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FIRST-PERSON: Right & wrong: illusion or reality

RICHMOND, Va. (BP)–When Linda Franklin was shot and killed outside a Home Depot store near Falls Church, Va., in October 2002, her accused murderer, Lee Boyd Malvo, suffered from a mental disorder in which he believed right and wrong are “an illusion.”

At least that’s what a psychology professor from the University of Virginia said Dec. 8 during Malvo’s trial for one of 10 deaths in last fall’s sniper shootings in and around Washington, D.C.

If a mental disorder is what leads people to believe that right and wrong are an illusion, Malvo has a LOT of company.

According to one researcher, 64 percent of all adults in America say truth is merely personal opinion; the number rises to 83 percent among teenagers. And this in a country in which 80 percent of the people identify themselves as Christians and 41 percent say they are born-again Christians!

Most Americans today grew up in a culture that told them no one can prove what is true in religion and morals. Every person supposedly decides for himself what is right and wrong when it comes to such “personal” and “private” matters. My generation was told, “If it feels good, do it.” Today’s generation is being told, “Obey your thirst.”

It would be sad enough if that problem only existed among unbelievers. No one should expect them to want anything other than what their lusts dictate. But in fact many Christians are part of the problem as well.

We can tell unbelievers what God says is right and wrong, but we have a difficult time with what to say when they tell us religion and morals are just matters of personal belief. Most of us actually agree. “You can’t prove God and Jesus,” we say. “You just have to take it on faith.”

One of the reasons many Christians aren’t “salt and light” in lost society is that they think just like lost society thinks. Another recent survey found that only 9 percent of born-again Christians have a worldview that reflects the eternal truth of God’s Word.

Our world, many Christians included, thinks right and wrong is either decided by each person for himself or by majority vote. But if right and wrong is a matter of majority vote, we’ll have to change our moral code every time the polls come out in favor of a new perversity or oppression. And if right and wrong is personal opinion, we’ll have to quit punishing people who disagree — people like Malvo and his accomplice, John Allen Muhammad.

Almost no one believes you can prove what is true when it comes to religion and morals. That’s why, when Christians talk about absolute truth, people look at us like we’re little green men from Mars. If Malvo’s psychologist is right, our whole society is crazy.

The fact is, if you can’t prove what is true in religion and morals, there’s no hope of creating a just, free society. If right and wrong are only an “illusion” or mere personal opinion, we have nothing to look forward to but increasing chaos as more and more people decide there’s no reason to deny themselves when others are doing whatever they want.

I want you to help me with an informal poll. The question is “How can people know what is true in religion and morals?” If Christians can’t answer that one question in a way that even unbelievers can accept, what will keep our world from continuing its steady slide into chaos?

Send your reply, in 350 words or less, to [email protected]. We’ll look at your ideas in a future column and see if anyone can offer an answer that works.
Mark Kelly is a writer and teacher who lives in Richmond, Va. His new book, “Proof Beyond Reasonable Doubt: The end of Christian apologetics,” is due out in January.

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  • Mark Kelly