Challenge Number Six: “You think your morality is so perfect!”
(Sixth in a series of ten, from my new book Critical Conversations!)
Smug religionism is ugly. There’s no denying that. Jesus spent loads of time combatting it. That might have been the one thing he did above all else that got him in trouble with the authorities, and ultimately killed on the cross.
Smug irreligion isn’t much better, though, and since I wrote on this topic in Critical Conversations last year, secular moral superiority has gone through the ceiling. Major corporations have adopted holier-than-thou stances over sexual expression, most recently (and most weirdly) taking the seat of moral authority over the question of who can sit on which ceramic stool.
But Christians got there first, or so the sentiment goes. That is, we were the first to throw our moral weight around, imposing our opinions on others just because we could, and because we were sure our morality was best.
But we don’t.
I mean it. Christians do not think our morality is best.
We think we know which morality is best, but it’s not our morality, it’s someone else’s.
Which makes all the difference. For if I craft a moral code that suits me, then it’s my morality, and it’s unseemly and annoying to foist it on anyone else. Even if an entire culture does that, if they enforce it on others through power (think NBA, Starbucks, PayPal, NFL …) the same unseemly annoyance is there, and in multiplied form.
If only there were some moral system that people could subscribe to humbly and rightly, not succumbing to others’ power plays (which are by definition violations of morality) but just because it’s true and right. If such a thing existed, then those who taught and advocated it wouldn’t be touting their own morality, but one that’s true, right, and proper.
Christians don’t think our morality is best. We think there’s a true, right, and proper moral system that fits all people because it comes from the loving and just Maker of all people. It isn’t ours. It’s his.
Granted, some Christians get that wrong and practice smug religionism. That’s ugly. But there is only one way of true humility when it comes to moral codes: recognizing and following something bigger than yourself, bigger than everyone, and submitting to it. That’s the true Christian moral way.
There’s more in the book!
In Critical Conversations I develop and extend the answer to this and other challenges, and I share practical relational guidance on how to share the answers in conversation. For parents, pastors, and other Christian leaders wondering what to say to children in their vulnerable years up through high school or even college, the book clears away the awkwardness and confusion. It clears a path toward conversations that can strengthen not only your teens’ faith but also your relationship with them.