More than twenty years ago, I attended a Christian Aid conference in London at which there were questions about the identity of the organization. A person in the small group discussions asserted strongly that there was no need to play up the “Christian” identity as everyone present, Christian or not, had a desire for justice.
I struggled to explain that the Christian dimension brought with it not a desire for justice, but an absolute commandment for justice. For a Christian, to work for justice for the poor was not a matter of political choice, but it was a divine imperative. Justice was commanded in the Bible by God and Christians were to seek it, whether or not they desired to do so.
The woman looked at me as though I were a troublesome child.
The woman’s perspective illustrated the incipient problem with secular liberalism. It is a worldview that assumes itself to be normative, it is a state of mind that struggles to comprehend those who do not share its values, and it is a dogma that lacks reference points other than its own certainty about its own rightness.
Middle class secular liberals regarded religious belief as outmoded, they argued for a moral relativism where every ethical decision should be determined by the situation and where no moral absolutes could be tolerated. There was an undermining and a dismissal of traditional authority, people should be allowed to believe and to do as they pleased.
It did not seem to occur to the proponents of relativism, to those who argued against absolutes, that people would also come to argue against the tenets of liberalism. If no-one has the right to claim their views are normative, then liberal views are no more normative than those of any other person. If people are free to ignore traditional beliefs, they are also free to ignore liberal beliefs. Unlike traditional religious adherents, the postmodern relativists who have been in the ascendancy have no reference points for their arguments.
As a Christian, I can argue from Scripture against prejudice and discrimination.
Were I someone who believed in nothing except my own set of values, I would struggle to explain why my set of values should take precedence over the values held by any other person. Were I to argue that something should not be so because I said it should not be so, I would expect to lose the argument. I would expect to be losing ground, as is the case with contemporary liberalism.
Liberal relativism comes down to an attitude of “whatever.” It is unsurprising that people looking for meaning in their lives find it unattractive.