Stumbling over relativism

This weekend, Fidel Castro, Cuba’s longtime dictator, died at the age of 90. And with his death came a stream of messages from world leaders, some expressing the loss of a friend to their nation (Russia, China), others prefaced their positive comments by referring to him as a “controversial” figure.

One of the most nonsensical examples came from Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada, who called him a remarkable leader and a man loved by the Cuban people.[1. Except the ones celebrating in Miami. And all those who chose to swim through shark infested waters to escape the country.] The statement inspired a delightfully hilarious hashtag and even encouraged Mclean’s magazine (the Canadian equivalent of Time) to say, “Seriously, bro?”

Trudeau did not do himself any favors politically with this statement, without a doubt. But he did help remind me, as a Christian, of the bankruptcy of relativism as a worldview. It’s a worldview that demands everything be shades of gray. It eschews black and white—the idea that any action or word can be definitively right or wrong is, simply, wrong.[2. See what I did there?] So what’s wrong for you might not be wrong for me, but might be appropriate given my cultural background and context.

This is what Trudeau illustrated in his statements. Castro was a family friend, a pallbearer at his father’s funeral—an experience entirely removed from any of the man’s actions as leader of Cuba. His take reflects that experience, which is why it is wildly different than that of the average person (or, for that matter, many Cubans who lived under his regime).

But the response is what surprised me, and actually gave me a little hope. It reminded me that, even in our darker days, human beings are still image-bearers of God. Despite our repression and rejection of the truth about God, despite many of us holding to some form of relativism as a worldview, when we’re confronted with it as we were in this weekend, we can’t help but balk. In this case, it was to say, “No, the man wasn’t simply controversial; he was a perpetrator of great evil.”

And in doing so, we reject practically that which we profess to believe philosophically. We can’t help doing this. God hasn’t made us as people capable of living exclusively in shades of gray. He made us moral creatures. He hardwired us to recognize right and wrong and to know the ultimate source of truth.

And so this brings me back to my little bit of hope. My hope is that as we continue to see the purveyors of these worldviews trip over themselves, people will grow more and more disillusioned with them. They will see the Emperor has no clothes, as it were. I desperately want that to happen because, as Christians, we have what they need. Something better, fuller, and richer than the nothing relativism has to offer.

We can show them Jesus, the one who not only knows the truth but is the Truth.

Photo credit: cesarastudillo via photopin cc

Posted by Aaron Armstrong

Aaron is the author of several books for adults and children, as well as multiple documentaries and Bible studies. His latest book, I'm a Christian—Now What?: A Guide to Your New Life with Christ is available now.

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