When I wrote yesterday on Governor McCrory’s pragmatic selection of pay raises for teachers, I argued that it was unjust and immoral, predicated upon a morality that deemed it unjust and immoral. I did not however delve into the matters of justice and morality, simply for the fact that I did not want to detract from the subject matter of the post. Yet, I cannot leave it to stand as it is, for justice and morality are terms that are commonly batted around, yet the ones who generally bat them around wouldn’t know them if it struck them in the head out in center field. The height of this ignorance is on full display at some of the various “Moral Monday” protests that are periodically and “peaceably” held outside the North Carolina Legislative building. I won’t bother you with addressing the subjects of those protests (such as the “moral right” of half the population to kill infants at will), but I will however address the foundation upon which that morality rests.
If we were to think a moment about where our notions of morality come from, the majority of the citizens of this great country would be at a loss. We know that morality exists, and we can conceive of things that are moral or immoral, yet the basis for whether those things are one or the other is non-existent. Our publicly-sanctioned schools are only permitted to teach about a world that was derived from a puddle of goop, and the rule of that goop is that only the fittest survive. It gives no moral instruction nor does it give any foundation on which to rest our blessed protests against the ills of society. It only teaches us that “might makes right,” and that it is the weak who shall be ultimately overrun and the strong who will survive. There is no morality in the animal world. If you were to put a puppy in a den of lions, the puppy will be ripped limb-from-limb, and the lions won’t repent the next day. But if we were to give a pit bull to an NFL player and that player were to decide to set him in a fight against another more-equally matched pit bull, that action is immoral, just for the mere fact that we feel it to be so.
Where does the feeling of injustice come from? A chimpanzee will scarcely give a second thought to ripping a person’s face off, and we call that “natural.” But if a human were to do the same thing, that action would then become evil and “unnatural.” Why is it that the human species is singled out from all other “evolved” life-forms as the ones that must give an account to society for their actions? Why are the ones who commit what we deem to be atrocities not heralded as keepers of the natural order of things rather than as criminals? Despite our beliefs in evolutionary origins, the fact remains that human beings have a thing in them called a conscience that is the arbiter of such things. We judge, and we have a disposition to judge that no other species possesses.
But to turn the matter a bit, what right do we have to judge? What right do we have to have rights? As far as the cold evolutionary case goes, the puppy’s demise at the paws of the hungry hoard of lions is a perfectly natural and morally acceptable event. Lions have to eat, and they, by a long chain of natural courses and events, have evolved to take the easiest meal that comes to them, but humans are somehow excepted from this rule. If a man were to devour a puppy, PETA would file a lawsuit the next day. We profess that a puppy (or a pit bull) has the right to live when it is in the hands of a human, but if it were in the paws of a lion that right is somehow revoked.
The rights that we assert to be rights are therefore either contrived from the evolutionary chain, or they are rights that have been instilled in us by a higher being. If we appeal to evolution, no rights exist except those which push the stronger forward and hold the weaker back. Yet, for some odd reason, we as humans are inclined to deliver the weak out of the hands of the strong. We are inclined to plead the case for the lowly when the high ones have “overstepped” their bounds, whatever we set those boundaries to be.
Those who wrote and signed of the Declaration of Independence were not all godly men (the facts actually suggest that they mostly weren’t), yet they understood this: for a people to claim ownership of rights requires that those rights be given to them by Someone who has the authority to give those rights. In other words, to profess “certain inalienable rights” requires that they be “endowed by [a] Creator.”
In spite of this, we are more than willing to cast God out of every sphere of our existence and yet insist that we still have rights. We fight for fair teacher compensation claiming that it is immoral not to compensate teachers fairly, yet we have no grounds for that immorality apart from God. We fight for the oppressed, the under-represented, the down-trodden, etc. but apart from God they are simply the dispensable waste of evolutionary processes. We have no rights apart from the right of God to give us rights, therefore the only way the assert rights apart from him is through legislation brought about the baseless bullying of the likes of “Moral” Monday protestors. Yet there is a higher and better way.
If we are ever to return any semblance of morality in our society, we must appeal to some teaching or dogma that enforces it. We cannot go about milking these silly and foolish post-modern ideals that claim truth to be relative. If truth is relative, then rights are also. We must therefore teach our children and each other that the only way to expect and receive rights is to believe and obey the God who bestows rights. For as G. K. Chesterton brilliantly put it, “Dogma is … the only thing that cannot be separated from education. It is education. A teacher who is not dogmatic is simply a teacher who is not teaching.”*
*G. K. Chesterton, What’s Wrong with the World, p. 197.