An unforgettable statement
“Morality can’t be taken to the supermarket.”
There are many conclusions I imagine, one may gather from the statement above. However, let me explain it. During a meeting geared towards addressing the issue of violence among the youth in Jamaica, one person stated, “We need to reaffirm the necessity of morals”, to which the above statement was the response.
The statement explained
The response was meant to convey the fact that, in order to survive the economic climate, being moral is not pragmatic. Let me give an example to further shed some light on what it meant to convey. The issue of abortion has been viewed by some not solely as a ‘remedy’ for unwanted pregnancy through rape, or even medical complications. It has been viewed by some as an answer to crime and poverty.
If an extremely poor woman has four children she can’t provide for, they argue that there is no point of prohibiting the option of abortion if she should conceive a fifth child. Aborting this child is seen as a pre-emptive strike against criminality as this child may become a criminal because of his social context and lack of access to food, education and means to live. This example is one of many others, which shows how impractical mortality can be.
In the example mentioned above, those who defend practicality as the highest good, assert that abortion can’t be considered a moral issue. Looking at it only as a moral issue fails to improve the situation, morality becomes inconvenient. So the question begs, why be moral (for the sake of being moral), when it doesn’t benefit me? What is the point of chastity, temperance and justice, since it doesn’t always work for me?
The purpose of morality
The problems of our broken society are not to be taken lightly, but neither should the answers as well. Ideas do have consequences and the idea that morality should be convenient or it loses its purpose is no different. It is all lovely to talk about pragmatism, but to understand the value of morality we must ask the question, what is the point morality? As C. S. Lewis defines it “In reality, moral rules are directions for running the human machine. Every moral rule is there to prevent a breakdown, or a strain, or a friction, in the running of that machine”. The other question we must ask is, in light of this definition, should morality be an issue of convenience?
The inconvenience examined
Now I agree in one sense that morality is inconvenient. Let me explain. It would be strange if a world was created where, when I want to cheat I must simply be allowed, and to not allow me to do so is seen as an inconvenience. We can’t see it that way. The man who wants to pass may want to do so by any means necessary, which may be to cheat. It will appear inconvenient that I will be punished for cheating, but it is simply restricting wrong behaviour and seeking to espouse the positive.
Could you imagine what life would look like if whatever I felt like doing was facilitated assuming that all my desires are ‘good’? The answer is not convenience, but to establish what is ‘right’ behaviour and ‘wrong’ behaviour.
The inconvenience put into perspective
In his article, ‘Preaching Morality in an Amoral Age’, Tim Keller said, “We can say that morality ‘works’ but only because it corresponds to reality. And we must preach that sometimes Christian morality ‘works’ only in the long run. Looking at life from eternity, it will be obvious that it works to be honest, unselfish, chaste and humble. But in the short run, practicing chastity may keep a person alone for many years. Practising honesty may be an impediment to career advancement. This must be made clear to the contemporary listener”.
In the looking at morality, we will always see morality as inconvenient if we remove the eternal perspective or what God wants. 1 Corinthians chapter 15, verse 32 (NKJV) states “If, in the manner of men, I have fought with beasts at Ephesus, what advantage is it to me? If the dead do not rise, “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die””. But Christ is risen indeed and life is bigger than this world.
How then do we live?
We must first recognise not only the necessity of morality, but our bankruptcy in doing it perfectly. So the answer is not to put more effort into it but to recognise that God is not looking for men who try to be moral. He is looking for new men. He is looking for men who are transformed, where the slightest inconvenience will be a precious little, because we have Christ.
Daniel lived chaste in the midst of Babylon’s immoral culture because his aim was pleasing God, period. As a ‘new man’ or Christian, I now seek to live morally upright, whether it is convenient or not because it pleases God. I close by asking you to think on this quote by Edmund Bourke on his reflections on the French Revolution: “But what is liberty without wisdom, and without virtue? It is the greatest of all possible evils; for it is folly, vice, and madness, without tuition or restraint”.
Paul Lewis is a Staff Worker for Universities and Colleges Christian Fellowship in Kingston Jamaica, where he also resides. He has aspirations of becoming a Christian apologist and he loves reading, especially topics like history, philosophy and theology. You can follow him on twitter @PaulAULewis
Paul Lewis' previous articles may be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/paul-lewis.html