It is difficult to find a moral voice that speaks with authority and clarity in a twenty-first century secular society. Perhaps the voice is there but is obscure, nearly impossible to hear and discern in a pluralistic society. Richard Lischer in The End of Words: The Language of Reconciliation in a Culture of Violence suggests that in the Christian church those speaking, the preacher and the prophet, have remained embedded in a cultural and religious language of the past. Moral voice is lost when spoken into an arena where no one is present. The voice must go where the action is and speak into the nihilistic confusion of a diverse population. He notes, “The preacher does not contend with competing messages that are easily named but with principalities and powers that envelop us and swim effortlessly beside us in the sea of words.” The danger here is twofold: on the one hand, in the midst of the confusing voices, to fail to speak at all; on the other, it is attempting to speak above the “other” voices and thereby failing to “listen” to what others are hearing.
I believe American Christianity, perhaps all Western Christianity, struggles with this lack of voice. Patrick Nullens and Ronald Michener in The Matrix of Christian Ethics suggest a number of issues that are “signals of a moral crisis.” The authors note that there is a significant lack of moral voice in the area of legislation and politics. “When the moral mindset slackens in the minds of the majority, laws are changed to reflect the changed values.” We live in an era when political correctness supplants moral values and voice is frightened from speaking. I cannot help but think back to the “Moral Majority” of the nineteen seventies and eighties. Their voice, however, in retrospect seemed to be the “embedded” voice that Lischer portrays as speaking into the oblivious past. “The members of the Moral Majority frequently perceived the modern lifestyle as decadent, promiscuous, self-indulgent, and vacuous.” Can Christianity have a voice that speaks to culture and society today and if so, what is that message? According to Nullens and Michener the “Christianity community is called to grace, charity and hospitality” and the moral voice will be heard when the proclaimed ethics does “not lose the responsive and contextual character of life in the church.” They state clearly the impact of the Christian message:
In our view, only an ethics of grace stemming from a gracious response to Jesus Christ crucified, buried and risen (1 Corinthians 15:3-4) can offer an answer for renewal in the contemporary landscape of our polemically driven world.
Ultimately it is the Christian message that speaks, according to Lischer, when “the people of God claim their identity … thereby [they] constitute a powerful witness in the world.” It is the narrative witness of grace and love, not argumentative words of retribution and condemnation, he notes further, that will challenge and expose the “listener to being fundamentally changed …” The Christian voice is a reconciliation narrative. The Christian voice participates “in something larger and better than our inherently violent disposition toward enemies. This something Paul terms the ministry of reconciliation. We have found our role in God’s script at last.”
I have not read a book on ethics, per se, for twenty years. Nullens and Michener is both an introduction and a refresher in ethics. It was particularly helpful to have clearly defined definitions such as: “Christian Ethics: is methodological reflection on the values, norms, virtues, and purposes of Christian life in one’s contemporary context, drawing on Scripture and the tradition of faith.” It was revealing to see ethics from the perspective “methodical thinking of morality” and “critical reflection on mores, customs and morality.” The authors use of the matrix concept though the book made what could have been philosophically challenging concepts easy to understand.
The Christian ethics matrix provides a contemporary model for living in a complex postmodern world. As a pastor, I know that the members of my congregation have not thought seriously about the conflicts that confront them. They are content to say “The Bible tells me so.” I dare not pick Sunday School curriculum that is not saturated with scripture. A congregation that is maturing in age and declining in membership is undoubtedly clinging to the “absolutes” upon which their faith has always been erected. They are quite oblivious to the philosophical shift that has taken place around them and the need to be “in dialogue with our ‘situatedness’ within a matrix of shifting cultures and contexts.” I do not anticipate using this text in an adult Bible class any time soon; however, I expect that as a leader, my own studies will help me to lead the members to relate to the questions of right and wrong, good and evil in the ever changing and complex environment in which we live.
 Richard Lischer, The End of Words: The Language of Reconciliation in a Culture of Violence (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Publishing, 2005), Kindle, 112.
 Patrick Nullens and Ronald T. Michener, The Matrix of Christian Ethics: Integrating Philosophy and Moral Theology in a Postmodern Context (Colorado Springs, CO: Paternoster Publishing, 2010), 28ff.
 Ibid., 30.
 “Moral Majority.” Dictionary of American History. 2003. Encyclopedia.com. (accessed 8 Nov. 2014 http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-3401802744.html
 Nullens, 28.
 Lischer, 1235.
 Ibid., 1245.
 Ibid., 12.
 Ibid., 9.
 Ibid., 190.