In the 1960s an ordained Episcopal priest and Harvard Divinity School ethics professor named Joseph Fletcher (1905-1991) wrote a best selling book titled Situation Ethics. In his lectures and books, Fletcher (who later admitted he was an atheist) used a number of hypothetical moral dilemmas to advocate his view that ethics and morals are never absolute. He argued that morality depends on the factors in the immediate situation which a person or persons faces at that time. In many cases, he stated, it is actually right to act in ways that traditionally would be regarded as wrong, so long as it was motivated by love and the outcome was to accomplish a higher good. In other words, he advocated a form of “the end justifies the means” ethics.
Fletcher’s book and philosophy was heralded by many “open-minded” people. Even many liberal Christian clergy saw it as an enlightened approach to ethics in the modern era. Absolute moral standards, as taught in the Bible or any other source, were regarded, in most cases, as outmoded and unrealistic in the current era. It is fair to say that Fletcher’s approach became the dominant moral principle in the latter part of the 20th Century and is still the guiding concept for our secularized society today. It has especially become the standard for modern medical ethics.
How deeply this perspective has imbedded itself in the cultural mores of America is exemplified in recent video revelations about clinics affiliated with Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA). PPFA doctors and officials were caught on video callously dickering about the costs for body parts of aborted fetuses and explaining how they illegally manipulate late-term abortion techniques in order to salvage valuable organs. One video even shows the doctors teaching a sickened new technician how to carefully preserve body parts for sale to laboratories.
This is, I am afraid to say, only the tip of the iceberg. So many people (but not all, thank God) in the medical professions have been indoctrinated with the kind of ethical principles championed by Fletcher and other promoters of relativistic morality. As a result, abortion has become for them a mundane medical procedure that is justifiable for just about any reason one can imagine. It has also become quite profitable for some providers.
As Christians how can we turn back the tide of this modern culture of death? I suggest several simple steps that each one of us can do to make an impact.
- Support and volunteer in Christian sponsored Crises Pregnancy Centers where young women are clearly told the truth about what abortion entails and what alternatives are available to them. A woman contemplating abortion should be fully informed about what they are considering. They should, for instance, be shown ultra-sound images of their unborn child before making the decision (something PPFA clinics do not do).
- Encourage your local officials and national congressional members to cease all government funding of organizations like PPFA (which reportedly receives $500 million a year in tax-payer funding from the federal government).
- Support and vote for political candidates who are strongly pro-life and will work toward eliminating the scourge of unlimited abortion in our country.
- Above all, pray that God will send a spiritual awakening to turn the tide of secularism and paganism that is engulfing our society. The only real solution is that a consensus of Americans embrace biblically based moral principles. We must reject the malevolent relativistic and secular approaches like those promoted in Joseph Fletcher’s Situation Ethics.