Perspectives: Trusting in our own moral compass

OPINION – The same-sex marriage conflict in Utah and elsewhere is simply one front of an intensifying culture war.

Both sides are claiming the moral high ground, but just how valid is a morality that rests primarily upon government force rather than persuasion?

Note that this question cuts both ways. This means it should apply to those who would use the state as a bludgeon either for or against same-sex marriage. The right to be left alone to peaceably pursue our happiness as we choose is one of the key tenets of liberty.

But this means liberating us from undue government influence rather than calling down more government power over ourselves and everyone else.

None of us has the right to force others to hold beliefs that they do not wish to hold. This is why government cannot be the sole moral authority in our lives.

A good example of why this is so was seen in the battle to abolish slavery. The institution of slavery was officially codified in the U.S. Constitution, yet the greatest opposition to its practice was found in America’s churches.

If not for the influence of a competing moral authority — religion — the abolitionist movement could not have succeeded.

One reason that religion is an effective moral authority in the first place is that, unlike the state, it must use persuasion rather than force to accomplish its goals. The same cannot be said for political correctness, which seeks to make certain moral conclusions binding upon everyone through government force. Its ability to affect change rests upon coercion.

As Leonard Read explained, this can be problematic:

But if people fail to understand the nature of coercion they will attempt to use this force of government even for creative purposes; they will vainly attempt to use a negating physical force – government – as a means of accomplishing a positive good. Unless they comprehend coercion, many of them will rob in the name of charity, plunder in the name of prosperity, and kill in the name of God.

This should be of particular concern when it comes to influencing our deepest held beliefs. Where religion claims God and revealed truth as its authority, politically correct morality is nothing more than the opinions of politically correct individuals.

People who hold to the personal conviction that right and wrong still exist are not judging others so much as they are evaluating practices. They understand that all of us have failings, yet refuse to pretend that our shortcomings justify base behaviors.

Political correctness insists that such non-violent viewpoints are so intolerable as to justify intimidation, guilt, and public shaming. This is why those who refuse to bow to the coercive demands of the new morality are so often accused of “hate.”

This is a rhetorical tactic known as “assuming facts not in evidence” and it’s meant to change the subject at hand while putting the accused on the defensive. When confronted with this tactic, the best response is to calmly restate the subject at hand rather than mount a defense of an ungrounded accusation.

It helps to remember that the accusation has nothing to do with actual proof. It is made solely to cause pain and humiliation in the hopes that we’ll remain silent. This is why it’s essential that we keep our moral compass calibrated.

Experts, pundits, and academics cannot answer the most important questions that any of us will face in our personal lives. Even our own reason will only take us so far. The greatest truth detector we possess, more often than not, is found within our conscience.

It is impossible to remain true to one’s deepest moral convictions without encountering opposition in some form. In our time, anyone who holds to the traditional morals of the Judeo Christian ethic will present an inviting target.

While the venom and vitriol we encounter is intended to discourage us, Joseph Sobran had sound advice for maintaining a positive attitude:

I’ve learned from experience to, as I like to put it, “look for the angels” — the people who, given a chance, will react to a kind gesture with their own kindness. The more you try to act like an angel, the more of these angels you’ll meet. The bigot is always looking for devils. And, with a sour pleasure, he’ll find them.

If there is a morality to which believer and unbeliever alike could subscribe, it should be something like the Golden Rule.

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Bryan Hyde is a news commentator and co-host of the Perspectives talk show on Fox News 1450 AM 93.1 FM. The opinions stated in this article are his and not representative of St. George News.

Email: bryanh@stgnews.com

Twitter: @youcancallmebry

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2014, all rights reserved.

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13 Comments

  • S Steed January 9, 2014 at 11:20 am

    Thanks again Bryan, your articles are both stimulating and refreshing.
    I don’t understand why anyone would want to make that choice for someone else, whether it be abortion, gay marriage, or polygamy. My guess is that a lot of us haven’t formed our own opinions, we just repeat what the voices in our heads (news, church, friends…) are telling us.

    • JOSH DALTON January 9, 2014 at 12:24 pm

      Don’t start answering those voices brother!

    • Chris January 9, 2014 at 3:59 pm

      S Steed, do you understand that Bryan is defending those who reject gay marriage? It’s not totally obvious from the text, and it’s rather amusing to see him trying so mightily to reconcile his abhorrence of gay marriage with his otherwise libertarian views.

      • snowfield January 9, 2014 at 4:48 pm

        He’s actualy not a Libertarian in the party sense, he’s far too convinced his religious and philosophical views are so superior and correct that he has the right to have them imposed on others.

      • S Steed January 9, 2014 at 8:41 pm

        I don’t care what Bryan’s views are, they belong to him. This is a conversation where we don’t all have to agree, but at least were having the conversation. I appreciate that he is willing to go where he does with his articles, because too few journalist are anymore.

    • McMurphy January 10, 2014 at 10:49 am

      if you believe, as many people do, that abortion is murder then how can you morally not use any non-violent means, including Govt. intervention to oppose it ?

      • S Steed January 10, 2014 at 3:13 pm

        I hope I never have to make the choice of having an abortion, and I definately never want to make that choice for someone else. If for whatever reason I was involved in making it; the law, or what any one else thinks would have little impact on the outcome.

  • D Hodja January 9, 2014 at 12:41 pm

    If your not willing to “take high moral ground” on an issue wherein teens are wed to 0 plus year old men then anything goes. I say polygamy as practiced by Mormon polygamists in Southern Utah is immoral. Two adults consenting is different than a child being groomed and filled with fear. How the people of Southern Utah look the other way is hard to understand until one studies the real LDS stance on the doctrine of polygamy. And therein lies the real problem; practices from Mormon beginnings that are still causing law enforcement and average decent citizens to look the other way. I reserve my right to higher moral ground than Joseph Smith who married at least 5 teens one 14 years old (Helen Mar Kimball). I reserve my right to claiming higher moral ground just like Texas did when they did the job Utah should have done and put Uncle Warren in jail for molesting kids. Utah has to grow a collective moral compass because it’s obviously lacking, in a State who claims god leads them, yet leads the nation in fraud, child abuse, neglect, porn viewing, polygamy, and so on. Something ain’t working in all those large and spacious buildings, in fact its made this State the stand out in many social problems.

    • S Steed January 9, 2014 at 9:07 pm

      D Hodja: I resect your choice to take the moral high ground, but I want to defend the pligs. My parents are practicing polygamist, and they are amazing. I don’t know if you’ve had bad experiences with them (some have); but I know from experience that the media horribly misrepresented that community. Warren Jeffs has done nothing but harm for that community. I think his family was sent to dismantle that religion and they have done a very thorough job of it. Just hearsay though, no real supporting evidence on that.

  • ladybugavenger January 9, 2014 at 6:01 pm

    Alot of people here are confused about God and Jesus and I can’t blame them because of the FLDS to LDS churches it’s one cult to another so not everyone has morals, therefore, not everyone should trust in their own moral compass. However, because I can see this, I will trust in my moral compass. I once was blind but now I see, Thank you Jesus!

    • skip2maloo January 9, 2014 at 9:16 pm

      You are most welcome. Keep up the propaganda and you’ll be entered into a contest to receive extra bennies in the afterlife. BTW, there’s a new app that you can use on your smart phone to stay current on updates in the moral directions. Offer up a prayer and I’ll send you the pass code. Keep it real, baby.

  • sam January 10, 2014 at 6:42 am

    Of all tyrannies a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victim may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated, but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.
    -C.S. Lewis.

  • Bender January 10, 2014 at 8:55 pm

    Bryan knocks another one outa da park. Randian blather with an extra helping of obsfuscation.

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