Our Imaginary Morals

map confused

It’s really a simple question. It is one I have wanted to ask many times. Yet, for many people, it seems to be unanswerable.

I remember the first time I asked the question. I was talking to a neighbor. We were talking about raising kids. Mine are grown adults. Her two children are both too young for school. She had complimented me about my adult children, that they seemed to have their heads on straight. I said that, yes, I think that’s because we raised them according to the truth in the Bible, which describes right and wrong, evil and good.

I know my family seems an oddity to her. She has never encountered a family where the parents and the kids are all Christian. She has only seem the older generation embrace Christianity, while their offspring rebel. I certainly know good Christian parents who have attempted to raise their kids to be Christians, only to see them abandon Christ. We have been blessed never to have experienced that in our family.

But my interest was not about raising kids. It was about right and wrong.

I thanked her for her compliment about my children, and then told her I wanted to ask her a question:

Where do you get your morality from? How do you know what is right and wrong?

She was taken aback. She didn’t really know what to say. I could see that she was searching in the recesses of her mind for an answer. It didn’t come.

My neighbor is agnostic, while her husband is atheist. I had known this for awhile. I have been curious for years about how someone can know right from wrong if they have no underlying moral map. Actually, I figured that nonbelievers probably have some moral map, but it just wasn’t apparent to me. Maybe it’s the golden rule. Maybe it’s a hodgepodge of different beliefs. What, I asked, did they rely on to distinguish between right and wrong? How do they know so they can guide their children?

I anticipated some possible answers. One possible answer is that right is doing what is legal and wrong is doing what is illegal, but there are some significant problems with that answer. First, governments don’t always do the right thing. They may pass a law that we believe is wrong. For example, slavery was legal in many states until the Civil War. If we were anti-slavery, would we say that, because slavery is legal, then it must be right? Of course not. There are many examples of unjust laws or unjust judicial decisions. Do we change our morality based on what’s legal? That would be absurd.

In addition, some things may be wrong even if there is no law against it. For instance, most people believe it is wrong to lie. However, telling a lie, except in certain legal matters, is not a crime. Many people condemn the act of lying, but they don’t want to see a law against all lying.

Another possible source for our morality is our friends who surround us. After all, we do tend to hang around people who believe the same way we do. And we are tremendously influenced by people we are close to. Unfortunately, there are some things wrong with this view as well. The biggest problem is that it’s groupthink. A group may have views about whether something is right or wrong, but try expressing a point of view that runs counter to the group. You immediately get isolated. You may even find yourself unwelcome in that group. The pressure to conform in a group is strong. Many people follow the norms of a group, not because they believe what the group believe in their heart, but because they don’t want to get kicked out of the group.

And then there’s the same problem: What if the group believes the wrong thing? Do I just change my moral map whenever the group changes theirs?

Returning to my story, my neighbor had no answer. I followed up by asking simple questions like, “Does it make sense to use ‘survival of the fittest’ to guide our morality? If that principle is true, wouldn’t it be okay to simply live each day taking advantage of others so we end up on top? Or if nothing is right or wrong, wouldn’t it be best to simply do whatever we want, act anyway we want, as long as it’s something we want to do? What would prevent us from robbing a bank?”

It was all so unexpected for my poor neighbor. I apologized that I wasn’t trying to give her a hard time. It was truly just something I wanted to know. How did she know what was right and wrong?

I’ve asked that same question about right and wrong to others since then. Whenever I ask a nonbeliever, I get the same answer. They don’t know how to know what’s right and wrong.

We all need a moral map. We need moral maps just like we need geographical maps.

In times past, Americans used a variety of ways to figure out how to drive from city to city. There were few, if any, maps to help drivers navigate the different types of roads. Often, drivers just had to strike out on their own and figure out each road on its own.

In the early 20th century, when Americans started driving cars out of town to go to other cities, we didn’t have the same infrastructure we have today. Not all roads were paved. Not all roads had clear signs. Not every town had a gas station. And the roads often wound around the countryside, not necessarily trying to go the straightest path. Many Americans used the Official Automobile Blue Book. It gave step by step instructions for going from one town to the next. Eventually, you could find your way to where you wanted to go. If you didn’t read the book correctly, you could end up in the wrong place.

Later, travel maps were created. These were foldable maps that could fit into your glove compartment (assuming you could fold the maps back the way they were originally folded). They were an improvement, but many people don’t follow maps well. It was still very easy to end up on the wrong road and at the wrong destination.

Today, practically every American who has a cell phone knows how to use the GPS feature of their phone to get them from one point to another. Want to go to a new restaurant you heard about? Just plug it in your GPS. Want to get to that marathon in another city? Just plug in in your GPS. Want to do a cross-country trip? Just plug it into your GPS. You will get turn-by-turn audio and visual directions making it very easy to getting to your destination. It is nearly impossible (but still possible) to miss your destination.

Geographical maps show you where you came from, where you are going, and various routes that will take you away from your destination. Many of us Americans would never dream of driving to a new location without using our GPS.

Unfortunately, it is not the same with our moral maps. As a Christian, I know what my moral map is. It is the Bible. It tells me where I came from and how to get where I want to go. And it tells me the roads that will only take me further away from where I want to go.

A good moral map can do that as well. Unfortunately, many of us in today’s society are like American drivers at the beginning of the 20th century. They have an idea of where they want to go, but they don’t have a clue how to get there.

We’re all free to find our own way in this world. The good thing is that there is a map easily available to those who want to follow it. For those who insist on finding their own way, I hope you find the Destination.


Our Imaginary God

I never had a clue. Earlier in our marriage, I was driving on a long trip in our car, and Nancy was sitting in the passenger seat. We went down some very curvy roads in the Appalachian Mountains. Nancy gripped the door handle very firmly. We went around another curve in the road, and I saw her gripping the handle again. “Huh!”, I thought to myself. I don’t remember seeing her do that before. This continued throughout our journey that day. The next day, we were driving at much slower speeds along some city streets. As I made a right hand turn, she gripped the handle again. “Really?”, I thought. The next time I turned, I slowed down much more, so that there was barely any feeling of centrifugal force at all as we turned. Again, she still reached for the handle.

Later that day, I asked her how long she had been doing that.

“For several years”, she said.

And am I driving in a careless way?

“No, not at all”, she said.

So why are you white knuckling the door handle?

She explained that it was just ‘in case something happened’. She didn’t want to be spilled across the front of the car.

Wow! I didn’t realize she did it all the time. I remember seeing her do that a little over the years, but not that much. It was mildly irritating, making me seem like I’m some reckless race car driver. And all during our years of dating and being engaged, I don’t think I ever saw it.

I’m sure there are things Nancy didn’t notice that I did during our dating and engagement. One of them was probably that she didn’t realize how much I love stupid practical jokes. She knew I liked humor, but I don’t think she knew how much of a kick I get out of stupid pranks.

For instance, I had a very phoney looking rubber finger that fit over my pinky finger, with a very large, bloody gash in it. I would sometimes be in another room, scream bloody murder, see Nancy come running over, and I’d show her my terrible – but fake – wound. She would look at me with piercing eyes that said, “An I almost dropped a cake because of this?” Then, she would retreat until the next time I brought out the peanuts that jump out of a can or huge phony sunglasses.

When we were younger, just starting to get to know each other, we had imaginary versions of each other in our heads. To Nancy, I was the suave, debonair man who would sweet talk and charm her every time I came into the room. She probably had no clue that I might have a fake pinky wound on my hand.

Similarly, I saw Nancy as someone who enjoyed every minute of her time with me and was confident of my skills in everything I did. I didn’t realize she was concerned that my driving might cause her to end up going through the windshield.

We each had our imaginary views of what the other person was like. We had our dreamy-eyed thoughts about the one we were in love with.

And then reality hit. We realized that the other person sometimes did things we didn’t understand. Or didn’t agree with. But that was okay. I was still her husband, and she was still my wife. We weren’t perfect, but we still loved and admired each other.

Recently, I saw a movie where a mother was crying. She told her little boy that she didn’t think she was a good mother. (She actually was.) The boy said, “That’s okay. You’re Mom.” His Mom was being Mom, and that was okay, even if she wasn’t perfect, and he loved her.

That applies as well to our view about God.

Recently, authors of “How to Be a Perfect Christian” sarcastically quipped, “The God of the Bible would never do anything you would personally disagree with.” That is a modern-day motto of many people concerning how they think God is. They believe He will only do things they think make sense. He would never do something that challenges their preconceived notions of Him.

Many atheists, agnostics, and unbelievers see God as someone who only does things THEY believe are proper. He must be anti-war. He must be pro-choice. He must think it’s okay to live in sexual immorality. After all, he is all-loving. He doesn’t have any objections to anything, because objections would mean he doesn’t love.

So when they read the Bible, they see only what they want to see. They step over the verses they don’t believe. Because God couldn’t possibly be like that.

Or they just give up on God. If God is like THAT, I just won’t be a Christian.

But if we believe God exists, we will not start with the notions in our mind about who God is and how he behaves. We will let him reveal himself.

He famously told Moses, “I Am that I Am.” There is a lot in that sentence, but one aspect is that God will be who He will be. God said that when he was a burning bush that did not burn up in the fire. No one had ever seen God in that way. Could that really be God? It didn’t fit how Moses understood God to be. But it was God.

Many today who don’t – or won’t – believe in God are really just dealing with their belief in an imaginary God. They start out with who they think God must be. When they find out that He is different, many don’t know what to do. They don’t know how to deal with a real God who acts in ways that run counter to our cardboard cutout of God.

If you truly want to seek God and consider whether the Christian God is true, you need to discard your notions of what you think God is and make Him match up to your expectations. Instead, you need to let him reveal himself to you through God’s Word and allow him to be formed in your mind as He really is.

To Spite Their Face

I remember a very sad story from when I was a 5-year-old. It was Halloween, and I was wearing my new, but beloved, Superman costume. This is very long ago when every kid’s costume was extremely thin material. I fell on the street and went down on my knees. It ended up tearing my costume. I felt humilitated. Here was the Man Of Steel with torn, bloody knees. It betrayed everything I aspired to in that costume. I could not be consoled, and instead just got angry. I would yell and tease the other kids in my group. This only made things worse, since the adults wouldn’t let me go to the doorsteps to collect my goodies as we went down the block. Instead of simply accepting the fact that my costume was a little damaged and going ahead with Halloween, I just made things worse. I never did get any additional candy that night.

That was a childhood error that fixed itself as I grew. Each time I got angry, I realized I could make my situation worse very easily by just giving into my anger. Although I’m definitely not perfect, I’ve learned how to respond with grace when things don’t go my way. My Christianity has taught me that. Jesus responded with grace when he was surrounded with those who wanted to take his life.

But not all actually accept this as part of their worldview. There are worldviews that simply pile anger upon anger. There is never any peace, but just retribution. There is never forgiveness, but just old, crusty bitterness. That was evidence recently in Hamas-dominated Gaza Strip.

Several weeks ago, Hamas began a protest against Israel, telling thousands of Gazans that they needed to try to breach the border with Israel and occupy parts of the country. They described this as a peaceful march, as if no one had ever read about Hamas protests of the past. Israel held them in check, killing and wounding many of the protesters.

As with many of prior protests, Hamas had two directions they could go in. They could simply stop, realize nothing would come of such violence, live at peace with Israel, and build up their culture and economy. Or they could just double down on their anger and keep protesting. As is typical of their worldview, they chose the latter.

But they did so in a way that just made things even worse for themselves. First, they declined Israel’s offer of humanitarian medical aid for the protesters. This was greatly needed, since many protesters had been wounded.

And second, they started firing rockets into southern Israel, but they did so recklessly. When I say “recklessly”, I mean “stupidly”, because they damaged the electrical infrastructure that brought electricity into Gaza. This means much of Gaza ended up without electricity.

I wonder when the inhabitants of Gaza, or the leadership for that matter, will begin to realize that cutting your nose off to spite your face is not a good national policy. But this would require a change in worldview, from unrelenting anger to a worldview where true forgiveness is possible, or even loving one’s enemies.

What a novel idea.

Hamas rioter: group tricks women, children to enter line of fire

What is the mindset of those who deliberately want to put women and children into harm’s way. No matter what religion you belong to, it’s never right to put innocent lives at risk.


The second of two “oil spill” news about the culture

It took me a little longer than normal to get to this second blog post, primarily because I got so nauseated from the first one. This news has already got me reaching for the Pepto.

Bruce/Caitlyn Jenner is in a romantic relationship with Sophia Hutchins, possibly even about to marry him/her. As far as I’m concerned, this is a cultural oil spill, leaving sludge all over the cultural landscape. It may be impossible to clean up the environment. And it will only bring harm to everyone who ignores it.

First, both of them are transwomen. For those of you not keeping up with the lingo, that’s a man pretending to be a woman. Jenner has already undergone the surgery. I’m not sure about Hutchins, but it sure looks like Hutchins is already undergoing chemo treatments. You would think that someone who wanted to be a woman would be interested in attracting men, but that doesn’t seem to be Jenner’s motive. Jenner is a (fake) woman interested in a (fake) woman. 

The more I read about these trans relationships, the more I find that trans only tend to get romantically involved with other trans. I suppose that makes some sense. If you have undergone chemical and/or surgical changes to your appearance, it would not tend to be attractive to most heterosexuals. Perhaps only others who have altered their bodies in the same way would find that attractive.

You would think that both Jenner and Hutchins, who were born male, could have avoided a lot of the pain, cost, and disfigurement of changing into the opposite gender by simply remaining as they were: men. Would they have been attracted to each other as homosexual men? 

Apparently not. A transgender, from my limited understanding, seems to be focused on “possessing” the other gender. They aren’t changing into another gender to attract others but to completely absorb themselves in the opposite gender. 

Jenner certainly seems to be well on the way to complete self-absorption. Jenner is 68 and is romantically involved with 21-year-old Hutchins. Yuck! Even in heterosexual land, a 47-year-old difference is bizarre. In typical relationships like this, it makes you wonder what the 21-year-old is after, or whether Hutchins is somehow being pushed into this relationship by Jenner. In addition, in typical heterosexual relationships of this sort, the 68-year-old is simply trying to rediscover a youthful sexual prowess, yet it can never really be found again. The senior is simply preventing this young adult Hutchins from moving ahead with their life. Jenner’s self-absorption is evident here again. 

And finally, Jenner has already been married to 3 women. This is not seen in the story as what it really is: Jenner’s abandonment of women he entered into a lifelong commitment to. He failed to live up to his vows to 3 other women. What would make anyone think Jenner would live up to the vows of a new marriage?  Jenner’s abandonment of those vows is yet another illustration of self-absorption. Basically, Jenner can simply stroll away from those marriages because he/she is trying to be “fulfilled”. The sad thing is that most transgenders really never feel fulfilled. They get more depressed the more they pursue their transformation. 

And with those women came 6 children. Jenner can no longer be a father figure to any of those now-adult children or the grandchildren who will come after. His children knew him as a father. They now know him as someone who abandoned that role. His grandchildren will have a hard time understanding why grandpa is now grandma. Some family may accept Jenner’s transformation, but others will reject it, causing breaks in family bonds. All because of Jenner’s self-absorption. 

But the most amazing thing about this story is that it isn’t seen as amazing to much of our current culture. Many who accept this non-reality believe it to be good, but it merely provides additional kindling to already-wet firewood, which will burn itself out unless stoked by stories of fantasy, constantly stoked by the Perpetually Offended. 


The first of two morally bankrupt stories from our culture

Sometimes, the popular culture serves up a story so morally vacuous that I sometimes wonder if we’ve been invaded by aliens. How can anyone be so narcissistic?

This story is about a stripper named Blac China who rose to fame through her “exotic dancing” and “modeling”. (I wonder if ‘Chyna’ is cultural appropriation? But I digress.)

Chyna is apparently pregnant again. This will be her third pregnancy, and it’s by an 18-year-old boy rapper. Chyna apparently really knows how to pick men. She previously got pregnant from two other boyfriends. The first was boyfriend Tyga (Is that really ‘Tigger’ from Winnie the Pooh? If so, he’s got a lot of ‘splainin’ to do.) This happened in 2012. That relationship lasted a few years. 

Chyna was clearly so devoted to her young toddler that she got another boyfriend and had another child in 2016. This relationship also lasted a few years. 

But recently, Chyna decided to be more discriminating, so she looked on a Christian dating site. Is this a thing now, trolling for guys to bed on a Christian dating site? What’s the attraction? That they’re morally straight? That’s a sad reflection on the fact that Chyna went there, and that her new beau was hanging on that site as well. 

We know it must have been a success because she found a new guy named Jay. He’s 18. I’m sure he’s got strong parenting skills, which is obvious in his statement about his relationship with Chyna: 

 “I don’t wear condoms. . . I would not want to f— a b—- I did not want to get pregnant,” he says. “If Chyna got pregnant, I would keep that s— like ‘ohh daddy love you,’ I love that a-“

Hmmm. I think we can all see the admirable qualities of such a man. 

The sad fact of the matter is that Chyna has really no care for those children. To her, they are nothing more than souvenirs of her temporary sexual relationships with the boyfriend-of-the-month. 

Recently, I’ve been reading a book called Primal Loss, in which adults who endured their parents’ divorce as a child get a chance to talk about the pain and suffering they have endured because of that divorce. Children who have parents that come and go suffer for a long, long time. Parents who spend an inordinate amount of their lives focusing on the next relationship inevitably end up neglecting the real needs of their kids. 

Those children deserve to be brought up in a stable home with a father and a mother who are married to each other. Chyna, like many other celebrities, have children as they wish, believing that those kids will be resilient and will never suffer from their mother’s lack of attention and revolving-door relationships. These children suffer real harm because of a self-absorbed mother. 

Those children will never know what it’s like to sit down for a family meal with mom and dad who love each other, help their kids with their homework, and go to their soccer games. Instead, they may get dropped off at some guy’s house for a weekend, while he himself focuses on his next girlfriend. 

Unfortunately, I doubt this will be the end of the story for Chyna. After all, she’s only 29 and there are plenty more teenage guys left on Christian dating sites. 

The worldview of Sexual Autonomy says that the only thing that is important is that one be fulfilled sexually. It doesn’t matter if you have to find a teenager. It doesn’t matter if you get pregnant. It doesn’t matter if this teenager is anything but a good prospect as a father. As long as you can fulfill your wildest sexual dreams, then everything’s okay. Forget about who has to pay for your very limited life goals. 


‘Smallville’ actress Allison Mack arrested for alleged sex cult involvement | Fox News

It is often a question I ask myself when I hear about a new cult and their beliefs and practices:

Why would they believe/act that way, when it is so different from conventional beliefs and behavior?

I’m this case, the cult Nexium was a financial and motivational personality cult that ended up sex trafficking it’s own female members. They even branded those women, literally, with an iron.

Most cults are a twisting of Biblical concepts, so they feed off of people who believe the cult has finally found the “real truth” about God. Nexium, however, fed off of people with no appetite for God. Instead, it lured people in using things out current culture finds important: money, prestige, and sex.