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The End Of Ethics

June 13, 2021 Featured Today No Comments

By DONALD DeMARCO

There are two solutions on the horizon to our present national crisis. The first is a purely political one, which seeks to impose a way of life on people in the form of a set of arbitrary rules. We see this today with the widespread imposition of political correctness. The second is not primarily political but Christian, specifically ethics based on the natural law. Insofar as the latter urges people to live by love of God and neighbor, its appeal is to the inner person.
The purely political solution, as history teaches us, consistently fails to bring about what it promises. The Christian solution will succeed, but only when people decide to live in accordance with their inalienable dignity. Politics has the power, but Christianity has the blueprint.
Politics operates from the outside. Christianity proceeds from a person’s willingness to choose what is good. Politics rules from the few who are in power. Christianity renounces power and appeals to everyone. Is the power of politics, however, capable of making men good? Can it even make men civil?
As Christianity begins to lose its influence, politics becomes more coercive. The increased empowerment of politics inevitably leads to the erosion of personal freedom. The replacement of ethics by politics is the loss of a moral compass which allows people to direct their own lives. The loss of ethics is one of such magnitude that it leaves no room for an adequate replacement. The Christian solution may fail; the political solution will always fail.
The distinguished historian, Christopher Dawson, has indicated that without the nourishment that a spiritualized ethics provides, “society does not possess a civilization, but only a technological order resting on a vacuum” (The Crisis of Western Education, p. 150). There is an obvious relationship, he adds, “between the breakdown of the moral order when it is deprived of its spiritual aims and sanctions and the breakdown of civilization when it loses its relation to the moral order” (ibid., p. 199). Politics cannot stand alone.
The politician who dismisses the principles of Christianity as so much pie in the sky believes himself to be a realist. In this regard, he is a disciple of Machiavelli and therefore looks upon society as an art form that, like a block of marble, can be carved into a suitable image. He is not a respecter of either personal initiative or human freedom. Unfortunately, he is ignorant of both history as well as human nature.
Politics, in the sense we have described, operates through power. Christianity operates through love. In the final analysis, the power of love will triumph over the love of power. But the antagonism between these two approaches is a continuing drama that outlines the course of human history. It is not likely that one could ever be entirely free from the other.
Politics is concerned with expediency, getting the job done as quickly as possible. Christianity is dedicated to truth which enables people, perhaps slowly, to flourish in a context of realism. Politicians are utopian, holding to the unsupportable belief that through political influence alone, society can achieve justice for all. Christianity acknowledges the imperfections of man and understands that a perfect world is not possible. Christianity does not despair of this world, but hopes for a better one in the hereafter. In fact, it is the Christian belief that one’s reward in Heaven is commensurate with his service to others while he is on Earth.
With regard to the notion of utopia, Thomas Molnar has made a most realistic point in his book Utopia the Perennial Heresy, one that the new political enthusiasts should read and take seriously: “From time to time the belief spreads among men that it is possible to construct an ideal society. Then the call is sounded for all to gather and build it — the City of God on Earth. Despite its attractiveness, this is a delirious ideal stamped with the madness of logic.”
We are now dealing with ideas that are essentially delirious. They may be short-lived, one hopes, but they must be exposed for what they are so as to limit the amount of damage they will cause.
The end of ethics is the end of aspiration. It is, consequently, the abolition of man, for man is a being who cannot live without hope. To be constricted by a politically correct straitjacket means that one is no longer functioning as an autonomous human being.
Despite the notions of “diversity” and “inclusivity,” which represent a completely politicized form of ethics, many individuals, especially in the teaching professions, have been suspended, punished, expelled, or directed to sensitivity training because there is no room for their views in the newly politicized and contradictory meanings of these two notions. The regnant politics, shorn of personal ethics, should be more accurately cast as featuring “uniformity” and “intolerance.” Hence, it cannot abide philosophical criticism that would expose its duplicity. Paradoxically, it is not only welcomed by many universities, but given a place of unchallenged authority.
Unlike the United States Constitution, it has no provision for self-correction. Its fragile future will be held together only by power and deception.
At the close of his book, The Gods of Revolution, Christopher Dawson addresses the futility of politics without Christian ethics as well as the fragility of Christianity:
“Consequently it is to Christianity that Western culture must look for leadership and help in restoring the moral and spiritual means of our civilization. If it fails to do so, it means either the failure of Christianity or the condemnation of civilization” (p. 166).

  • + + (Dr. Donald DeMarco is professor emeritus, St. Jerome’s University, and an adjunct professor at Holy Apostles College. He is a regular columnist for St. Austin Review and is the author of 39 books. His latest book, The 12 Supporting Pillars of the Culture of Life and Why They Are Crumbling, is posted on amazon.com. His 40th book, Glimmers of Hope in a Darkening World, is in production.)
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