Life isn’t all fun and games. But it can be fun, and games are a part of it. And that’s been so for a long time. The history of games dates back thousands of years, which should come as no surprise. With no radio, television, movie theatres, drive-ins, dance halls, and certainly no computers, people needed to come up with something for grins.
We’re all familiar with children’s games. One of the best known and most played is Simon Says. Players stand in line and do what their leader, someone called Simon, directs them to do. Simple enough, but here’s the catch: if a player performs a command not prefaced with the words “Simon Says,” he’s out. And if he doesn’t perform a command when Simon says those magic words, he’s out. It’s no wonder everyone wants to be Simon. He’s got power. Under different titles, the game is played all over the world. There is no shortage of kids wanting to call the shots.
And no shortage of adults wanting to do the same. Torchlight singer Tony Bennett has spent his career singing, “If I ruled the world, every day would be the first day of spring.” It’s a lovely sentiment, but in Chicago the average temperature on March 21 ranges from 35-47º F. Not exactly swimsuit weather. Who’d want a daily dose of that? Besides, there’s a whole another issue: who made Tony Bennett king?
Deep down, most of us would love to rule the world — rule it for the good, of course —but rule it all the same. It’s part of our nature to want control. We want to choose our companions, our paths, and our destinies. We want to have Simon’s say so. By itself, that’s not a bad thing. After all, we are born to be free, and it’s natural to want to exercise that freedom.
But it’s also in our nature to want too much control, to exercise powers that don’t rightly belong to us. Out on the campaign trail, Hillary Clinton has been talking about women’s autonomy — the freedom from external control or influence. She says that the right to abortion “goes to the heart of women’s autonomy and independence and rights. It is critical to who we are and who we can be, so we must defend it.” She’s saying that a woman can’t be truly free unless she can kill another human being — her own child. She’s saying that a woman can’t even be fully a woman unless she can kill her child. Campaigning for her mother, Chelsea Clinton claims that a woman’s right to choose abortion “is at the core of our human rights and what should be equity in our country.” To her, killing an unborn baby is more than a right read into the Constitution about 40 years ago. It is a right inherent in human existence, in the mere fact that we are alive. How did we ever get so far lost?
The answer lies in something Hillary Clinton recently said. Quoting John Wesley’s call to “Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as you ever can,” Clinton added her own thought: “That’s a tall order, and of course, one of the interpretive problems with it is, who defines good?”
That problem goes by a name: moral relativism. Our culture has adopted a standard by which there are no absolute standards when it comes to critical issues like life. Moral relativism claims that we must be accepting of each other’s notion of good. For Clinton and her daughter, autonomy is good, so it doesn’t matter that babies are killed. For Cecile Richards, and other abortionists, making money is good, even at the expense of unborn lives. For politicians, getting elected is good, regardless of whether the unborn and women die. For many people, sexual license is good, no matter how many unborn are lost in the process.
The problem with a no-standard standard is just that: without an absolute standard, how do we protect the others from a person’s exercise of his “good?” Hillary wants sexual autonomy, and Chelsea wants equity. Okay, do men also get both? So is infidelity acceptable? What about sex with a minor? How about rape? Isn’t it all about controlling one’s body — just like abortion? How about putting an end to male responsibility? In Sweden, a men’s group wants the right to cut off parental obligations on or before an unborn baby’s 18th week. And what about male-mandated abortion? That sounds “good,” really good, to lots of guys.
Some claim that the abortion issue is unique to women and so, for their own “good,” they have the right to decide whether an unborn baby is a human. Of course, science has answered that question, but moral relativism doesn’t deal in science. It deals in power. The so-called right to define humanity is all about the power to do so. And abortion is nothing if it’s not about power. That’s what makes moral relativism, and legal abortion, ultimately so scary. If a woman can define humanity, why can’t a man or another woman? Why can’t someone say that none of us are human until we reach a certain marker in life? Or are not human if we belong to a certain religion? Why can’t someone in power lock up those people not to his liking, and even legally kill them? As was true with legal abortion, laws can be changed, and with no absolutes, anything goes. Can’t happen? It already has. It’s just a question of when it will recur.
So who says what is good? The One Who is all Good. The One Who understands our weaknesses and so gives us moral absolutes. They are like a map for a hiker or a warning label on a bottle of prescription medicine. If followed, absolute standards protect us from harms. They allow us to not merely co-exist, but to live in harmony.
No culture in history has ever survived moral relativism. We need to remember that this election year. We’re electing not only a president but also a way of life. At some point down the road, it will affect our survival. This election is a lot more important than we think.
Paul V. Esposito is a Catholic lawyer who writes on a variety of pro-life topics. He and his wife Kathy live in Elmhurst, Illinois and have six children.