This past Saturday I spoke about the three moral standards at work in humans. The individualist moral standard says the highest moral good is to look out for the best interests of the individual, to help the person achieve his or her goals, and to give them the freedom to live as they desire, as long as no other individual is harmed.
The individualist moral standard is the common standard in Europe, North America, Australia, New Zealand, some parts of Asia and some parts of South America. It is the most common moral standard of developed nations.
The tribalist moral standard says the highest moral good of any culture is the protection of the tribe. The needs of the individual are subservient to the needs of the tribe. This is the major moral standard in Africa, parts of Asia, South America and Central America.
The deist moral standard says that the highest moral good is to obey the laws prescribed by the gods. The deist moral standard has no geographical focus, but is endemic to all fundamentalist religions. (More liberal religions usually operate from a combination of the three moral standards.)
Within the United States, the individualist moral standard has been the prevalent standard since the birth of our nation. It even found its way into our founding documents. Every individual has the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. This is still the primary moral standard of most non-religious Americans, and Americans who are a part of more liberal religious traditions. It is also the preferred moral standard of those who are white, well educated, individualistic, relatively wealthy, and democratic.
Within the United States, however, there is a second group, large and increasingly influential, who prefer a combined tribaland religiousmoral standard. This group includes evangelical Protestants, conservative Roman Catholics, fundamentalist Muslims, and conservative Jews. If you remove the religious moral standard from the equation, it also includes conservative nationalists.
That group is also white, but less formally educated, less individualistic, not as financially healthy, and not as democratic. They are open to more vertical power structures, such as trusting the leadership of a church or a political party to make decisions on their behalf.
Today, the United States is locked in a battle between those who subscribe to the individualist moral standard and those who subscribe to the tribal and religious moral standards. Since the Moral Majority movement began in the 1980s, the second group has been gaining ground while the first group has seen their power diminished.
What I did not make clear in the message on Saturday, but will further explore in our message on "Conservative or Liberal here," is the reality that many of us at Left Hand Church embrace parts of all of three moral standards. While it is clear from our stance on LGBTQ issues that we strongly support individual rights, we also value tribal and religious moralities. How we navigate between those three areas will be critically important as we grow together as a congregation. The challenges are clear, but the opportunities are great.
This coming weekend, Jen will continue our sermon series with "Married, Divorced or Single here..." On September 22, Aaron and I tackle "Conservative or Liberal here..." We look forward to seeing you.