Woody Allen and Moral Relativism

If you are like me, you have been following the entire matter of Woody Allen and the accusations levied against him by Dylan Farrow with growing discomfort. On the one hand, Mr. Allen is, by birth, a Jew, and I am hesitant to disparage him publicly. He also deserves to have his case heard outside the realm of innuendo, particularly when there have been cases of memory implanted by suggestion. At the same time, we have to use great care because of the nature of the accusations.

But what I find most compelling about this case is the way secular society, particularly that part that tend to be Woody fans, is wrestling with it the matter of Mr. Allen’s domestic life. In a recent online discussion, a friend of mine noted:

It’s telling that Robert Weide’s defense of Allen I linked to posits that the relationship with Soon-Yi was personally offensive to Mia Farrow, but the writer seems unwilling to entertain it was morally offensive too — “it’s none of our business.” This is how people compartmentalize, I guess.

Indeed. This is where we encounter the problem with moral relativism. In a world with an unlimited number of moral codes that are deemed equally valid, we are denied any common basis (other than a court of law) to determine what a man should be allowed to do. A society that has discarded the idea of a moral code that is higher than man and that has granted equity to multiple incompatible moral codes is incapable of discerning moral offense.

Torah lays clear guidelines around what relationships are permissible and under what circumstances. G-d did not expect the entire world to live by Torah, so I certainly don’t. But it is not hard to imagine how society can be so perplexed by a case such as Mr. Allen’s when it has cut its mooring lines to a moral code that transcends humanity, allowing itself to be blown by the fickle winds of moral relativism.

One cannot help but wonder: if society had possessed the moral framework to question Mr. Allen’s home life – or, indeed, had Mr. Allen possessed that framework, how might his marriages, his domestic relationships, and his children have been different?

In the meantime, may Hashem in His wisdom extend His hand and give comfort to the innocent, and see the guilty punished as befits their transgressions. And may He grant us all the wisdom to act and speak rightly in this case.

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