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Relativism is dead, a new progressive orthodoxy has arrived

Michael Farris
Michael Farris is president of Alliance Defending Freedom. |

Remember not too long ago, when academia and other societal elites told us there were no moral absolutes? Every person could decide for themselves what is right and what is wrong.

There were even entire school courses built around this premise. One popular program was called “Values Clarification.” Academics challenged the idea that education should center on the pursuit of truth. After all, truth was relative to the individual.

Francis Schaeffer, one of the best Christian thinkers of the last century, spoke in 1981 at Notre Dame Law School and said that pluralism was always a temporary state marking a transition from one orthodoxy to another. The advocates of relativism wrapped themselves in the mantle of pluralism —back in the day.

But now the pretense is over. The new orthodoxy has arrived, and it intends to purge society of all contrary views. Social media giants and their fact-checkers are just the tip of the progressive orthodoxy power structure, which is on the hunt for dissenters who deviate from its official views.

The cancel culture that seeks to de-platform, destroy, and silence anyone who disagrees with the new orthodoxy manifests itself in a wide array of venues, from the boardrooms of mega-corporations to the historic monuments of public parks.

The new orthodoxy has a checklist of its tenets that cover sexuality, environment, economics, and more. But one thing it does not believe in is freedom — especially freedom of speech and freedom of religion.

So what is the Christian response? Two things.

First, during the “truth is relative” era, many Christians were cowed into silence under the theory that we should not “force” our views on others. That was an error then, and it is a far more obvious error today.

Citizens should speak and live consistently with their beliefs and not shy away from it because of social pressure. Backing down is the path to surrender. I’m not talking about getting up and shaking your fist. I’m talking about simply declining to hide the way you have always lived: as a Christian. These are the times when it is especially important to keep speaking and believing according to your faith — more important than when your values are not under threat.

And every citizen should vote based on their values. This means Christians should vote based on their beliefs. Radical activists are not only doing that; they are willing to hunt down and punish all dissenters. So vote your values. It’s your right — one that many people around the world would give anything for — and it’s a civic duty you should consider an honor to exercise.

Second, Christians should remember that freedom is a biblical value — one that means we stand for freedom for all faiths and all viewpoints. Even when we think those who don’t share our values are clearly wrong, it is our duty to stand up for their freedom of speech and religion.  I encourage you to sign the newly released Philadelphia Statement, which affirms the necessity of free speech and civil discourse and denounces cancel culture, hate-speech labeling, and other forms of ideological blacklisting.

Part of the reason many Christians were confused in the so-recent era of relativism was a failure to understand the true definition of freedom. Freedom does not teach that all viewpoints are equally valid. Freedom teaches that all viewpoints have the equal right to be freely and peacefully expressed.

Christianity provides a basis for this kind of an approach to freedom. We believe that the mind, heart, and soul are the province of God and the individual, not the government.

Freedom for all is a core value of our faith and our nation. Let’s vigorously defend it lest we lose that for ourselves and our neighbors.

Michael Farris is the president, CEO, and general counsel for Alliance Defending Freedom.

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