Posted by PintofStout on November 27, 2006
There is a passage in the Bible that states, in essence, that god would rather have someone for him or against him – hot or cold, disliking those in the middle – the lukewarm. As in politics (remember “you’re either with us or you’re against us?”), the authors of this Christian policy (even god has speech writers) are creating a false dichotomy in order to make the alternative to the author’s preference unthinkable and the middle ground non-existent, leaving the author’s preferred action or principle the only apparent choice. The world is not black and white. There is seldom a definitive right and wrong. But there is consistency and inconsistency.
What I consider to be lukewarm would entail an inconsistent or selective application of principles. For instance, if a person were to profess to stand against the practice of mutilating the female sex organ in a child, yet with a slight variation in the object of the mutilation, say to a male sex organ, the person’s position changes to one of acceptance based on tradition or common practice or whatever (does it really matter why?). In Christianity I would interpret the meaning of lukewarm to be very similar to what I just wrote, namely professing one thing and acting differently. It could also be professing and acting in one situation and in different circumstances acting in a way viewed as being opposed to the general behavior previously espoused.
Without making general objective statements of right and wrong, if a preceding action is said to determine one’s morality, subsequent actions that don’t agree with that action can be said to be immoral. Even if a person’s most recent action is said to set one’s morality, then the previous actions can be labeled immoral. Considering if morals are ultimately subjectively established by an individual, it is still possible to act immorally via inconsistency.
Morality is a guide to action in a person’s life. Without a belief system or a morality, what basis is one to make decisions about which actions to take? Applying morality to simple and easy situations is practice for more difficult situations when guidance is needed. Consistent action based in a single moral value can be more easily deciphered by people who interact with that person, too. Whether the two people’s moral values are similar or compatible determines the nature of the relationship and is essentially a time-saving device. Inconsistencies can keep people away from facilitating a relationship and make one’s life lonely and harder than it has to be.
I am making an argument for consistency in moral values (remember these are individually subjective) or base principles, but I am not advocating concrete and unalterable principles. When morals or principles change, it should be incremental and not constitute a 180 degree shift. This basically means when a change is made to a persons morality or base principles, which happens incrementally nearly every time we encounter another person, they are moving into the lukewarm center of a false dichotomy. Unless Jesus appears to Saul on the road to Damascus or Murray Rothbard appears to GW on the road to Camp David, change will not come in great leaps. Unlike untethered inconsistency, small and even larger changes to one’s moral principles usually go in the same direction and progress from one outlook to another, rarely backtracking or repeating old discarded principles.
In order to realize, act upon, and develop one’s personal morality, it requires constant self-examination and difficult unbiased honesty with one’s self to analyze their thoughts and actions and to put them in context. The benefits of doing this are a clearer sense of purpose and the peace and happiness that comes with aligning one’s beliefs and one’s actions. It also allows for the observation of others’ beliefs (based upon their actions), comparison with one’s own, and working together within the compatible aspects of each for mutual beneficial results. Contrarily, if someone espouses one thing and does something else or acts inconsistently, it is much harder to determine what relationships will be beneficial. Not knowing one’s own moral values through self-examination makes finding compatibilities much, much harder.