“Morality is subjective,” the man uttered, dismissing me with a wave of his hand and a seemingly bored bespectacled glance.
What he lacked in passion was instantly supplied by a throng of students cheering and shouting the equivalent of, “Yeah, what he said!”
I turned around, looking at the more than 100 students forming a circle around me at Turlington Plaza on the campus of University of Florida. The appeal to moral relativism had supplied renewed confidence to a crowd which had been struggling to communicate the reason for their opposition to the Justice Ride and our case against abortion.
Their tone, body language, and use of certain small words had made clear their feelings toward us, but when asked to give reasons for rejecting the scientific evidence for the humanity of preborn babies, they’d struggled—until the mention of moral relativism reminded them they held the trump card.
“Is morality truly relative?” I asked.
“Yes!” one girl shouted. “You may think it’s wrong, but that doesn’t mean it’s wrong for us.”
“Is rape wrong for all peoples in all times? Or is it only wrong for us?” I asked.
The response: “It’s wrong for us because our culture says it’s wrong. It’s not wrong everywhere.”
Seeking clarification, I asked, “So rape is moral in some cultures?”
Another young woman jumped in to back her up, shouting, “In some cultures, yes.”
Looking to the other students, I said, “Did you hear that? Some people here believe rape is actually moral in certain cultures. If morality is relative, then no one has any binding human rights. We are all at the mercy of what our culture believes.”
Why is relativism so appealing? It sounds tolerant. But it is a siren call leading to injustice. This point was underscored when another young woman stepped forward saying, “I’m a Christian. I wouldn’t have an abortion. But God loves us all and I would not tell someone else it’s wrong for them to abort.”
After the cheering died down, I said, “It sounds loving, doesn’t it? But would we say the same thing about slavery? ‘I’m a Christian, so I won’t own a slave, but you can decide for yourself whether or not you want to own a slave’? Of course not. Why? Because slavery harms an innocent human. But abortion kills an innocent human.”
Once the students eventually began to fracture into smaller debates, I walked away from the circle to have the lunch I’d missed after becoming engrossed in the open-air group debate. But I would have to wait a bit longer for the pizza we’d been given, because I was followed by several students wanting to follow up on the discussion.
One of those students was Mike. He said, “I’m sorry many of the students were rude. I don’t think we agree on abortion, but you made some really good points and got me thinking about what I believe.”
Mike was not the only student at UF yesterday to honestly admit our presence challenged his views. Still, uprooting the weed of moral relativism is no quick task.
This will take time. And that is why we return to UF again today to do it all over again.