Monday, December 17, 2018


Weekly Opinion Editorial
by Steve Fair

     Situational ethics takes into account the context of an act rather than judging the act based on absolute moral standards.  It has been around since the Garden of Eden when the serpent told Eve that God didn’t really mean for her to not eat of the forbidden fruit.  

     Joseph Fletcher, a Harvard professor of theology, is credited with coining the phrase- situational ethics- when he wrote his 1966 book by the same title.  Fletcher was an avowed humanist, a onetime ordained Episcopal priest and later in life an atheist.   "We ought to love people and use things; the essence of immorality is to love things and use people," Fletcher said.  A passionate advocate for abortion, infanticide, eugenics, cloning and euthanasia, Fletcher claimed situational ethics was based on ‘love thy neighbor,’ taught by Jesus.  He said all decision-making should be based on circumstances of a situation and not upon a fixed truth or law.  In Fletcher’s world, so long as love was the motive, then the end justified the means. 

     There are two fundamental categories of situational ethicists. There is the atheist, those who totally reject the Scriptures as having any bearing on morality, and the religious, those who actually believe the Bible endorses situational ethics. 

     Situational ethics is practiced by every human being in varying degrees.   Everyone makes pragmatic choices or decisions of relative judgment in areas where truth is not completely clear to them at that time.  The problem is when they abandon truth for expediency.  When a person knows their actions are not right, but their circumstances or situation will be enhanced if they ignore the absolutes.  When they willingly violate their own convictions and conscience to further a goal, they are practicing situational ethics.  It is never right to do wrong.

     In politics, both Parties are experts in the practice of situational ethics.  Both are boringly predictable on their response to each other’s policies and personnel (Fox & MSNBC).  They generically criticize the other side, just because they are the other side.  Rarely is absolute truth considered, and love is never the motive.  So called principled people, on both sides, check their ethics at the door and support immoral, unprincipled people for office because they will further a political agenda.  Policy has become more important than principle. 

     A recent poll by the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI), a liberal polling group, asked the ‘leading’ question: “Do you think an elected official who commits an immoral act in their private life can still behave ethically and fulfill their duties in their public and professional life?”  The poll found 61% of Democrats and 70% of Republicans believe an elected official can be two-faced and still be ethical. Pragmatism/relativism is on the rise. 

     The logical end of situational ethics is anarchy; people doing what is right in their own eyes.  The Bible warns about that very thing.  Abraham Lincoln once said, "My concern is not whether God is on our side; my greatest concern is to be on God's side."  Sad to say, but not many want to be on God’s side these days because you might lose the election. 

No comments: