Last week, the Deseret News released its annual survey on the role of the Ten Commandments in today’s world. In the fifth annual “Ten Today Project,” the national poll focused on how Americans view lying. As moral relativism continues to spread and situational ethics become embedded in business and government organizations, the old adage “honesty is the best policy” is viewed as quaint instead of critical. Sadly, this leads to a society where questions of right and wrong are replaced with an obsession to merely align with those who are on your side of an issue.
The Deseret News survey of more than 1,000 Americans showed that 55 percent of Republicans would be willing to vote for a presidential candidate who “lied to cover up the truth.” This number represented a 12 percent increase from a similar question asked in 2015 by Fox News. While the number willing to vote for a candidate who was not honest was lower among Democrats and Independents, most political scientists saw this more as a reflection of the current political climate and not a difference of moral commitment.
It would seem “Dennis Rodman relativism” is alive and well. Rodman was the renegade basketball player who was an integral part of the Detroit Pistons’ “Bad Boys” era.
With the exception of the Pistons faithful, many opposing players and spectators around the league detested Rodman, and no team loathed him more than the rival Chicago Bulls. That was until he became their Dennis Rodman. The Bulls acquired Rodman to help them win championships. While they still didn’t love his attitude, style and off-court behavior, they were willing to look past it all knowing he would deliver rebounds, points, disruptive defense and more wins for the Bulls.
In similar examples from the political front, many liberal women’s groups were willing to look past Bill Clinton’s behavior toward women in the 1990s because he supported their position regarding abortion. Likewise, many religious organizations have given Donald Trump a behavioral hall pass because they like the conservative judges he is appointing to the bench. Both sides have tied themselves into Gordian knots justifying behavior they profess to oppose.
This type of justification has increased significantly over the past several years. As scandals emerge from lapses in honesty, integrity and morality, both sides seem to be saying, “Yes, this person is a monster, but they are our monster and we need their vote.”
When this kind of tribalism manifest in America’s politics begins to erode the bedrock of American honesty and integrity, the nation’s foundation shifts to unsettled ground. Voting for an elected official is not the same as choosing a pastor or priest. However, Americans should recognize that choosing moral relativism and situational ethics in elected officials actually says more about the collective “we the people” than it does about those voted into office. If citizens are willing to accept lying or lapses in integrity in public officials, it is a short hop to accepting it in any situation.
Americans should expect more honesty and integrity in themselves, in their communities and especially in those elected to lead the country. From the stone tablets Moses brought down from Sinai to the technological computer tablets of the 21st century — the Ten Commandments still matter and should have a place in society today.