The fight against moral ambivalence

The dictionary defines ambivalence as "a feeling of uncertainty about something due to a mental conflict." That pretty well describes what we are seeing in the West today, where so many people seem incapable of condemning morally reprehensible behavior.

For example, I switched on the Fox news channel the other day and saw Sean Hannity ask a Catholic priest to comment on the jihadists in the Gaza-bound flotilla who attacked Israeli soldiers with steel clubs, knives, and handguns. In response, the priest referred to a morally ambiguous statement by the Catholic Church generically decrying all forms of violence in the Middle East. Hannity, who is a decent man with a lively conscience, looked at the priest a little disapprovingly and said: But Father, what about moral clarity? Don't we need to have some moral clarity on this issue?

Now, I don't pretend to be a psychologist who has studied non-verbal communications for a living, but neither am I blind. When Hannity asked the priest to step up to a position of moral clarity, it was as if someone dropped a handful of stinging ants down the man's cassock. His body fidgeted, his face contorted, and he looked as guilty as a kid caught with his hand in the cookie jar. He was obviously ambivalent - feeling uncertain due to a mental conflict about a moral question.

These days, we have all become familiar with the phrase "moral equivalency," which describes the mental acrobatics people use to avoid dealing honestly with moral issues. But what is it that drives people to engage in those acrobatics? Is it that they have forgotten the difference between right and wrong? Or is there some other influence at work in the West that subverts people's understanding?

I, for one, do not believe that people have forgotten the difference between right and wrong. What they have done, I think, is to slip into the vice of moral ambivalence. And they have done that on account of fear. People are afraid not to be liked and accepted. They are afraid to lose their jobs and possessions. They are afraid to take a stand against a mainstream meme that demands multicultural sensitivity and political correctness at the expense of moral integrity. They are afraid in thousands of ways. But, at bottom, what they are afraid to do is answer the call of conscience.

As Hannity's show revealed, there are consequences when we abdicate our conscience. Imagine how the priest felt when he was exposed on national television as a moral coward by a conscientious Catholic? His contorted body was the physical analog of his mental conflict about a moral issue his conscience refuses to be ambivalent about. When he abandoned his conscience in order to tow the party line, he created an internal feeling of uncertainty about who he is and what he stands for. His physical discomfort testified more eloquently than words ever could about the consequences of a violated conscience.

We in the West are now in a struggle with forces trying to strangle our conscience to death. Whether it's cultural Marxism, the progressive movement, or world socialism - wherever you look you will find forces that want people to see right in wrong and good in bad because they know it is easier to control people when they are morally confused. If we succumb to the vice of moral ambivalence, we will give those forces the upper hand in a game where the stakes are nothing less than our own freedom. If we intend to remain a free people, we must refuse to abdicate our conscience to the forces of moral confusion.