The Relativity of Right & Wrong

You’ve heard it said that one man’s heaven is another man’s hell.

I think the same thing applies to right and wrong. Having grown up in fundamentalist Christian churches and school, I was exposed to lots of people who had a clearly defined sense of right and wrong. I also have many non-Christian friends, and their ideas of right and wrong are very different.

For example, the people I grew up with would be mortified at the thought of listening to “secular music,” having long hair (for guys), showing cleavage (for girls), going to see an R rated movie… and the list goes on. The basic things like not killing and stealing are universally accepted. But it’s all that other stuff that seems to be gray area.

I think that people’s sense of right and wrong sometimes get magnified in certain areas that they personally struggle with. For example, someone who can’t stop thinking about women might decide that all women should wear burkas. Oh wait – that IS what happens in Muslim countries. But also it happens here in America. Not the burka thing… but forcing women to dress a certain way so that we men won’t have dirty thoughts. That’s a very normal fundamentalist Christian thing to have as a standard. And even the Bible debunks this idea – “All these rules do not restrain sexual immorality…” In other words, making up a bunch of arbitrary rules will not stop people from thinking whatever they want.

But I would contend that it’s the man’s responsibility not to be a cretin, not the woman’s responsibility to make herself unattractive. Don’t you agree?

I recently posted some new photos on Facebook in my Barrett Graphics album. There wasn’t anything nude or lingerie… just sexy. They were pictures of an attractive young lady in sexy outfits. I immediately got a frenzy of emails from several of my fundamentalist friends asking me to remove them.

Out of respect, I did remove them. I can understand that Facebook is a very public forum where people of all types hang out. But that got me thinking…. why do I have to? These photos, although sexy, were not inappropriate in my opinion. The model was perfectly comfortable showing the photos to her friends and family. I was and still am very proud of the quality of the photography, which was what I was trying to show off.

Thus I’m left wondering why several people were offended by the photos I posted. Is this back to that “higher standard” crap that I hate so much? Do I have a duty to make sure nothing I do offends anyone? Or even more importantly, if someone looks at a photo I take and they decide to lust, does that mean the photo is inappropriate?

I would contend that people can lust over just about anything. Like a Sears catalog for instance. Shouldn’t the standard be “does this make ME lust”? (I’m making the assumption that we all agree lust is wrong – you know – one of the 7 deadly sins.) Or is taking that position abdicating to moral relativism, which I also detest?

There’s a verse in the Bible that is often quoted in fundamentalist circles: “Therefore let us not judge one another anymore, but rather resolve this, not to put a stumbling block or a cause to fall in our brother’s way.” – Romans 14:13

This verse was used to justify a laundry list of rules that aren’t in the Bible. Don’t drink, because you might lead an alcoholic to fall off the wagon by your example. Don’t hold hands with a girl in public, because people will assume you’re having sex and they will have sex too. Don’t wear a short skirt, because you might cause a perv to lust over you. Etc. Etc. Etc.

Is this actually what the Bible means or are we just using it as an excuse to be legalistic? I think that what the verse REALLY means is: DON’T TAKE YOUR ALCOHOLIC FRIEND TO THE BAR AND DON’T TAKE YOUR PERVY FRIEND TO HOOTERS.

Gluttony is also a sin, but you don’t hear many people talking about that one in church. That’s because we love our potlucks and picnics just a little too much. That’s one sin we Christians just aren’t willing to give up.

So here’s my conclusion. I won’t live my life trying not to offend people. People will always find a reason to be offended. I will let my conscience be my guide because my conscience is just as good as anyone else’s. Starting next week, assuming I have time to edit it this weekend, my photography website will contain PG images.

Commence to being offended. (By which I mean, admire my talent as a photographer, for Incredipete’s sake!)

  4 comments for “The Relativity of Right & Wrong

  1. July 4, 2009 at 6:20 am

    “Do I have a duty to make sure nothing I do offends anyone?”

    Well, I believe we all have an obligation to be good, respectful people to one another, Christian or not. But nothing that can offend anyone? That’s tricky. The big question is: What’s offensive? Something offensive to you may not be offensive to me. This is generally true for everyone. We can go out of our way to avoid offending others but that’s a fool’s errand. Someone will always get offended, somehow, someway. It just happens. Oh well. Nobody’s perfect.

    “Or even more importantly, if someone looks at a photo I take and they decide to lust, does that mean the photo is inappropriate?”

    Now, THIS is something that strikes a chord in me.

    I wasn’t a Christian for most of my life until 2004. When I accepted Christ, I didn’t become 100% pure. I simply took a major course correction in my life in aspiration to become that 100% pure. There’s a difference.

    Over the years, a number of my friends have ridiculed me for my ‘heathen’ thinking and behavior, as if they are above that (and me). They didn’t like the fact I poked fun at religion, God, JC, the Devil, Christians, etc. It “offended” them. How interesting. Because I remember them laughing when I made my jokes. They also weren’t thrilled about my ability to go get a coffee with a woman or be in the same room with a woman (regardless if she was good-looking or not) and not want to jump her bones. How ridiculous of them to think we’re compelled to do so simply because we’re members of opposite sexes. This is narrow-minded, prudish thinking. I know my limits and I know when to say ‘quit.’ That doesn’t mean I’m immoral. And yet, every time I defended myself, they were “offended.”

    One thing was common between all of the friends who criticized things they didn’t like about me: They felt the need to moralize because it makes them feel better about themselves (more confident, more secure, etc). I can understand pointing something out to a friend because one feels compelled to help but it’s entirely a different matter to put that friend on trial for alleged heinous crimes. They were likely thinking those distasteful acts were apart from them, as if they could never feel or express things like that themselves. The one thing Christian moralizers seem to forget is: We are ALL sinners and we ALL fall short of the glory of God, not just someone else or ‘those people’ but ALL.

    If you can handle taking and looking at a photo of a *fully clothed* woman without thinking lustful thoughts, then that’s great. If others can’t do it, that’s on them. It’s a shortcoming of THEIRS, not yours, and yet they’ll go out of their way to make you change it instead of changing it in themselves. It’s not like you had nude photos of women posted all over the place. But, to them, it might as well been that. That’s what called *prudish behavior* and hiding behind ‘Christian values’ or ‘Christian teachings’ is really weak. It shows they have no real argument or valid problem and so they have to use religion as a weapon to change another person’s ways. This has less to do with Christ and the Good Book and more to do with the person’s lack of self-control. They shouldn’t be so disingenuous as to cloud the issue with such nonsense.

    “I won’t live my life trying not to offend people. People will always find a reason to be offended.”

    Exactly! Don’t ever change that belief because it rings true.

  2. July 4, 2009 at 12:30 pm

    Next time you put photos up simply leave those friends out of the loop. Or ask them (politely) to simply not visit that particular photo album. Sheesh!

  3. July 4, 2009 at 2:57 pm

    MY photos + MY website = MY artwork. You’re offended = YOUR problem. Your solution = don’t look at MY photos. xoxo

  4. July 5, 2009 at 1:32 pm

    Ugh. At the risk of sounding like an ass, I HATE THOSE PEOPLE. Their own judgments and/or lack of self-control shouldn’t have an effect on what others can see/hear/read/do. If they don’t like it, they don’t have to be a part of it. End of story.

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