Sunday, May 20, 2007

Moral Relativism

This past week saw a strange juxtaposition of events.

Religious leader Jerry Falwell died on Tuesday. One of the early leaders of the so-called "Moral Majority," Falwell was mourned by (among others) Pat Robertson, who said that his "courage and strength of convictions will be sadly missed in this time of increasing moral relativism." In addressing the graduating class of Liberty University, which was founded by Falwell, former House Speaker (and possible Republican candidate) Newt Gingrich asked them to honor Falwell by confronting the "growing culture of radical secularism."

Meanwhile, the second Republican Presidential "debate" was held on Wednesday, and the 10 candidates were asked about a very theatrical (and highly unlikely) "24"-like scenario in which our nation is attacked by terrorists, more attacks are believed to be imminent, and some terrorists are captured. How "aggresively" should the captured terrorists be interrogated.

The first to answer was John McCain, himself a former prisoner of war who was interrogated "aggressively" during his years in captivity. He rejected the use of torture and gave the moral answer: "It's not about the terrorists, it's about us. It's about what kind of country we are." His answer was greeted by the audience with stony silence.

Taking their cue from the Republican base in the audience, the other nine candidates quickly advocated whatever was needed to get answers, and were rewarded with applause. Rudy Giuliani said that "I would tell the people who had to do the interrogation to use every method they could think of. Shouldn't be torture, but every method they can think of," specifically including waterboarding, which is universally regarded to be a form of torture. (In other words, Giuliani doesn't want to use torture, but gets to define the meaning of the word "torture.")

Mitt Romney expressed gratitude for the legal black hole that is Guantanamo. "I'm glad they're at Guantanamo. ... I want them in Guantanamo where they don't get the access to lawyers they get when they're on our soil. ... Some people have said we ought to close Guantanamo. My view is, we ought to double Guantanamo."

California Rep. Duncan Hunter: "Let me just say, this would take a one-minute conversation with the secretary of defense. I would call him up or call him in, I would say to SecDef, in terms of getting information that would save American lives even if it involves very high-pressure techniques, one sentence: 'Get the information.'"

In other words, forget the teachings of Jesus, the "Golden Rule," and "turning the other cheek." Apply physical and mental pain if you need to in order to get what you think you need. If that isn't "moral relativism" and "radical secularism," what is?

The first task of the graduates of Liberty University should be to confront the hypocrisy of the Republican Party.