Situational Ethics

Every nation has key dates that are significant in the development of a national identity.  In America July 4, 1776, is immediately associated with the Declaration of Independence.  But if one references August 17, 1998, few if any can call to mind the significance of that date.  Many of us over fifty can clearly remember the day that President Clinton publicly admitted to his affair.  While an embarrassment for our nation, the real significance of the event was bringing to our vocabulary “Situational Ethics.”  The concept was used to explain how politicians could be excused for immoral behavior.  We were led to believe that they can be dishonest in their personal life, but honest in their political life. 

Situational Ethics is a concept first advanced in the 1960’s by Anglican theologian, Joseph Fletcher.  Initially used to explain how in extreme circumstances seemingly immoral behavior might be deemed acceptable.  Specifically, in Nazi concentration camps survival behavior might be deemed acceptable when during normal times it would be unacceptable.  But Fletcher advanced his theory to include many behaviors that are unacceptable within a healthy and moral society.

This became a watershed event for explaining all sorts of behaviors that are incongruent with our traditional value system.  Our collective consciousness has shifted so that any behavior can now be justified by circumstances.  Using this twisted logic abortion, infanticide, euthanasia, and eugenics are all viewed by the left as acceptable behaviors given exigent circumstances.  Any illegal or immoral behavior can now be explained away as a reaction to circumstances, with no right or wrong yardstick.

Joseph Fletcher died in 1991, and not surprisingly by then he had become an atheist.  The lesson here is that Situational Ethics is inconsistent with a healthy society, where the boundaries on behavior should be grounded in faith not humanism.  We only need to look at headlines to realize that allowing unconstrained behavior is destructive to our nation.

Saint Augustine noted:

“Right is right, even if no one is doing it.

Wrong is wrong, even if everyone is doing it.”

This was sound logic then, and still sound today.