Many great apologists have spoken about relativism. Even Pope Benedict XVI has spoken out about it. Yet, don’t we all get sucked into the vortex of the world around us each day which is all about relativism? But, what exactly is this issue at its heart?
By definition, relativism is any theory holding that criteria of judgment are relative, varying with individuals and their environments. If we are saying that criteria of judgment are relative, we are saying that anyone can have their own criteria of judgment. So, any issue at the heart of our society and at the heart of who we are as a human being is then only able to be judged on what that person believes the criteria should be based upon their environment and their experiences.
So, if I believed that it was more important for me to go clothes shopping because I am sick of my clothes versus going grocery shopping because there is no food in the house for my 5 children and husband — it would all be okay. Because by my criteria, clothes shopping is so much more satisfying than buying groceries which will disappear within days. It is all about what criteria I set as an individual. Looking around the world today, it is very easy to see this principle in action.
Teacher’s today cannot discipline a student because the parent might believe that their punishment was too harsh and might sue the school. In fact, when my own children were in the public school system, one of my daughters, then in 1st grade, cheated on a spelling test. The teacher caught her cheating and took her paper from her making her put her head down on her desk during the remainder of the test. Later in the day, the teacher called this cheating student, my daughter, to her desk to talk to her. She asked her why she cheated to which my daughter replied that she wasn’t really cheating, she was just checking her word to make sure she had written it right. So, the teacher gave her the spelling test orally and modified her grade from a 0% for cheating to a 100% for the oral grade.
When I got the note at home later that day explaining what had occurred from the teacher’s perspective, I was totally confused. When I went into the school the next day, I asked some very pointed questions.
1. Did my daughter cheat? Answer = yes.
2. Is the school policy such that if a student cheats on a school assignment, the grade for that assignment is 0%? Answer = yes.
3. Then why does my daughter have a 100% on her paper? Answer = because she could tell me the words orally and I think that she is too young to know right from wrong.
What??!! This teacher could then not understand why I demanded that she change my daughter’s grade back to a zero. She actually had me put the request in writing for the file as it was against her judgement. This teacher made a judgment based upon her own relative criteria and unilaterally overrode the school policy. The saddest part is that even the principal didn’t see this as an issue when I discussed it with her later.
This situation happened 8 years ago and it still raises my blood pressure! The sad thing is that it is just one example from the millions that are occurring everyday in the world around us. And we wonder why our world and our country have the problems they have today with widespread corruption and a total disregard for the law. Here in the state of Illinois, one of our “claims to fame” is that we have several former governors in jail for greed and corruption. Even our government leaders are caught up in this lie of relativism!
As a Catholic, I believe that through our faith in Jesus Christ and in His Church, we find the TRUTH. We might be surrounded by the fog of relativism, but we have a bright light shining in our eyes blinding us to the sin around us just as Saul was blinded by God’s light after being knocked off of his horse. As Mark says in Chapter 16: 15-16, “And he said to them: ‘Go forth to the whole world and preach the Gospel to every creature. Whoever will have believed and been baptized will be saved. Yet truly, whoever will not have believed will be condemned.’ ” So, we go forth, holding fast to the light and truth of God and preach the Gospel. All we can do is preach the truth and pray that they come out of the fog before it is too late.