RELATIVISM? BEING RELATIVE? or… RELATIONAL ?
There is much being said in the Catholic Church and society on the issues of Relativism. Specifically in the context of morality and moral teaching this is a passionate issue. Relativism, according to Wikipedia, “is the concept that points of view have no absolute truth or validity, having only relative, subjective value according to differences in perception and consideration.” This can be a conflict-fraught perception especially when applied to the moral teachings of the church. It is a danger many Christians feel must be battled, especially when applied to issues such as birth control, abortion, homosexuality or other struggles mired in conflict. It is considered a part of the cause as to why many people are leaving what they perceive as “organized religion” for the allegedly freer paths of “spirituality”. It essentially denies any validity or possibility of absolute truth being an unchanging value upon which society, families or individuals can base their lives.
The fruits of this popular concept are evident in the assumed subjective freedom of our western culture. Yet in many ways the attempted denial of truth and values has not brought freedom but a culture where anxiety, fear, strife, discord are pandemic.
But when relativism is rejected it results, very often, in very real issues, knowledge, people, being rejected as well. While the words “reject the sin, not the sinner” are glibly said it is a practice rarely seen.
Discussions seeking to bring the Gospel, the message and place of the Church into a relative place for those alienated are often quickly dismissed as being an embrace of the evils of relativism. As a result many in the Church fail to understand or care when the teachings, the message, worship or liturgy steeped in traditions of years gone by not only alienates but turns people away. It also tends to fuel rejection when morals and values are arbitrarily chosen. Two men kissing is seen as a serious offense by many who would then embrace greed or the quick use of guns and violence. If anything it is often seen to be a badge of heroic faith and virtue of NOT to giving way to the evil of the times.
As a result many souls are floundering in the wake of these two conflicting courses. Many families, many people are finding their relationships with each other and with God being torn apart by these two perceptions. Can there be an alternative?
In the Gospel Jesus frequently was caught between the forces of this ancient conflict. In the temptation in the wilderness Christ Himself wrestled with Satan, evil and interpretation when, repeatedly the enemy challenged doesn’t it say????? God will give his angels to watch over you???
Later Jesus would face the conflicts of divorce, adultery, judgment of others, greed. Yet as Christ responded He gave the Church, His followers a better way. He brings us to realize it is about much more than just intellectual moral absolutes, traditions and teachings. It is about much more than one religious group’s interpretations of Scripture or moral values. It IS about NOT being relativistic, one way or the other but about relating. Jesus made clear He is the way the TRUTH and the life. He makes clear that we all are invited to GROW in our relationship, with Him, with the TRUTH and that HE, the Truth will lead us into freedom of spirit and soul. And lest we rush to presume we, only, have and know this way and truth HE makes clear he is the shepherd of many diverse flocks. Christ also made clear, we do not have all the answers. The Church has often rushed to the role of Guardians of Truth while forgetting God has given us the Holy Spirit to LEAD us into the truth. The understanding of the church and world, centuries ago, was very concrete about the world being flat….until the eternal journey of truth was remembered. (John 14:1-12, John 8;32, 38 & 10:16, John 16)
Christ was not focused on philosophical applications and labyrinths as He related to people. He accepted souls, where they were and from there, led and leads the willing into the truth, the embrace of His arms that sets us free. An embrace profoundly needed, relevant and true.