Tuesday, March 10, 2009

CM at others' combox -- 6

From a discussion at The Other McCain (HT re site, to Dad29), the first graf, in bold is what I'm responding to (some elaboration by me, now, in italics:
Robert, I'm speechless. Well, not really. Here's my entire problem with Christianity: Christians sin in any manner they want, profess a belief that Christ has paid for their sins, then continue with their sinful ways. THEN ... condemn others for sins, because those sinners haven't said the magic words "I believe and accept Christ".

Sure ... the way many Christians act is objective counter-witness. But you're conflating three different issues as though they were the same thing:

(1) The failure of Christians to meet Moral Standard X. Note that the actual content or subject matter of the Moral Standard is of no consequence.
(2) The rightness of Moral Standard X.
(3) The role of Moral Standard X in public policy.

That (1) has nothing to do with (2) is, I hope, self-evident without explanation. I suppose if a person believes all moral standards to be self-rationalization for what one does or personalist wish-fulfillment toward some arbitrary ego-ideal, one can deny there is is no link. But those are pretty extreme positions that few people self-consciously hold.

And when you think about it, it's hard to see why (1) should have anything more to do with (3) than with (2). After all, if all men are sinners, then who could ever uphold any Moral Standard? Nobody in good-faith and upon reflection can seriously maintain that only the sinless have the moral space to preach virtue (though many people do say it in bad faith, though charity requires the latter guess upon dealing with a stranger). Now it may well be the case that, to take a pertinent example, that it would be impolitic or embarrassing for a tax cheat to oversee the IRS as its Treasury Secretary, say. But nobody would take Tim Geithner's woes to either (a) argue for the moral goodness of tax-cheating, or (b) argue that the IRS has no right to pursue tax cheats according to law.

(That (2) is a separate question from (3) primarily becomes relevant when we discuss the practical wisdom of the extent of morals legislation, i.e., all legislation, in a given time and place. To take a concrete example, abortion, contraception and masturbation are all intrinsically immoral, but I think the law and society ought to take very different stances on all three -- respectively: illegal, legal but legally-discouraged, legal but socially-discouraged.)

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