Morality's slippery slope: It's time to get back to basics

Posted: Friday, August 22, 2003

Nobody likes to hear someone say to them, "I told you so."

I think it ranks lower than getting to your "secret" fishing spot only to find it overrun with tourists.

As freely as I admit to this, I find myself wanting to step up on the soap box and say it.

The reason for this was prompted by an article that ran in the Anchorage Daily News on June 13, written by Hailey Heinz of the Perfect World staff, titled "Digital Pirates." The gist of the article was speaking about the outrage movie companies are feeling over the piracy of their material. Somehow even before movies are released, sneaky little computer hackers are downloading and viewing their movies for free and passing them along to countless legions of other like-minded geeks. This represents a huge loss to the movie industry and it galls them that they are being stolen from. It does me too. The irony of the situation galls me equally.

Throughout the article, these digital pirates are asked if they think what they are doing is wrong. Most of them think that it might be "a little wrong" but unless they get caught, it isn't really wrong.

I have to ask the question, where did these pirates develop their moral reasoning? How can they justify stealing?

Here's the "I told you so" part.

In a world that has adopted the moral philosophies that "there are no moral absolutes" and "everything is relative," this is the situation you get. The irony is that the very movie industry that is being ripped off is one of the biggest portrayers of the moral relativity we are struggling with today.

The movie industry assails values such as honesty, courtesy, chastity, responsibility, integrity, moderation and the like on a regular basis. It's odd that movies can depict and even glorify theft (does "Gone in 60 Seconds" ring a bell?) and say that it's OK to portray this kind of morality and then be outraged that someone is stealing from them.

What's the mystery? Have they never heard of cause and effect? It seems in their abandon to embrace moral relativity and condemn moral absolutes, they have planted the seeds of their own misery.

They willingly forget that when we say there is no God, therefore there are no moral absolutes, then your idea of what is right or wrong is no more valid than my idea of right and wrong. Everything is subject to "the way I feel." If it doesn't "feel wrong," it isn't wrong. A generation ago, Debbie Boone sang that message so loud and clear in her recording of "You Light Up My Life."

Let me recite the key phrase: "... it can't be wrong, when it feels so right. ..."

That's how digital pirates seem to feel about downloading movies they should pay for. That's how the chief executive officers of major corporations lie to their stockholders.

It's only wrong if you get caught, otherwise nobody is feeling bad enough to lose any sleep.

Don't roll your eyes too much, but I am going to suggest that the oldest, most familiar code of ethics and morality is still the best policy for everyone.

Remember those old Ten Command-ments? They still work. They are still absolute no matter if the culture has dismissed them as obsolete and outdated.

They still work even if the American Civil Liberties Union says we can't post them in the halls of our schools because they are too dangerous an idea to expose young people to.

For sake of brevity in this newspaper space, you can look them up for yourself in the Bible, just check the book of Exodus, chapter 20.

A review of their ageless wisdom would do us all good verse 15 for you pirates, especially.

There, I did it. I told you so. I think we will continue to pan the wisdom of the Ten Commandments and wrestle with the backwash of our moral relativity for a while yet. But sooner or later, we'll all including the movie industry find out we had it right in the beginning. Absolutely.

Stephen Brown is pastor of the New Life Assembly of God, 209 Princess St., Kenai



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