My answer to the question is yes…and no. This means, for me, yes for some morals, no for others, and both yes and no for a third category – with, of course, some overlap in between all of those.
I apologize for causing frustration to those who like the simple “yes” or “no”. I’m far from a black and white thinker.
(This is why it’s hard for me to step out of Daydream Land).
Let’s start with the “Non-religion” morals. A simple example of this would be traffic laws. The laws that govern motorists exist for the safety of society. When I approach a red light at a busy intersection, I’m not having a WWJD moment – at all. My main motivation is not getting killed, or seriously injured. Because our society has decided (rightly so) that if we all stop on red and go and green, we will be safe, I have no disagreement and will happily comply. Self-preservation is doing its job. Self-preservation continues even on the green light as I’m protecting myself (and possibly my children) from non-attentive drivers, drunk drivers, aggressive drivers, driving-and-texting drivers, etc. So I press the gas pedal cautiously to make sure all of us drivers are on the same page.
When I approach a sleepy intersection, my main motive for stopping is most likely 1) conditioning, 2) possibly still self-preservation in the event there is a sneaky cop somewhere looking to give me a ticket. (This is especially the case with the annoying non-smart traffic lights that stay red forever with not a soul in sight), or 3) I may look to my faith morals more in the case where I really don’t think I would get caught if I did run the light – not really because of fear, but because I know integrity is an important part of representing as a Jesus-follower and what I do in hidden places could possibly affect what is done out in the open. (That’s another discussion).
If I’m honest, I don’t really invite Jesus into these moments. Maybe I should somehow, but I don’t. But here’s a related situation where I might invite him to check my morals.
Jesus once said, “Love your enemies.”
So, at some point while driving, someone will cut me off, wave some hand gestures at me for driving too slow, honk at me, and those would just be for the times my boundaries were violated. There are even more unsavory reactions when I’m actually at fault.
Whatever the reason may be, I have been made or I made someone else an “enemy.” How I react next, and even how I FEEL next, is drawn directly from the well of where those words “Love your enemies” came. It’s actually an anti-self-preservation moral.
At least, initially.
This moral gnaws at my nature, at human nature. It defies my human addiction to superiority. It taunts my desire for instant gratification.
But what if it has the ability to radically change my heart – little by little – to rid me of my selfishness and pride, to fill me with authentic compassion and empathy, even in the seemingly insignificant (yet the most significant) moments? What if it has the ability to ultimately produce life? That was the central point of Jesus’ “morality” and also the great misunderstanding of Christians and, ultimately, those who experience us.
That’s our mistake sometimes. We like to be vocal about sexual morality, for example, adding to the confusion that our religion is based on external behavior, rather than internal thoughts, beliefs, and attitudes (which can lead to the external behavior). It’s like trying to ride your bike backwards.
Jesus loved his enemies all the way to His death. Anti-self-preservation.
The result was resurrection. LIFE. His acts and teaching were the precursor of the greater event.
I’m pretty sure that all morals are meant to lead to life in some way. As a Christian, I believe the source of all of those quirky not-common-to-all-belief-systems morals is belief in Jesus.