What Is Morally Acceptable

New Research On What Is Morally Acceptable

Dear Woodview friends and family,

This past week, Gallup released its annual findings on what Americans view as morally acceptable and morally unacceptable.  The three most morally acceptable behaviors are birth control, drinking alcohol, and getting a divorce.  The least acceptable behaviors are extramarital affairs, cloning humans, suicide, and polygamy.

There were some disturbing results -- for instance, more people said they think it is morally wrong to buy or wear clothing made of animal fur than doctor-assisted suicide (euthanasia).  And the survey also reveals what causes many people to consider something immoral.  "For example, the most reprehensible behavior on the list was having an extramarital affair. Yet the poll also found that birth control, sex between an unmarried man and woman, having a baby outside of marriage, and gay or lesbian relations were morally acceptable.  Only sex between teenagers was felt to be wrong.  So the heart of the perceived moral affront of an affair is the betrayal of assumed sexual loyalty."  It seems, then, that why people think an affair is immoral is because of the disloyalty, not the act itself.

Let me share a few thoughts concerning this survey.  First of all, like most surveys, you can skew the results by doing one or both of two things.  You can skew the results according to who you survey.  There is no question that the trend this survey reveals is a trend toward liberalism on almost every issue.  But when Gallup breaks down the results based on whether someone considered themselves "conservative" or "liberal," the percentages changed dramatically.  For example, 81% of those who identify as liberal endorse gay or lesbian relations, while only 45% of those who considered themselves conservative considered it morally acceptable -- that's a difference of 36 percentage points!  The most divided issue between conservatives and liberals continues to be abortion, with a difference of 50 percentage points.

The second way responses can get skewed is in how the questions are asked.  Two questioners might both say they are asking a question about abortion -- but one asks, "Do you think it is morally acceptable for a mother to kill her baby while it is still in the womb?" and the other might ask, "Do you think women should have the right to choose what is right and best for their own body?"  Both those questions might be getting at the issue of abortion, but you can see how the responses to one question would be quite different from the responses to the other.

Here is the bigger and more important issue...the issue that the church is not effectively raising or addressing.  And the issue is this:  we do not determine what is morally acceptable or unacceptable.  The very fact that we do surveys measuring "moral acceptability" lets us know that there are morals and people believe there are certain actions that are morally acceptable and actions that are morally unacceptable.  And as soon as you say something is acceptable and something is unacceptable you have agreed there is a standard of morality that people should live up to.  Yet the more questioning we do about moral behaviors, eventually we will find that everyone violates their own code of morality and so we know that we are not the code-maker.  We're kind of down in the mud here -- if you are interested, read C.S. Lewis' "Mere Christianity."  But the point is this -- we do not determine what is morally acceptable and what is not morally acceptable; only Someone who is morally perfect, knows all things, is all-wise, and is completely just can determine morality.  He has and His name is God.

I look forward to being with you this Sunday!  It will be another great day! 

In Christ,

Jon B. Stradtner