Everyday, as I read the paper (or otherwise inform myself concerning current events), I find myself yearning for better days. I try to think of a time when life in America was at its moral best: America's "golden age."
As I look back, each of the recent decades show a steady decline in values in the United States. The 90s were the "Clinton years," when whether one had sex or not was determined by their definition of the word "is." During the 90s we were introduced to the concept of "political correctness," which effectively outlaws any behavior or speech that someone could find offensive.
During the 80s, financial prosperity rode into town on the back of credit cards. At every level - federal, state and municipal governments, corporations, and individuals - we found that the banks were all too happy to enable us to obtain today what previous generations had worked for their entire lives. Whatever moral high ground seemed to be gained during this decade was lost to rampant materialism.
Scandalous, unelected and wishy-washy presidents led the American people through the very bleak 1970s. It began with us fighting an unpopular war in Vietnam; was marked by high inflation; fuel shortages and decadence, and ended with a crisis in the Middle East. There are few (if any) bright spots that would lend one to wish for a return to those "good old days."
While the 60s brought some advances in civil rights and technology, this decade began with the expulsion of God from the schoolhouse, making more room for rock `n roll and paving the way for the sexual revolution. This decade is a far cry from what I would call "ideal."
This brings us to the 1950s. America had just emerged victorious from a
war that, at least in the eyes of its people, it had fought for all the right,
moral reasons. The Cold War was just beginning, with battle lines being drawn
between the world's two acknowledged super powers: "We the People of the United
States .. relying on Divine Providence" and the godless communists of the
evil Soviet Union. It was during this decade that acts of Congress added the
words "under God" to the Pledge of Allegiance (1954), required that the unofficial
motto "In God We Trust," long used on American coinage, be printed on American
paper currency as well (1955), and adopted those same words "In God We Trust"
as the official motto of the United States (1956). By these acts,
federal lawmakers defined
Most importantly, the American family (with its working father, loving, stay-at-home mom, and respectful children) was still intact. If a molecule is the smallest particle of a substance that retains the chemical and physical properties of the substance, the smallest unit of society that reflects the values of that society is the family. In the 1950s, the vicious war on the "nuclear family" was not yet waged, and the entire American society still held that institution sacred. It was normal to see the family sitting down to eat a meal together, or entertaining themselves by playing a board game together on Friday night.
To be sure, married folks had to make it work then, just as much as they do now. The difference, however, is that society frowned on divorce then. Conversely, today's society encourages (or, at best, does not discourage) individuals to pursue happiness at all costs: even if it costs their marriage and all the time invested in the relationship.
Still, the decade of the Baby Boom characterized the family as a virtuous unit, containing a mom and a dad which were determined to raise respectful, moral children who would be productive members of society.
One of the most enduring images of family in the fifties was the made-for-TV Cleaver family. If Ward, June, Wally and the Beaver did not accurately represent the average fifties family, it certainly represented the family everyone wanted to have (and, whether they want to admit it, the family still most people wish they had). Dad went off each day to work. When he returned, mom met him at the door, dinner was ready and the house was immaculate. The boys had gotten into some kind of dilemma, about which dad found out while they were sharing good conversation over a fine meal. At this point, dad offered his sound, moral, fatherly advice.
As is evidenced by the "typical" fifties family portrayed on the Leave it to Beaver show, it was not necessary to mention God or the Bible to instill morality in the children, and, therefore, into society. Right is right and wrong is wrong. There is no need to refer to some religious ideology or divine guidance because good people naturally know what is morally correct.
While this sounds great, it is also the thought process that caused the steady decline in morality in America. At a time when morality in America was arguably at its peak, Americans began to look to the goodness in the heart of man, and not to God's goodness, for its moral compass. Herein lies the problem, for the Word of God declares "Blessed is the man that trusteth in the Lord, and whose hope the Lord is. .The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?" (Jer. 17:7,9).
If we are going to "follow our heart" alone, it will certainly get us into trouble. For this reason, our Lord said, "Follow me." The problem with allowing morality to be defined by society is found in Proverbs 21:2, "Every way of a man is right in his own eyes: but the Lord pondereth the hearts." God said, "I am the Lord, I change not" (Mal. 3:6). Without the unchangeable God, and His immutable Word, as the foundation of morality, there is nothing preventing society from accepting a warped set of ethics. For instance, in certain heathen societies, cannibalism is socially acceptable and morally right, while it is repugnant in our culture. Why the discrepancy? What accounts for the fact that the very same activity that is ethical in one culture is anathema to another?
The book of Judges records a time in Israel when there was no king, and every man did that which was right in his own eyes. This approach resulted in numerous problems for Israel. But Israel did have a king - a ruler - who had set the moral tone of the country. As the Lord said to Samuel when the children of Israel demanded a king, "They have not rejected thee, but they have rejected me, that I should not reign over them."
This same rejection has occurred in the United States of America. While chanting "God Bless America," Americans determined that God was not necessary to establish high morals. Ward Cleaver neither invoked the name of the Lord, nor did He use Scripture to reinforce societal values in his children. Wally and the Beaver turned out alright, did they not?
By rejecting the moral compass of God's Word, the American ship has lost all of her bearings, and is now hurtling toward the waterfall of moral bankruptcy. Just recently, I was a bumper sticker which read, "Morality existed before religion." If that is true, then why is it that the longer God is kept out of the moral debate, the more morality is watered down?
The word "morality" is defined as "conformity to the rules of right conduct." But whose rules? Even some modern translations substitute the vague term "sexual immorality" for the well-defined words "adultery" and "fornication." Reading Bibles such as the NIVr, depending on what is "moral" at the time your reading them, one could easily miss the crux of the commandment of God.
It was once thought immoral to have sex out of wedlock, now it is considered immoral to have "unprotected" sex. Not long ago, honesty was a virtue, now it is virtuous to lie to keep someone from getting into trouble. It used to be unthinkable that people from the same sex would engage in romantic relationships, now it is unthinkable that social conservatives would seek to inhibit activities between consenting adults.
Today, driving vehicles that get low mileage, smoking cigarettes, and sharing your religious beliefs are all frowned upon by society. This is the new morality. Where will this all end?
President Ronald Reagan said, "Without God, democracy cannot long endure." This truth does not bode well for the country he loved.
In the decade after Reagan left office, the idea of "political correctness" settled in as the new moral compass. Every man should do what is right in his own eyes, and no one should say a word. Doing so will get the "Who made you a judge over us?" From here, the "tolerance" ideology emerged. "We must all be tolerant of one another. We all believe in God in our own way. We must respect each other's beliefs." This poses a problem for every true, God-fearing Christian (as the politically correct crowd is well aware).
Jesus said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me" (John 14:6). Our Lord "And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned" (Mark 16:15-16). This approach flies in the face of political correctness. Tolerance, as defined by Americans today, prohibits such rhetoric and labels all who obey the commandment of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ as bigots.
In calling upon the disciples of Jesus Christ to end their "controversial" rhetoric, the enemies of the gospel claim they are taking the moral high ground. True believers are seen as non-conformists and troublemakers. God addressed their claim to the moral high ground in Isaiah 55:9, "For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts."
Which is better: to obey the commandments of God or to comply with the society's demands that we stop teaching in the name of Jesus? You be the judge.
Paul said, "But this I confess unto thee, that after the way which they call heresy, so worship I the God of my fathers, believing all things which are written in the law and in the prophets: . And herein do I exercise myself, to have always a conscience void of offence toward God, and toward men" (Acts 24:14-16).
Jesus said, "If you love me, keep my commandments." Doing so will inevitably cause us to come under fire by those who believe not the gospel. As our Lord reminded us, "If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you" (John 15:18).
Again He said, "And why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say? Whosoever cometh to me, and heareth my sayings, and doeth them, I will shew you to whom he is like: He is like a man which built an house, and digged deep, and laid the foundation on a rock: and when the flood arose, the stream beat vehemently upon that house, and could not shake it: for it was founded upon a rock" (Luke 6:46-48).
So, I say, let the storm come, and let the waves beat violently against my house, for my hope is built on nothing less that Jesus' blood and righteousness. I shall not be shaken, neither shall I be moved. I say with King David, "But I will hope continually, and will yet praise thee more and more. My mouth shall shew forth thy righteousness and thy salvation all the day; for I know not the numbers thereof. I will go in the strength of the Lord God: I will make mention of thy righteousness, even of thine only. O God, thou hast taught me from my youth: and hitherto have I declared thy wondrous works. Now also when I am old and grayheaded, O God, forsake me not; until I have shewed thy strength unto this generation, and thy power to every one that is to come. Thy righteousness also, O God, is very high, who hast done great things: O God, who is like unto thee!" (Psalm 71:14-19). AMEN.