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The fallout from the raiding of the Texas compound of the Yearning for Zion sect of the Fundamentalist Latter Day Saints (FLDS) has been interesting to watch and read. Anyone who seriously considered the “true for you, but not for me” lie needs to be paying close attention to this investigation. Moral indignation is not dead, not by a long shot.
In fact, in his (somewhat) recent book explaining his anti-religious passion, atheistic pit bull Christopher Hitchens makes a bold moral assertion about what his views would be regarding the underage goings-on at the FLDS complex. On page 52 of God is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything, Hitchens tells his readers: “the conscription of the unprotected child for these purposes is something that even the most dedicated secularist can safely describe as sin.” In his forthcoming response to Hitchens, Douglas Wilson writes: “[Y[ou can describe it as sin all right. You just can’t defend your position when asked about it. Why is it a sin?” Wilson’s point must not be overlooked. It is not simply a clever rhetorical technique that makes us go “hmmm.” It is a key missing ingredient in what passes for religious dialogue in our thoroughly-modern, humanistic, post-Enlightenment culture of “no absolutes.”
Eventually, every worldview will reveal its hand. As Greg Bahnsen helped many of us to see, every worldview borrows from the Christian worldview to prop up their own. In fact, I think borrowing is a bit too civil; stealing is what they are actually doing. Like Hitchens, they have no intention of giving back the moral certainties that they co-opt as their own. The moral grandstanding that is taking place around the country over polygamy and underage sexual “relations” is nothing short of breathtaking. Wilson’s point needs to be applied nationally at this point. Yes, American media, you are correct. What was happening in Texas under the cloak of religious freedom was wrong. But, why is it wrong? Yes, most of us know it instinctively, Hitchens even admits this. But surely our instincts aren’t to be trusted as authoritative in a “matter-only” world of random chance mutations. If this is the case, then why are the instincts of the child-protectors allowed to trump the instincts of the child-abusers? How can the child-protectors, in their smug self-righteousness, inform the child-abusers that what they did was wrong? Sure it’s against Texas law, but doesn’t this beg the question? On what authority does the State of Texas make this moral judgment? Is it the will of God, or of the people?
This problem is a huge sucking chest wound for those who believe that religion should be completely disconnected from public policy. Law is dependent upon morality. In fact, law is nothing more than morality applied. Somebody, somewhere, decided that certain things are good and certain things are bad. But how can we know that these decisions were the correct ones? Interestingly, Richard Dawkins—another of the religion-haters soaking up the warm glow of the media spotlight—has written that morality is derived from the zeitgeist, or “spirit of the age.” Yikes! Would Dawkins be able to convince Hitchens of the moral acceptability of underage abuse if the 21st century zeitgeist began to favor it? What if the FLDS church is really on the leading edge of a major zeitgeist shift? How are we to determine if the zeitgeist is wrong or right? Dawkins seems to indicate that this is a pointless question. It would be like asking if the wind in the trees, or the water in the ocean was right or wrong—the zeitgeist just is. The zeitgeist is like DNA, which Dawkins believes “neither knows nor cares. DNA just is, and we dance to its music.” Since the zeitgeist is really nothing more than an act of the global-collective DNA, we can do nothing, say nothing, think nothing, and especially get indignant about nothing that the zeitgeist does. We can only dance. I will continue to watch the Texas dance with great interest, but I suspect that Dawkins and Hitchens won’t be invited to this ball.