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The Absence of Shame

  • November 29, -0001
Our growing postmodern consensus is breeding the poison of tolerance into the moral life of our society. So toxic has the nation's moral bloodstream become with this doctrine that it is increasingly difficult for the nation's opinion-makers to render meaningful judgments on moral issues. Who are we, the logic goes, to look askance at the values and practices of others, who, because they have different backgrounds and live in different contexts than we, we must rather accept than judge?

We see this especially in the case of the Ft. Hood massacre. That Maj. Hasan had clear terrorist links and bents is indisputable. But few are the voices rising to condemn his actions as terrorism. Rather, Maj. Hasan is described as "confused," "disturbed," "fearful," and even suffering from "secondary post-traumatic stress disorder," a malady, we hasten to add, which does not even exist.

We saw it also in the case of Roman Polanski, whose capture in Switzerland and return to America was greeted with howls of disapproval by the cultural elite in Hollywood and New York. James Bowman, writing in The New Criterion (November 2009), finds the case of Mr. Polanski - among others - revealing as to the state of America's moral pathology. Mr. Bowman wonders what has become of the notion of shame - of roundly expressed, public disapproval and humiliation for acts so offensive to decency that they can only be described as wicked.

Shame these days is nobody's privilege. Those who do try to invoke it are hooted down and pilloried for their putative self-righteousness. Even in the Church shame hardly has a presence. We are so quick to forgive, excuse, explain, and move on beyond the failings of church leaders and the everyday sins of church members that shame is simply considered to be in poor taste.

But, as Mr. Bowman reminds us, "the absence in certain influential sectors of society, and increasingly in society as a whole, of any sense of shame the precursor to a denial that it is wicked at all."

When God confronted Adam and Eve after their fall into sin, He did not seek to assuage their sense of shame, or assure them that it was OK, after all, no more than what any red-blooded human might do, given the circumstances. No, God drove home the point of their shame, affirming and searing it into their souls, so that they would never forget it, and ever seek never to know it again.

When shame goes, decency goes, and moral relevance - which is to say, moral irrelevance - becomes the default morality of the society.

T. M. Moore

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