I actually began last Sunday’s post after reading another pro-life blog which briefly mentioned Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s 1993 essay entitled “Defining Deviancy Down” published in The American Spectator. The subtitle, “How we’ve become accustomed to alarming levels of crime and destructive behavior”, was a comment on escalating violent crime in the early 90s, and our lack of outrage in the face of it.
However, he could just as easily been commenting on any deviant behavior which has become socially acceptable today–due in part to the incessant barrage of media portrayals of these behaviors as normal, and due in part to the demands of “politically correct speech” and our ingrained fear of seeming ‘judgmental’.
Example: in high school in the 1970s, I can only remember one girl getting pregnant–and subsequently leaving school. I graduated in 1980, so we’re not even talking about the early years of the decade. The word ‘illegitimate’ was a real, shame-filled word. Single mothers were uncommon, and one assumed they were embarrassed.
Fast forward 13 years.
Our two sons are 2 and 4 years old. Next door to us live four generations: an elderly man, his middle-aged daughter, her 20-something daughter, and that girl’s two young daughters (the patriarch’s great-grandchildren). We learn their names, chat with them, and have the little girls (a few years older than our boys) over to play. Months go by. One day it occurs to me–those little girls are illegitimate.
Now you need to know that nothing changed: not our friendship or my attitude towards them. But I was rattled…not by the situation, but by the fact that it had not seemed unusual to me.
If you’re over 40, you can probably think of several other social issues that were once shocking, nearly unthinkable…and which would have been strongly condemned by an unspoken but universal cultural more. If you’re under 40, you may have no idea what I’m talking about.
But rather than chase any other examples down a rabbit hole right now, let’s just stick with my example, which involved an extramarital sexual relationship. The Bible has words for this activity: it’s either fornication (unmarried sex) or adultery (sex when one or both parties are married, but not to each other). I recognize that these are words which may well need definitions today. Even to those who know their meanings, they may seem quaint and old-fashioned.
And there will be some knees jerking wildly, I’m sure, and some assumptions will be made instantly: that I would go back to the day of stonings and scarlet letters; that I am a ‘hater’ who wants to ring in a repressive, paternalistic, Old Testament theocracy like the bizarre landscape of Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale.
No. No. No.
Odd, isn’t it? In a post-modern, nothing-is-objectively-true climate of “acceptance”…we still seem to think that everyone falls at one end of a spectrum of opinion or the other: either total approval, or total condemnation. If one expresses disapproval in any way, one is ‘intolerant’ and ‘closed-minded.’
Isn’t there ever a middle ground, even for Christians? I think Jesus illustrated the middle ground of speaking the truth in love:
At dawn Jesus appeared again in the temple courts, where all the people gathered around him, and he sat down to teach them. The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him.
But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground.
At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”
“No one, sir,” she said.
“Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.” John 8:1-11 (NIV)
It’s that simple: call sin ‘sin’…not an ‘alternate lifestyle’…
But don’t condemn.
And offer instruction: “Sin no more.”
I’m not saying that private citizens should unilaterally refuse to help people in need, nor that the Church should not offer help, at its discretion. But if we don’t ever speak out against certain destructive behaviors, are we not tacitly condoning them?
Our challenge as believers is to be both compassionate and uncompromising, to be both loving and truthful. It is not easy. We will still be misunderstood. But we might just make a difference, too.
Relativism seems to be like a snow ball rolling down a steep hill. It just more rapidly gets bigger and bigger. It leads to a disappearance of moral lines and this in turn effects and touches everything in our lives from families to schools to government. I think it’s the reason we have the government we have now.
Relativism. Isaiah 5:20. And 2 Timothy 3 says this would happen in the last days. We are living in those days.
Thanks for this. It’s important. I’ve seen the changes too and I think I’m about 10 years older. I can’t remember any pregnancy out of marriage in my high school. Amazing, isn’t it?
Solid post, sis.
I agree, especially with your quote:
“Odd, isn’t it? In a post-modern, nothing-is-objectively-true climate of “acceptance”…we still seem to think that everyone falls at one end of a spectrum of opinion or the other: either total approval, or total condemnation. If one expresses disapproval in any way, one is ‘intolerant’ and ‘closed-minded.’”
It’s the battle between objective truths, and the “if-it-feels-good-do-it” crowd; the Bible-and/or-Constitution respecting Right and the Machiavellian Left.
And the sad thing is, compromise is impossible. How do you compromise with folks who are making up the rules as they go along?
As you insinuated in your post, we have only one real choice: hold the line with love and respect, …but hold the line.
God’s truths aren’t negotiable every few years, regardless of how many folks would like them to be.
I recall our mother had a phrase which would apply here: “Wrong is wrong even if EVERYone is wrong, and right is right even if NO one is right.”
Oh boy do I remember that phrase! I find myself reciting it often! Thanks, bro!
Along with at least another couple dozen catch phrases, this one manages to stick around in my brain.
And my sons can repeat most of them by heart at this point!
“But if we don’t ever speak out against certain destructive behaviors, are we not tacitly condoning them?”
This is the crux of the matter. We’ve bought into the lie that saying something negative about something is equivalent to total condemnation, as you mentioned earlier in the post.
Excellent, thought-provoking post!
Thank you,. 247!
Ain’t that the truth!
I have gotten to the point where I can no longer say I’ve seen it all — I got there a long time ago. Something will probably cause one of those jaw drop moments for me by sundown.
Last year I directed a film forum (movie with analysis and discussion) for some college kids. The movie was “V for Vendetta.” I chose that film because of the subversive themes and the less than subtle homosexual and anti-Christian (mostly anti-Catholic) subject matter. Basically, they the movie presented the Church as the Nazi regime who was forcing homosexuals into concentration camps, where they tortured them with chemical experimentation that would inevitably kill them. It did not just do so allegorically. It intended to make it out as though that is the way the Church deals with gays.
What shocked me was that the boys did not get it at all at first. They did not even pick up on the homosexual aspects of the film that were blatantly presented through out. They would say, okay there were some gays in the film, so what? And really, what’s wrong with being gay? These were boys who went to GOOD Catholic elementary and high schools. I knew some of their teachers and many of the priests who ran the schools. I knew they came from good Catholic families — I was friends with some of their parents.
I took advantage of the occasion to point this out to them: they have been so influenced by the media that they were completely desensitized to blatant messages that went against their system of values right before their eyes — the graphic nature of the film actually reinforced the subliminal content that they were swallowing like soda and popcorn. Thank God they acknowledged what I was saying and did not just brush me off. The lesson was learned: Open your eyes boys and start using your heads! It’s beyond getting ugly out there. And you are getting consumed by it. I just showed it to you.
Well, rewind 20 years. That film would have been seen as outrageous. Today, people sympathize with it. So the question is where are we headed over the next 20 years? I pray we have not already passed the point of no return.
Well, that was a little long. I just had to get it off my chest after reading your post. Great post! Thanks!
Glad you got that off your chest! 🙂 Truly, some changes are mind-boggling. And yet–there are still films which celebrate decency, constancy and sacrificial love, things I believe God has hard-wired into us. And those of us (like myself) who are a part of the entertainment industry have to keep chipping away at the lies by portraying truth in compelling ways. Thanks for your encouragement.
By the way, I just commented here and my comment does not show up. Word press seems to be having other issues too. The like button does not seem to be working either…
I’ve been noticing a lag time, James. Not sure why, other than the gremlins that WordPress experiences on occasion.
Regarding your comment: I agree with your sentiment about movies. They have become considerably less subtle in the last couple of decades.
I’ve actually got a couple posts in the hopper about both movies and comic books each being guilty of this, and worse than anything I could have imagined in 1993.
These are scary times: we need to continue to train the next generation to be aware of these influences without removing themselves from it.
We can’t change the world if we withdraw from it. That’s partially how we got here in the first place.
GBL really nailed it with this post, I agree, but your comment helped tremendously. Thanks, as always!
Yep Moynihan, where are the outraged fearless Dems today? Extinct. He also blew the whistle on HillarCare. Today they just drink the Kool Aid and ignore everything inconvenient. And they couldn’t wire his mouth shut.
Correct, BR, there are no such Dems anymore. The Blue Dogs are all dead, killed by Nancy Pelosi.
You have to hand it to the Dems: they certainly know how to circle the wagons. It just came at the expense of what little integrity they had left…
JTR: Like everything they do they made sure unity (lockstep)rules and there ain’t one of them left. Hand it to them, do they know how to conduct a cleansing operation, or what?. (and proud of it) Shout out to Margret Sanger.
Ah, yes, good ol’ Margaret: creator of the ultimate “cleansing”….