Why Americans are Afraid to Take a Moral Stand

One of the reasons many people are reluctant to speak out about morality -- about what they believe Americans should or shouldn't do -- is because they fear having a mirror turned upon themselves. Simply put, people need permission to fail -- and they believe the only way to make allowances for this is to remain silent about other people's failings.

This is understandable, but it's misguided. Taking a public stand about "the way things ought to be" doesn't mean the person speaking out considers him or herself perfect. It doesn't mean the person thinks his or her way is superior to everyone else's. The purpose of speaking out about morality is to support and encourage all of us -- including the person who's doing the preaching --to be better people.

Preacher-types (Bill O'Reilly notwithstanding) are not arrogant. Not most of them, anyway. Most of them want one thing: to right wrongs. That's all they're interested in. What they feel is a deep-seated passion for injustice, and they can't help themselves from speaking out. I mentioned Dr. Laura in my last post. Bill O'Reilly is another. Glenn Beck. Hannity. Laura Ingraham. There are countless others who are less well-known but who spend just as much energy on righting wrongs. Do these folks tend to be conservative? You bet. NOT because conservatives are more moral than liberals, but because conservatives are not afraid of moral absolutes. They consider high standards a good thing. Conservatives don't see authority, or the existence of a universal moral order, as evil -- or something that holds them back from being their true selves.

Progressives do. Progressives see morality as constantly in flux. They see only gray and no black and white. They subscribe to the Holy Grail of moral relativism: what's right for one person isn't necessarily right for another. To a modern liberal, morality comes from within. Only through soul-searching can we come to the right answer. God can't provide it. Society can't provide it. Only individuals can. The inner self is an inner sanctum to a liberal.

So it's not that progressives are lacking morality and conservatives are all moral; it's that a progressive's morality is fluid. Consequently, they tend not to be the folks who speak out about morality. After all, they need permission to be flexible with their choices. If they speak publicly about "the way things ought to be," they'll have to live up to it.

But here's the thing: Just because we hold ourselves to high standards does NOT mean we don't have permission to fail. I've been preaching for years, and I've made plenty of mistakes. Indeed, the most misunderstood aspect of being conservative is the idea that conservatives are always on their high horse. They are not. They simply want to preserve the good society, and the only way to do this is to encourage us all to shoot for the high moral ground.

We don't always make it there, but we never lower the bar.

1 Response to “Why Americans are Afraid to Take a Moral Stand”:

  1. Terro says:

    It's true: we all fail. None of us will ever be perfect, and maybe there is an inherent hypocrisy in speaking out about another's moral lapses, but I think the biggest reason people remain silent is fear: fear of ridicule from those who are themselves afraid to stand out from the crowd. We conservatives do need a greater infusion of courage.