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“Evolving standards of decency” measure right and wrong


In a landmark decision the U.S. Supreme Court decided Wednesday that child rapists can't be executed. Laying aside the entire capital punishment debate, what was perhaps most disturbing about the decision was the basis given for the court's measure of right and wrong. An article by CNN reports:

Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote in the majority opinion that execution in this case would violate the Eighth Amendment's prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment, citing "evolving standards of decency" in the United States.

Although granting that the specific case in question was an abhorrent crime, in which Patrick Kennedy was convicted of sexually assaulting his 8-year-old stepdaughter and caused such internal injuries and bleeding that it afterward required extensive surgery, the majority opinion maintained that

"when determining what punishment the Eighth Amendment prohibits, 'evolving standards of decency that mark the progress of a maturing society' must be taken into account."

In light of the ever-escalating violent crimes, sexual crimes, and drug use in American society, isn't it more than just a little bit presumptuous to assume that our society is "maturing" and that our standards of decency are evolving in a good direction?

But the more important question is this: if right and wrong is to be measured by the "evolving standards" of our society, who is to say that Hitler was wrong when the evolving standards of his society mandated the slaughter of Jews, or that the small pockets of culture in the South were wrong when they publicly lynched black people?

How can we assume that we have somehow reached the apex of human morality in our day and age, in our country? How can we be sure that America's standards of decency will not devolve even further in the days to come?

When the Supreme Court adopts a postmodern mindset towards right and wrong, it is a troubling sign that objective good and objective evil have been abandoned for a majority-rules version of morality...which means we are more susceptible to a Holocaust than ever.

When a society abandons an objective standard of right and wrong, there is no obstacle left in the mudslide of national morality. Whatever the media convinces people is good must be good, whatever charismatic figure sways public opinion must be speaking truth -- even if his name is Adolf Hitler or Joseph Stalin.

This is why the Bible is such a boon to humanity. Because God's Word gives us objective and relevant and unchanging standards of right and wrong, we have an anchor that keeps us steady and stable in the midst of ever-changing waves of public opinion. Only by returning to this perfect and objective and higher measure of good and evil -- commemorated by the Ten Commandments hanging in their chambers -- will the U.S. Supreme court be enabled to make good and wise decisions for the country.