But with formerly hallowed institutions and icons sinking into a moral dystopia all around us, has our sense of right and wrong grown more malleable? What if we’re not Thomas More but Mike McQueary?…
“Most Americans continue to think of their lives in moral terms; they want to live good lives,” said James Davison Hunter, a professor of religion, culture and social theory at the University of Virginia and the author of “The Death of Character.” “But they are more uncertain about what the nature of the good is. We know more, and as a consequence, we no longer trust the authority of traditional institutions who used to be carriers of moral ideals.
“We used to experience morality as imperatives. The consequences of not doing the right thing were not only social, but deeply emotional and psychological. We couldn’t bear to live with ourselves. Now we experience morality more as a choice that we can always change as circumstances call for it. We tend to personalize our ideals. And what you end up with is a nation of ethical free agents.
“We’ve moved from a culture of character to a culture of personality. The etymology of the word character is that it’s deeply etched, not changeable in all sorts of circumstances. We don’t want to think of ourselves as transgressive or bad, but we tend to personalize our understanding of the good.”