Symptoms of Cultural Cancer
There is a cultural war going on in America. What is it all about and what should Christians do?
I don't really feel old. My children can sometimes be quick to assure me that, yes, I actually am pretty old, but despite the increasingly shiny spot on the back of my head and the fact that two of my three sons can easily beat me in a foot race, I still feel like a guy who has not been around all that long.
Perhaps one of the greatest evidences of my increasing number of years on this earth is the fact that I can remember a day when television was clean, and the most violence you could see there was when Roy Rogers shot the gun out of the bad guy's hand or when Popeye twisted his fist around several times and knocked Brutus into space.
To state the obvious, America has changed. Sadly, most of the changes seem to be in the wrong direction. The result is a culture war, a clash of values between those who believe in a traditional Judeo-Christian value system and those who preach a tolerance that sees no evil, hears no evil, and is hard-pressed to admit there is such a thing as evil.
Essentially, the culture clash is all about morality. Is there such a thing? If so, what morality shall we choose? Does morality change or is it static? Is the morality of the fifties adequate for the people of the nineties? Does anyone have the right to condemn someone else's morals (or lack thereof)?
America is awash in moral confusion at present. While few want to do away with all morality, it is increasingly difficult for Americans to come to any kind of moral consensus. When Frank Rhodes, in a speech to some of America's brightest educators, dared suggest that we needed a renaissance of education and morality, he was actually booed, as these incredulous, learned men called out, "Whose morality, professor, would you impose upon us?"
Major illnesses are usually accompanied by physical symptoms. Often these symptoms are so severe and unpleasant that they fool us into thinking that they are our real problem. But of course they aren't. The real problem is not something you can see or feel. The real problem is almost always invisible, hidden within the depths of our bodies in microscopic cells gone haywire, or potent viruses wreaking havoc upon our systems.
On the other hand, symptoms serve a very valuable function: they clearly identify that a problem exists, and serve as powerful motivators to move us to do whatever we can to remedy the situation. Let us consider some of the symptom's of America's moral sickness.
Preoccupation With Tolerance
Creative writing professor Kay Haugaard recently reported an incredible phenomenon that troubles her greatly. For years she has been teaching the short story, The Lottery. This fictional story revolves around a small town where one person is sacrificed every year in order to ensure that the crops do well. In this tale a woman is ritually stoned to death by her husband, her 12 year old daughter, and her 4 year old son. In the past Haugaard's students were always outraged at such blind conformity to the horrible practice of human sacrifice.
No longer. In recent years she is finding students almost defending the practice on the grounds of multi-cultural tolerance. In a class discussion of human sacrifice, none would dare condemn the practice on the grounds of morality. One woman, when asked point-blank if she believed in human sacrifice said, "I really don't know. If it was a religion of long standing..." Haugaard wrote, "I was stunned. This was the woman who wrote so passionately of saving the whales and of her concern for the rain forests." Another student declared that, as a nurse, she taught the hospital personnel a course in multicultural understanding and that "if it is a part of a person's culture, we are taught not to judge."
Another professor wrote that many students these days are coming to college "dogmatically committed to a moral relativism that offers them no grounds to think about cheating, stealing, and other moral issues." He has coined a new term — absolutophobia — the unwillingness to ever say that any behavior is just plain wrong.
Tolerance has been pushed to the extreme, and the result is a kind of moral anarchy that does away with good and evil. Appropriate and inappropriate are the furthest these new worshipers of tolerance will dare to go. A professor reported that up to 20 percent of his students think the holocaust is not to be judged as evil. "Of course I dislike the Nazis," one student said, "but who is to say that they are morally wrong?"
As a byproduct of our rush to out-tolerate our neighbor, we are finding a new demon to hate. If tolerance is fast becoming our god, then censorship surely must be our devil. Everywhere we turn these days, we are hearing our cultural leaders raising the cry of censorship whenever they feel some dirty little sin is being threatened, or some perverse way of life challenged. With trembling voice and noble indignation one shout of "Censorship" is often all it takes to put weak-kneed fundamentalists to flight, and ensure the continuance of one nation with liberty and depravity for all.
When Ken Auletta, media critic for the New Yorker interviewed a number of powerful television and movie producers, he asked them the question: "What won't you do?" He wanted to see if they would admit that there were some things that were just too obscene to be shown on the silver screen.
The reaction he got was amazing. Many of these millionaire movie makers could not say that there were some things that were just too horrible to portray. Michael Eisner, head of Disney, bristled at the question and then launched into an attack on censorship. Oliver Stone, the producer of Natural Born Killers and JFK, spoke as if all negative reactions to loathsome entertainment are violations of the First Amendment, and said he'd do pretty much anything. Mark Canton, chairman of Columbia pictures, did admit that he wouldn't make any movies without any logical component to the story or overt value, but then compared conservative film critic Michael Medved with cult leader David Koresh, saying, "It's dangerous for anyone so set in their ways that they feel that anything that's outside of something that has specific rules is irresponsible and unsafe."
When William Bennett met with the top executives of Time Warner, he brought along copies of the lyrics to rap songs by a group called Nine Inch Nails. He asked for any of the Time Warner executives to read the filthy lyrics. None of them would. Finally, one of Bennett's group read the lyrics, but the Time Warner executives would not admit that what they had just heard was all that bad. They began making statements like, "Art is difficult to interpret," and "Who decides what is pornography and what isn't?"
Finally one of the defensive executives heard some language that was just too offensive to take. When Bennett said "baloney" a couple of times to their irrational arguments, their chairman objected and walked out. Over and over they had argued, "Offensive lyrics are the price you pay for freedom of expression." Judge Robert Bork's reply to such nonsense was, "Obscenity in word and thought is a price that should not be paid simply so we can say there are no limits to what may be said."
Religion Without Rules
Another symptom of our spiritual sickness is the desire of so many to enjoy the comforts of being spiritual without the nasty inconvenience of having to conform to any type of moral standards. We are being inundated these days with invitations for spirituality without holiness. A mass mailing new age advertisement told readers: "You don't have to be religious to live an awakened life. What is an awakened life? It's having all your channels open so that all messages are received, it's finding and tapping into the invisible intelligence and power..."
Another metaphysical guide, called "Hymns to an Unknown God," lists six ways to "feed your soul." One might suppose they would mention prayer and the reading of Scripture. But no, those archaic practices are far too mundane for these enlightened folks. Their list includes: slow down, listen to your body's wisdom, start your day gently, follow your bliss, tell a story, and create a ritual.
Perhaps nowhere can you see the "spirituality without holiness" movement any more clearly than among the majority of the Hollywood set. America's gods and goddesses pride themselves in their great concern for whales, trees, and other politically correct causes. They mouth great and passionate words of philosophy and humanistic concern as they hop lustily in and out of various and sundry beds and marriages.
Lately the religion of choice among the beautiful people seems to be Scientology. Its most outspoken follower is John Travolta. Others reported to be involved in this strange "church" founded by the science fiction writer, Ron Hubbard, include Tom Cruise and his wife, Nicole Kidman, Sharon Stone, Mimi Rogers, Shirley MacLaine, Kirstie Alley, Demi Moore, Priscilla Presley and daughter Lisa Marie.
While the name sounds impressive, Scientology is anything but scientific. Scientologists believe that nearly all of man's problems can be traced to a tyrant Xenu, who ruled the Galactic Confederation 75 million years ago, and had various alien beings captured by the billions, frozen, and chained near 10 volcanoes throughout the earth. After hydrogen bombs were dropped on them, the spirits of these aliens were implanted with various perversions. They have been running around loose on the earth ever since (now called body Thetans) and are the source of all our miseries today. These Thetans are detected by a machine called an "E-meter" and through standard Scientology hocus pocus can be purged from our systems, whereby we are restored to wholeness.
When Scientologists gave dire warnings that anyone reading their deep secrets without proper training could die, one man agreed, "This may be true... while reading OT (Operating Thetan manuscript) I almost died laughing!"
What's Going On?
What is happening to our nation? We seem to be showing an increasing aversion to any moral structure that dares limit us with "Thou shalt's" and "Thou shalt not's." Rules, commandments, and moral judgments have become anathema to a generation determined to do its own thing and play the game without the rules. Companies and businesses that advertise their products over television know this well. Outback Steakhouse invites customers with the slogan, "No rules, just right." Comedy Central encourages viewers with: "See comedy that breaks the rules." Burger King even sells its Whoppers with "Sometimes you gotta break the rules."
God's Word makes it clear that keeping rules will never save anyone. But just because salvation doesn't come through rule keeping doesn't mean that God doesn't set boundaries on the behavior of all those who would be His children. Jesus made it plain that on the day of judgment many would come to Him expecting to find a place in heaven, only to be told, "I never knew you, depart from Me, you that practice lawlessness" (Matthew 7:23). God obviously still considers the commandments to have some validity in our lives.
To receive Jesus as Savior is to willingly embrace God's holy laws. No, we will never keep them perfectly, but we will make them our guides for our behavior as citizens of His heavenly kingdom. Through the power of His Spirit we are given both the desire to keep the ways of God, and the power that lifts us out of the slavery of sin.
Fruits of Amorality
There's been a whole lot of tongue clucking lately, at the horrible fruit that inevitably springs from a philosophy of nihilism. Sadly, many of those who are clucking the loudest are part of the problem. Politicians do everything in their power to promote the killing of unborn children, but issue pious words of shock and concern at the killing of school students. Little do they realize that the same lawless disregard for life that motivated those who killed in the classrooms has gripped their own souls in but a slightly different form.
Social experts that are obsessed with the promotion of condoms and "safe sex" act surprised to find that sexually transmitted diseases of all sorts are killing and maiming a whole generation of young people. They never seem to recognize that when moral standards are no longer tied to a holy God who is not hesitant to judge sin, all sorts of lawless behavior must be the result.
The clash between those evangelical Christians who hold to the standards and values of holy Scripture, and those who have rejected the inspiration and reliability of the Bible, has always existed in some degree. As Americans move further and further from Scriptural truth, Christians can expect to be vilified and ridiculed as never before. Clashes are certain to continue in the courts and in the public forums. Those of us who love the Bible cannot expect to win every battle, and may, in fact, lose the majority of them. Our job is not so much to win as it is to proclaim God's truth and snatch as many from the fire as will hear our message.
If these various indicators of moral confusion are but symptoms, then what is the real disease? Quite simply, America has turned her back on God. Our loving Heavenly Father has offered us His free gift of salvation through Jesus Christ His Son, and we have said, "Thanks, but no thanks." In our rush to grab all the gusto we can, we have missed God. As a garden that is not tended finds it the easiest thing in the world to produce a fine crop of weeds, so we have found it exceedingly easy to produce a magnificent harvest of perversion, violence, and death.
I am no prophet, but I do not hesitate to say that Littleton, Colorado will not be the last school shooting, nor will it be the worst. As long as we continue to deny the God who made us and purchased us through the death of His Son, as long as we revel in "breaking the rules," as long as we go on training our children in immorality and violence, we shall continue to reap a grim harvest.