer stand by while history teachers program our children to hate America, believing it to be a nation founded and built on slavery. We can no longer look the other way while our children sit through history courses that either conveniently leave out the evils of Marxism and communism or paint them in a good light.
Finally, we absolutely must not vote for political candidates who are moral relativists, who support intrinsic evils like abortion and same-sex marriage, or who align themselves with Marxism and socialism. These candidates are morally corrupted. They cannot be relied upon to make good, virtuous decisions for our nation. Let me just ask, can a politician who believes it should be legal for parents to kill their children be trusted? Is it wise to put someone in a position of leadership who adamantly stands in opposition to the light of truth?
The antidote to relativism is truth, reason, and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. Relativists know that if they can silence us, they can overrun us. That’s the whole point of the “cancel culture.” We can no longer remain silent. There are plenty of virtuous, right-thinking and reasonable Americans in this nation. If we stand together in Christ and insist on truth and goodness and virtue, we will prevail.
Deacon Frederick Bartels is a member of the Catholic clergy who serves the Church in the diocese of Pueblo. He holds an MA in Theology and Educational Ministry and is a Catholic educator, public speaker, and evangelist who strives to infuse culture with the saving principles of the gospel. For more, visit YouTube, iTunes and Google Play.