Thursday, September 1, 2011

Changing the Culture

Modern man is facing a dilemma. Enamored with modernity, we have rejected Christianity and its way of life. At the same time, we deplore the greed of Wall Street financiers and power brokers, taking advantage of the poor, hypocrisy of religious leaders, etc; all things that Christianity also deplores. We turn away from faith based programs which have demonstrated that inner city youth who regularly attend church are significantly less likely to be incarcerated. In the process we have stripped away the very thing that acts as a deterrent to many of the problems facing the post modern society in which we live; namely the relationship with the moral God that Christianity espouses.

The people who make up a society determine that society’s culture, for they have shared attitudes, goals, practices and morals which form a major component of the society’s educational and cultural formation. When its shared values are no longer held in common, or are denigrated, its culture disintegrates into chaos.

The refusal of our education establishment to teach morals, preferring a value neutral environment adds to the problem. The words of Joy Davidman in her book Smoke on the Mountain regarding this dilemma are perhaps more relevant today than when she wrote them in 1953. “For the present outburst of destruction, no doubt, secularism may be partly to blame. A man cannot obey a law he has never learned, and the failure of our education to give adequate moral and spiritual training is too well known to need discussion here.” She goes on to say that without belief in the promises and commandments of God we are left with a man-centered philosophy. Whether humanism or materialism fills the void, we are forced to deal with the inescapable fact that they both promote “this life and its immediate desires as the basis of all conduct.”

A values free environment devolves into a world with no values, with each individual determining for himself what is right and wrong. Without an objective standard, society cannot function in a predictable fashion. A society where life is not predictable quickly becomes unstable. Without the checks and balances which absolute moral and ethical values bring, it rapidly transitions itself into a self centered narcissistic society. It can only end up eventually destroying itself.
It is very easy to become infected by the environment in which we live, especially its narcissistic values which affect us personally. Our schools, in promulgating a values free education, promote all lifestyles as being equal and abhor any sort of judging. Without an objective standard to use as a gauge of what is right and wrong, our natural tendency is to gravitate to what is most advantageous to oneself, regardless to how it affects others. In the public arena, this is translated into what is the most good for the most people, instead of what is the common good for all people. This leaves the infirm, the elderly, the poor and the disabled at particular risk of being cast off. If everyone behaves this way, society quickly devolves into anarchy, living with the mantra of “might makes right”.

The way forward requires the development of authentic communities that undermine the individualistic isolation which society fosters. Expressing the love of Christ through developing relationships which seek to heal the brokenness around us, together we can make a difference and positively affect the prevailing culture. The church can become such a community as it builds relationships, promotes restoration, and practices love through service. But it requires getting out of our buildings and into the streets, the gutters and the byways. Are we ready for it?