What are we saying when we call something “immoral”? If we attempt to play Taboo with immorality what do we get?
“Immorality” is a conflict word between Christians and non-Christians, and is one of the reasons why non-Christians think that Christians are intolerant.
When we say something is immoral, we are not just saying that we disagree with it. We are saying that it is the thing that should not be. If it were practical, everything that we would consider immoral would be punishable in some fashion; and this actually does happen to an extent. Lying is considered immoral. Normally, we don’t have statutes against lying, but in some contexts it is actually a crime to lie such as during a court trial.
On the other hand, there are plenty of things that we disagree with that no sane person would consider enacting legislation against. I disagree that Lost was a good show. However, I’m having a hard time thinking of some context where watching Lost should be a punishable offense. As a matter of fact, anyone who suggested that watching Lost should be a punishable offense would either be accused of hyperbole/joking… or being insane.
And that’s the rub. If you can’t think of any context where what you disagree with should be a punishable offense without descending into absurdity then you can’t claim that it is immoral. On the other hand, things that are immoral are things that a person hates that one would think it could be justifiable in some context to make illegal.
So back to playing taboo with “immoral”. Is there anything that we deem as immoral that we don’t also hate? Murder? Theft? Lying? Pedophilia? Rape? These are all things that most normal people hate and we consider it perfectly rational to have laws against doing them in some context.
Think about the Penn State scandal. Joe Paterno did everything required of him by law. Yet, he is being posthumously crucified by the media for a moral failing. People don’t get character assassinated due to simple disagreement. Something can only be considered immoral if there is disagreement with a large helping of hatred in the mix; I would go even further and say that when you consider something immoral you have to hate it and have a moral obligation to oppose it.
And this is the problem with Christians who consider homosexuality “immoral” yet claim it is only a “disagreement”. They are flip-flopping between to distinct words with distinct definitions to try to rebuff the charge of being intolerant. The problem is that if immorality and disagreement were interchangeable, we wouldn’t get strange looks if someone said that they thought eating at Applebees for dinner instead of Friday’s was immoral.
The fact of the matter is that if you call something immoral, you are implicitly hating it. If you call someone immoral, you are implicitly hating them.