Cal Thomas: What Happened to Boundaries?


Every sport has its boundaries. Rules for playing the game may occasionally change, but the boundaries remain.

In baseball, a ball hit outside the foul line is out of play. In football, a catch made outside the sidelines is ruled incomplete. All games must be played within boundaries. No one would think of erasing them. If they did, how could they ever expect an orderly contest?

Boundaries are rapidly being erased in American culture. It seems everything has been sacrificed to opinion polls, campaign contributions from certain advocacy groups and editorial support from major newspapers.

House passage of a bill disingenuously dubbed the “Equality Act,” which, according to the Human Rights Campaign, “would provide consistent and explicit anti-discrimination protections for LGBTQ people across key areas of life, including employment, housing, credit, education, public spaces and services, federally funded programs, and jury service,” targets what few boundaries remain about human behavior.

Passage in the Senate is less certain as 60 votes are required, but the fact the bill is a favorite among most Democrats should tell us something about that party and the cultural direction of the country.

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Conservatives eschew liberalism in all its forms. Most cite a deep-rooted connection to their Christian faith. Some of these conservatives believe that granting special rights for what they regard as chosen behavior means there will be no stopping claims from other groups demanding similar federal protections.

Polygamist groups, for example, demand their “rights.” Why not? Who is to say “no” and based on what? Just as liberal judges often make new laws from the bench, we are watering down, or eliminating, cultural laws and mores at warp speed.

What are the consequences to a society that embraces an “anything goes” mentality? Who among us wants to publicly oppose anything for fear of being labeled a bigot? The standard for what is acceptable and what is not is now subjectively determined.

Polygamist groups began campaigning for the legalization of their relationships soon after the Supreme Court narrowly approved same-sex marriage in 2015 (the vote was 5-4). Who will say, “no, this is too far”?

On what would such an assertion be based? The Constitution? The Bible?

Not likely when both sources of law and faith-based teaching have been diluted to the point of being unrecognizable in much of modern and increasingly secular America. Both are now simply ignored or considered open to individual interpretation.

In his classic book, “Mere Christianity,” C.S. Lewis writes about moral claims people make on one another. He notes they often say you should or should not do such and such, or you ought to say or not say certain things. In this, he says, they are appealing to a standard outside of themselves.

Here is how Lewis puts it: “Now what interests me about all of these remarks is that the man who makes them is not merely saying that the other man’s behavior does not happen to please him. He is appealing to some kind of standard of behavior which he expects the other man to know about.”

Today’s “other man” may know about such standards, but he is likely afraid to speak of them lest he be ostracized from what used to be called polite society.

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So, please, tell me if you can: Do any standards exist, and if they do, based on what? If you believe they don’t, on what is this belief based?

Denying a standard is in itself a standard, is it not?


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Cal Thomas is one of the most widely syndicated political columnists in America. He is the author most recently of "America's Expiration Date: The Fall of Empires and Superpowers ... and the Future of the United States" (Zondervan, 2020).