Sunday, May 05, 2013
Losing Our Understanding
When reading the Pew Research Report “The Decline of Marriage And Rise of New Families” (November 18, 2010) the thought came to me concerning how we as human beings try to justify our beliefs and behavior. We either justify our beliefs based upon something outside ourselves seen as authoritative or we justify them based upon something within ourselves seen as authoritative. For instance, some people may base their beliefs on traditions, like Tevye in Fiddler On The Roof or the Pharisees and scribes Jesus scolded in Matthew 15. Other people may find authority in the law of the land. As long as it’s legal it’s okay. Still, there are others who find their source in the authority of society, like politicians who change their positions based on public polls. For the Christians, the most familiar authority found outside of us is the Bible. However, there are others who find their confidence within their own reasoning. Humanism is a discipline that sets reason, ethics, and justice found within humanity while rejecting supernatural and religious ideas as a basis of morality and decision-making. Human knowledge, wisdom, understanding, intellect, etc. gives, in and of itself, authority for behavior. In other words, we as humans can justify our behavior by simply finding its justification within ourselves. This is our (humans) default way of justifying our actions.
Although there are some encouraging trends identified in the article, reading the changes in the views of marriage and family affirms the fact that human beings are social beings and, habitually, justifies their lifestyle by adjusting their belief system. For example, is it surprising that with the increase in divorce there is an increase in its acceptance? Or, that with the increase of cohabitation there is an increase it its acceptance? How about that with the value of traditional family declining the belief in traditional family values has declined as well. This is how we justify our actions by adapting our beliefs.
It reminds me of a principal that Paul talked about. “When they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are without understanding.” (2 Co 10:12) We as human beings have the distinct capacity to deceive ourselves and lose our understanding. To lose understanding is to lose the ability to see something as it really is. It is to be devoid of the ability of abstract thought. It is to lose the ability to see something outside of our own justification of it. To lose our understanding is to lose our true north. We lose all absolutes. If enough people start saying there are no absolutes then how will we know which way is north, what color is red, or that 2+2=4? All that is right and wrong become so blurred that it appears there is no right and wrong. As more measuring and comparing take place the more understanding is lost.
We, as a society, have lost our understanding of the importance of marriage and family to our own society. Pope John Paul II (1978-2005) said, “As the family goes, so goes the nation and so goes the whole world in which we live.” Popular opinion has become our authority to justify our lifestyle. When we were kids and we wanted to do something that our parents didn’t want us to do we would say something like, “but everyone is doing it.” And our parents would say something like, “if everyone were jumping off a bridge would you do it too?” Well, the truth is we probably would. Unless we have some type of authority outside ourselves that gives us a belief that is strong enough to defy the measuring and comparing of ourselves to our society we will lose our understanding. Let’s put it like this, if enough people are getting a divorce or cohabitating together would you do it to? If enough people believe that a homosexual life style is morally equal to a heterosexual lifestyle would you agree? If society says that premarital sex is okay would you see no problem with premarital sex? If fidelity in marriage were seen as old fashion and unreasonable would you agree? The proof is in the article. The societal milieu of America over the past 50 years has steadily eroded away the external authority of the Bible, which empowered people to resist the seduction of humanistic justification. That which was once seen as wrong is now seen as okay.
Unfortunately, the church in America has done little to combat the decline of marriage and the importance of family in America. As true Christianity gave way to religiosity the church lost its empowerment to facilitate change in the culture. Religious institutions have become more identified with the world than impacting the world with Biblical authority. The primary way that the church in America has tried to deal with the eroding away of Biblical authority is condemning those who fail at keeping its (the church’s) rules and regulations. Condemnation has a tendency to push people away rather than pull people in. It has a tendency to over-emphasize truth and under-emphasize grace. This produces an isolated church. The secondary way the church in America has tried to deal with a society that is moving further away from a biblical oriented milieu is to embrace the changes within the church. Some may say the church has become soft on sin. This embracing has a tendency to over-emphasize grace and under-emphasize truth. It lowers the standards to allow humanity to be okay with its sinfulness. This produces an ineffective church. In many ways the church in America has become very much like the church in Corinth during the New Testament times.
The article proves another principle that is found in Paul’s writing. “Do not be deceived: “Bad company corrupts good morals.”” (1 Co 15:33) Another report from Pew Research, “Second-Generation Americans”, among other things, looks at the differences between the beliefs of first generation immigrants and the children they raised to adulthood in America. They discover that the majority of immigrants are from either an Asian background or Hispanic background. The first generation immigrant from Asian or Hispanic countries, the ones who left the country they were raised in and came to the USA, have a much higher view of moral values than their second generation adult children who have been raised in America. The parents come to America with moral values that are typically more conservative. They raise their children with the intent of passing those moral values on. However, raising their children in the culture of America undermines the parent’s conservative moral values. Unfortunately, it appears that American society may be the bad company that corrupts good morals.
After reading this someone may ask, “Is there any hope?” The answer is, “Absolutely!” Be encouraged. God has never not been in control. (I know that is a double negative and that is bad English grammar.) Though we may not see His purpose, we can be assured that His purpose is being fulfilled. There are signs that the religiosity of the church in America is diminishing and true Christianity is on the rise. We didn’t get to this place in America overnight and it will not be reversed overnight. But it won’t be reversed at all without Christians influencing culture in the empowerment of the Holy Spirit. Christians living in the fullness of truth and grace speaking to their family, friends, and politicians.