Even with all of our modern devotion to moral relativism, people still know virtue—and vice—when they see it.
Chuck Colson liked to quote Karl Barth’s observation that Christians should do theology with the Bible in one hand and the newspaper in the other.
Now I’m not sure what Chuck would have thought of podcasts, but Barth’s quote came to mind while listening to a recent episode of the Tony Kornheiser Show.
In the final segment, Kornheiser and his guests talked about two stories in the news. The first was an article in the Washington Post about Tim Tebow playing in baseball’s Single-A minor league after his stint in sports limelight.
Tebow was a Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback at the University of Florida. And while his NFL career wasn’t nearly as successful, he still had great moments.
But what has long set Tebow apart, of course, is his Christian faith. It’s drawn millions of people to love him. It’s also why he has been the object of what George Weigel called “irrational hatred,” despite his many charitable efforts and the fact that he doesn’t force his faith on anyone.
Recently, the Post’s Barry Svrluga spent a day in Hagerstown, Maryland, watching Tebow in action. And he admitted that his initial skepticism (maybe even cynicism) quickly changed when he saw Tebow interact with fans, some of whom had driven hundreds of miles to see him. He talked about Tebow’s “prom experience for kids with special needs” called “Night to Shine.”
Svrluga had this to say to those who are cynical or dismissive about Tebow’s decision to now play minor league baseball and to question his motives: Before you form your opinion about Tim Tebow, “Talk to the people who made the pilgrimage here,” he said, “and look at the smiles in right field in the early evening.”
Everyone on the show agreed. Kornheiser, who’s Jewish, even joked that if he had spent a few more minutes with Tebow he might have ended up converting. He and his guests could not say enough good things about Tim Tebow.
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Then the conversation turned to a very different subject: Harvard’s rescinding of at least ten offers of admission to members of its incoming freshman class. Harvard took this highly unusual step because of a Facebook group created by members of that class.
Their posts contained “offensive jokes about school shootings, the Holocaust, [sexual perversion] and the death of children and minorities.” And these are just the ones we can mention on this commentary.
All the guests on the Kornheiser show agreed—and so do I: Harvard did the right thing.
But it’s the juxtaposition of the Harvard story with Tebow that brought to mind what C.S. Lewis said in “The Abolition of Man”: “We make men without chests and expect of them virtue and enterprise. We laugh at honor and are shocked to find traitors in our midst. We castrate and bid the geldings be fruitful.”
The kids on that Facebook group represent the pinnacle of American educational achievement: They got into Harvard. Their problem is not a lack of “digital literacy” as the New York Times suggested. It’s a lack of any governing sense of right and wrong, what Lewis called the chest. The problem isn’t that they lacked discretion; it’s that they lacked decency.
But we know that no one will ever say that about Tim Tebow. Listening to the Tony Kornheiser podcast it’s clear that for all the cultural devotion to moral relativism these days, people still know virtue when they see it. The Bible calls this the law written on our hearts, and it underscores to Christians who think that all is lost—it’s not. God’s world is still deeply embedded with God’s moral laws. And a life well-lived still stands out.
Now sometimes the reaction will be admiration and sometimes it will be scorn, even mockery. But that doesn’t change the fact that the difference between virtue and vice is unmistakable, no matter how much our culture wants to deny it.