Moral Relativism and Peace in the Middle East


In the movie, “Schindler’s List,” Amon Goeth, the commandant of the Nazi labor camp, took a young, Jewish girl to be his personal maidservant. At one point in the film, this girl had a private and very disturbing conversation with Oskar Schindler. With anxiety and fear in her voice she said to him, “I know that someday my master will shoot me.” Schindler, at first, couldn’t believe it, and he tried to assure her that the commandant was really quite fond of her. But she insisted, “No, someday he will shoot me.” She then spoke of what she had seen the previous day. She said that she had seen him walk out of his quarters, draw his gun and shoot a Jewish woman who was walking by with a bundle in her hand. She said, “Just a woman on her way somewhere. No fatter, or thinner, or slower, or faster than anyone else; and I couldn’t guess what she had done [to provoke him]. The more you see of the commandant, the more you see there are no set rules that you can live by. You can’t say to yourself, ‘If I follow these rules, I will be safe.’”
That girl was absolutely correct. In a world of moral confusion, there can be no safety, and consequently, no peace. She understood that in the “world” of that Nazi labor camp, right and wrong had been blurred to such an extent, that she couldn’t determine what was “right” in the mind of the commandant. What pleased him at one moment might not please him in the next. And if he happened to have a gun in his hand when he wasn’t pleased, she knew she could easily end up like the woman with the bundle in her hand.
In today’s world, most people say they want peace, do they not? And yet, many of them also want their moral relativism. That is to say, they want to be able to define right and wrong for themselves. But you cannot have both. It’s not — and it never can be — peace and moral relativism; it’s either peace or it is moral relativism.
Consider, for example, terrorism. Terrorism — which has been undermining efforts for peace in the Middle East and all over the world for decades now — is a practice rooted in moral relativism. The terrorist does not accept the objective, moral truth that the direct killing of innocent human beings is always wrong. In his moral relativism, he’s convinced himself that killing innocent men, women, and children is acceptable — and sometimes even virtuous.
Pope Benedict warned us many times of the dangers of moral relativism. As he once said, “[Relativism] ignores the very principles that enable us to live and flourish in unity, order and harmony.” The truth of his words has been tragically verified in Hamas’ barbaric attacks on Israel in recent weeks. Until the moral relativism of the participants on both sides of this ongoing conflict ceases to exist, the dream of a true and lasting peace in the Middle East will continue to be, sad to say, only a dream.