Philosophy

The Fruit of Relativism Is Naked Power

Author Amy K. Hall Published on 06/30/2015

More disturbing than the fact that a new definition of marriage is now the law of the land is the way in which this transformation was accomplished. The actions of the Court do not respect the Constitution as a document containing principles the justices are obliged to recognize and conform their decisions to. As evidence, see what Justice Kagan said in 2009 when asked, “Do you believe that there is a federal constitutional right to same-sex marriage?”

Answer: There is no federal constitutional right to same-sex marriage.

There was no constitutional right to same-sex marriage in 2009, but suddenly there is in 2015. How does this happen? The answer is found in the way the justices (and many in our culture) interact with texts. Decades of true-for-you-but-not-for-me relativism and language-and-reason-killing postmodernism have taken their toll. The words of the Constitution, rather than having an objective meaning that constrains the justices, are merely used by those justices to consecrate whatever they personally think is good for society. All one must do is say the words “Fourteenth Amendment,” attach them to a social reform, and voilà! A new right! In this case, the right to make the government change its definition of marriage to suit your preferences.

What would a method of governing driven by the personal opinions of those in power and unrestrained by objective laws mean for our society? Consider what Michael Novak wrote last year about what relativism invites:

If we do not agree that some things are [objectively] true and others false, that some actions are just and others unjust, then we doom ourselves to relativism, or even worse, nihilism. By that door, the thugs, those willing to use the most awful violence, enter the nation, set the rules, concentrate all power in their own hands, and rule with ruthlessness. And if we do not agree that the difference between truth and falsehood, and between justice and injustice, is to be decided by evidence (not the desires of the thugs) as to what is real and what is good—then we have no protections against tyranny and torture.

Proponents of relativism in the West are, therefore, playing with fire, since regimes built solely on relativism, without any possibility of appealing to evidence and fair judgment, dwell under the wild desires of stark, naked power. In the Kingdom of Relativism, where truth no longer exists and only power matters, the thugs most willing to use brute power move into positions of leadership, and the finer spirits, concerned about such niceties as evidence and argument, are driven first into exile, and eventually to prison. Against false imprisonment these cannot shout, “Injustice!” For to this claim the thugs reply, “That’s just your opinion.” And one cannot say, “These charges are false!” For there is no longer any such thing as “true” or “false.” It is now power, power alone, that speaks. [HT: Bethany Jenkins]

Any hint at rule by power instead of laws is a precedent that should disturb everyone. Do not think the people in power will always be on your side. When they eventually are not, how will you restrain them? How can you appeal to the Constitution if the Constitution is whatever those with power over you say it is? How can there be justice if the words of laws constrain no one who is in power? There is nothing solid and objective for us to appeal to against injustice when relativism reigns. Relativism kills argumentation and gives birth to taunting, ridicule, and power moves.

If you are celebrating the Supreme Court’s actions this week, take care. If relativism, not law, reigns, your rights are only as secure as your ability to keep your people in power.