Cultural Chaos: Moral Confusion and Spiritual Corruption
By: Dr. Steven C. Riser
|By: Dr. Steven C. Riser; ©2008|
|What are some of the core causes of confusion, chaos and corruption in our culture? Beginning in the 1960’s, we have been experiencing radical change in our cultural values and priorities. According to George Barna 66% of adults believe that morality is relative compared to 83% of the youth. To put it another way, 24% of adults believe in moral absolutes as compared to only 6% in teenagers.|
Sometimes it’s positive to be negative. Sometimes you have to blast before you can build. A problem clearly defined is half solved. If we don’t know the causes, how can we identify the cure?
What are some of the core causes of confusion, chaos and corruption in our culture? Beginning in the 1960’s, we have been experiencing radical change in our cultural values and priorities. According to George Barna 66% of adults believe that morality is relative compared to 83% of the youth. To put it another way, 24% of adults believe in moral absolutes as compared to only 6% in teenagers.
Historically, there has been a tendency of the older generation to look at the younger generation and think that they’re “going to dogs,” however, now there are statistics to back up those perceptions.
There are, from time to time, catastrophic upheavals in our “cultural mores.” What are cultural mores? They are observable patterns of behavior and the customs found in a given society at a given time. While certain patterns of behavior have been objectively measured for decades such as: marriage and divorce rates, abortion and out of wedlock birth rates, violent crime rates, drug use, suicide and murder rates, sometimes false information gets broadly circulated.
Here’s an urban legend that’s not true:
• In 1940, the most serious problems in American public schools were:
- Talking out of turn
- Chewing gum
- Making noise
- Running in the halls
- Cutting in line
- Violating the dress codes
• In 1980, the most serious problems in American public schools were:
- Drug Abuse
- Alcohol Abuse
While this list can’t be empirically substantiated it has been very broadly circulated by many leaders. Why? Because it is so believable – so credible. It may not miss the mark by very much. According to many historians and sociologists, the decade of the 1960’s was the most revolutionary period in the history of our nation. The Revolutionary War wasn’t fought to change the status quo but to preserve and maintain the status quo. That war didn’t substantially change the nation’s cultural values. In the 1960’s we witnessed a revolutionary change in the cultural mores of our nation. With the notable exception of race relations and civil rights, almost every change in the 60’s was negative – especially the situational ethics, an increase in immorality, drug use, increase in STD’s, drop in academic performance, violence and rebellion against authority. Consider the following factors:
- The removal of the Bible and prayer from the public schools paved the way for an age of neo-paganism.
- The no fault divorce laws paved the way for an increase in divorce rates and increased cohabitation.
- The sexual revolution paved the way for the Roe vs. Wade Supreme Court decision, legalizing abortion.
- The rejection of the sanctity of: 1) life, 2) marriage and 3) sex resulted in a new age of moral relativism.
- The evolutionary belief that we are merely animals resulted in a new age of neobarbarism.
- The age of political correctness resulted in the stifling of independent thought and free speech.
People were “doing their own thing” and “letting it all hang out” both literally and figuratively. Are you old enough to remember the Woodstock drug and sex orgy? It encompassed just about everything wrong with the 1960’s and, of course, we can’t forget the rebellious souls called “hippies.” I was a teenager during the decade of the 60’s and I know all too well the negative trends of that decade.
You would have to have your head in the sand not to conclude that there is a serious shift in values taking place in our society that’s causing moral chaos, spiritual confusion and a serious coarsening of the culture. People today are not only asking: 1) Why can’t Johnny read, write, or do math, but also, 2) Why can’t Johnny think rationally, behave morally and not be so enslaved by his sensuous desires?
You may not be old enough to remember how decent and moral our society used to be. You would probably need to be about 60 years old or older to remember when society used to have decent values. Fifty years ago it was scandalous to take drugs or to get divorced or to cohabit or to get an abortion. One of the TV shows that symbolized the decade of the 50’s was “Happy Days”! They were happier days.
It’s not that human nature has changed; it’s that our values and worldview have changed. The Bible says that when iniquity – “doing your own thing” – increases, the love of God grows cold. Jesus said of the last days in Matthew 24:12, “Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold.”
Consider the following statistics regarding the divorce rate:
- In 1910 the divorce rate was only 10%.
- In 1945 the divorce rate rose to 25%.
- In 1980 the divorce rate rose to 40%.
- In 2007 the divorce rate surpassed 50%.
This rapidly accelerating divorce rate is disintegrating the institution of marriage and of the family. Many of our serious social problems are merely symptoms of the breakdown of marriage and the family. Is culture coarsening because of Christian values or because our culture has rejected Christian values? What could be worse for the Institution of marriage than the rise in the divorce rate? Many young people are losing their confidence in the institution of marriage altogether and are opting merely to live together without the benefit of marriage – we call this cohabitating or serial fornication. John the Baptist got in trouble for saying something about this and it cost him his life (Matt. 14:3-5). But worse than cohabiting is choosing to bear children out of wedlock. I feel for them and fear for them. An even greater threat to the institution of marriage is the effort on the part of the secular humanists to redefine marriage to include homosexuality. God created the institution of marriage for Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve. Think about it: just about the only perversion left is bestiality! Let’s not go there! What is the primary way in which parents pass on their values to their children? By example. Children will generally do what we do rather than what we say. Modeling and mentoring is the key! What kind of children can we hope to raise in these fragmented and fractured families? Certainly God, in His grace, can help us overcome some our limitations and deficiencies. But what about those without God? What hope do they have? My point: cultural values have indeed changed, they have radically changed and they have changed for the worse, not for the better. They have a continued negative effect! If the truth be known, we need the grace and power of God in our lives today more than ever before! In light of the fact that we have been declining morally and spiritually for decades, you can’t help but ask the question, “Who is responsible?” Although no one wants to take responsibility for this serious sickness in our society, there is plenty of blame to go around. We could start with Satan as well as Adam and Eve.
One analysis would say that any and all of those who advocate ungodly, unbiblical, unchristian values are to blame for the decline in moral values, but this begs the question. Where do values come from if not from our highest value – our ultimate object of love and loyalty – our God? Simply put, people have the wrong values because they worship the wrong God! They worship idols instead of the one true God. We all need to be very careful who we worship. Why? Because we will become like the one we worship.
Who is to blame? In a general way, consider the following:
- All those who reject and/or fail to recognize and worship the one true God of the Bible.
- All those who do not know, love and follow our good and great shepherd – Jesus Christ.
- All those who not desire to please and glorify God in all they do.
- All those who do not trust and obey the written Word of God.
- All those who are enthroned in the Kingdom of Self rather than the Kingdom of God.
- All those who are idol worshippers or idolaters are responsible for our moral decline.
Who is to blame? Christians aren’t exempt from criticism. We’re responsible to the extent that:
- We have allowed the world to squeeze us into its own corrupt and sinful mold.
- We have allowed ourselves to be taken captive by the deceptive philosophy of secular humanism.
- We have allowed ourselves to be taken captive by the deceptive belief in moral relativity.
- We have not been the salt and light in our culture that God has commanded us to be.
- We have not faithfully and effectively shared the good news of God’s love in Christ with others.
- We have not trusted and obeyed God and submitted to the control of the Holy Spirit.
- We have not faithfully managed all the resources that God has entrusted to us.
- We have not boldly spoken God’s truth in love to a lost and dying world (Eph. 4:15).
What happened to our Christian heritage in this country and what, if anything, can we do about it?
The fact is that the Christian faith was never established as the official state religion of our nation. While the influence of Christianity on our nation was extremely powerful, especially during the first one hundred years after our founding, we were never a monolithically Christian nation. While it’s true that many of the people that first settled our nation were not only Christians but were devout Christians, subsequently people came to America for economic reasons which watered down the
Christian influence. Today America is a melting pot or a patch work quilt and, sad to say, Christians are in the minority! Today Christianity is a counter-culture because the Christian worldview isn’t the predominant worldview. In this secular humanistic culture, it is never “politically correct” to hold any Christian convictions.
Why can’t we blame the federal government for all the negative things happening in our culture today? The Christian Church, not the government is the primary institution for creating public virtue in society.
What I fault the government for, especially the Supreme Court, is misinterpreting the First Amendment. The First Amendment is specifically addressed to Congress and should not be applied to everyone else! Politicians are reactive and tend to mirror or reflect the values and customs in the culture. Politicians make laws, but the law behind the law is the public opinion of the majority of our citizens.
A second fault I find in government is that we have strayed from our Republican form of government. A Republican form of government not only acknowledges the authority of God and His moral laws but it is also committed to ensuring that our civil law is consistent with God’s Moral Law.
If you think about it, what is happening in our culture today is that the Church is becoming disenfranchised as an institution and it has become politically correct to persecute Christians – especially evangelical Christians. The best analogy I can think of is how our government treated Native Americans: After the settling of this country, do you know what we did to the Native Americans? We put them on reservations – we isolated them and neutralized them so they were not influential in our culture.
What is the attitude that the secular humanists have toward the church today? You can stay in your Church and worship your God as long as you stay in your place, but don’t bring your faith into the public square. Keep your religion to yourself and, whatever you do, don’t try to force your moral values on us!
The sad thing about all of this is that: Too many of us have allowed ourselves to be marginalized. Too many of us clam up instead of speaking out the truth of God’s Word in love (Eph. 4:15).
Too many of us are content to accept the idea that Christianity is a religion to be practiced on Sundays, rather than a relationship with the living Lord that should impact every aspect of our lives! When Christians fail to penetrate the culture with love and truth, the civil virtue of the culture declines. Christians should be bearing witness to the reign of God and the Lordship of Christ over all of life!
There are many other sources we could mention, that are certainly instrumental in our cultural decline: The Hollywood culture, the Pornography industry, the excessive materialism, the rap and rock music industry, especially MTV, which focuses on sex, drugs, violence and rebellion (anything but a holy God). The illegal drugs and the abuse of legal drugs, including alcohol. The sexual revolution: including STD’s, fornication, cohabitation, adultery and divorce and the disintegration of the institution of the family. The secular humanists who want a separation of God and State, not just a separation of Church and State. The atheistic evolutionists who reject the God of the Bible and seek to brain wash others into this belief. And let’s not forget the organization that is the leader in reducing the positive influence of the Church on our culture: the ACLU.
Like I said at the outset, there is plenty of blame to go around. What’s wrong with our culture? The Bible puts it this way: “There is no fear of God before their eyes…”
But in our litany of negative influences on our culture, we dare not take the spot light off ourselves. Why? Because all that it takes for evil to prosper is for good people – like you and me – to do nothing! We must accept our share of responsibility and we must repent of our failure to function for the purpose for which we were created, namely, to be salt and light in our sick society. We must let our lights shine!
It’s not enough to accept responsibility for our short comings – individually and collectively. We need to ask: How does God want Christians to behave in this neopagan, secular humanist, post-Christian culture? Can we pass laws that will help restore sanity to our culture? Is it possible to legislate morality? There is a sense in which you can and a sense in which you can’t legislate morality.
In the first case… we can and we do pass laws of moral import. For example, laws against stealing and killing involve legislating morality, do they not? The essence of legislation is an attempt to regulate behavior, is it not?
In the second case… just because someone passes a law doesn’t guarantee that everyone will comply. Why? Because, for the most part, behavior flows from character rather than from the legal community. More laws are not the answer. Laws will never keep outlaws from disobeying laws. It’s superficial to think that all we need to do to change the culture is to change the laws. What has to happen is something deeper than that. There needs to be a change of heart, especially among the people of God in the Church.
Collectively, we have to be reformed if we are going to please God in our worship and work. Individually, we have to be revitalized if we are going to please God in our character and conduct. The early church turned the world up side down not by seizing control of the government but by having a positive influence of the culture through modeling and sharing the good news of Christ.
For starters, we need to stop allowing the world to squeeze us into its own unhealthy mold (Rom. 12:1-2). We must be people who believe the truth, apply it to our lives and demonstrate Christ’s love to others. We must be Christ-centered, Bible-based and culturally relevant – fully devoted followers of Jesus Christ.
You have heard it said, “You are either part of the problem or part of the solution.” I fear we are both, for there are some things we do that help and there are some things we do that hinder. May God help us to accentuate the positives and minimize the negatives in our life, family, church, community and nation.
Have you come to the point in your life where you realize: what we have to offer will be of lasting benefit to others – that the Gospel of the grace of God is the only hope for personal, positive, permanent change? God changes us at the deepest level – God’s Word and Spirit changes our nature, our values, our character, our relationships, our ultimate source of love and loyalty, our ministry and our entire worldview. It’s hard to overestimate the influence that our worldview has on our beliefs/behavior. Our worldview not only 1) describes why things are the way they are, it also 2) prescribes the way things ought to be.
Reformation will never happen in the culture unless it first happens among God’s people in the Church. A cultural reformation will never happen as long as we are on a reservation-isolated from the culture.
We need to get the salt out of the shaker and into the soup! We need to learn how to let our light shine! May God awaken us to our vocation as Christians to be salt and light in our chaotic culture.