The political ideology and culture wars of the last few decades have produced a wasteland of relativism. The result is a culture that promotes the notion that all ideas are equal. Although many adults have become polarized over issues like abortion, homosexuality and political philosophies, many young people have learned to see compromise and tolerance as the only solution to problems. These young adults, raised in a climate of multiculturalism, have become known as the ambiguous Generation X.
A change in the attitudes of Americans of all ages has come about since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Patriotism, an attitude that was rare among many before the war on terrorism began, is infectious throughout the country. The New York City firefighters and police who gave their lives to save others on that fateful morning have replaced the greed-driven, glitter stardom of athletes as children's heroes.
People are talking again about the values of courage, personal sacrifice and teamwork. Many are agreeing that the United States has suffered a values crisis over recent decades.
Are Americans serious about reevaluating the questionable values that still rest as the pillars of much of the conventional wisdom in their country? Do they have the courage to question and change these values?
Here are six concepts we must reevaluate if the United States is to renew its spirit:
1. The worship of nature while devaluing human life
Conserving and taking care of the environment is an important concept for any responsible person. But environmental concerns have often gone beyond renewing resources and not scarring the land. For many children raised in postmodern secularism, Mother Nature has replaced God and Jesus Christ as the center of spirituality.
The dichotomy is widest in discussions about abortion. The fertilized egg of an endangered species of bird can warrant federal-government protection as precious life, but the fertilized egg of a human being is a disposable mass of tissue.
It's common for news commentators and politicians to picture terrorists who use their bodies as human bombs as people who don't value life. Yet Americans live in a society in which the average child has seen thousands of violent acts on television, where tens of thousands of people are murdered every year and lawmakers debate euthanasia.
The only way to understand the value of human life is to return to the Creator of life as revealed in the pages of the Bible. We have to pay more than lip service to Christianity's basic tenets like "Do unto others as you want them to do unto you" or "Love your neighbor as yourself" to see every human being as a potential child of God.
2. Promotion of "family values" while destroying traditional marriage
The nuclear family, in which mother and father marry for life and are committed to making the marriage work, is the biblical model. The family is devalued by the concepts of legal same-sex unions, no-fault divorce and sexual freedom outside of marriage. Is the United States, a nation in which many profess to uphold the Christian Bible, willing to support biblical standards on marriage and sexuality?
3. Purposeless materialism at the expense of personal character
America is a blessed country with wealth beyond the comprehension of most people living in Africa, Asia or South America. Wealth isn't evil, but, when material things become more important than God, honesty, family, friendships and character, our lives become nothing more than the sum of the things we own.
Jesus spoke of a man with this approach to life in Luke 12:17-21 when He said:
"The ground of a certain rich man yielded plentifully. And he thought within himself, saying, 'What shall I do, since I have no room to store my crops?' So he said, 'I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build greater, and there I will store all my crops and my goods. And I will say to my soul, "Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years; take your ease; eat, drink, and be merry."'
"But God said to him, 'Fool! This night your soul will be required of you; then whose will those things be which you have provided?' So is he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God."
Jesus doesn't mean that spiritual malaise can be cured by simply giving more money to a charity. Christianity isn't just about a set of beliefs, belonging to a church or doing good deeds. It is a way of thinking, a way of responding to God, a way of dealing with others, a way of putting material things in proper perspective, a way of life.
4. The promotion of individual rights without promoting a sense of duty toward others
When individuals are engrossed in enforcing their personal rights in every situation, they find it difficult to develop a concept of duty toward others—duty based on the belief that we should show respect and courtesy, duty as the concept that there are times we must sacrifice our self-interest in the interests of other people.
For a nation to have justice, it must have a set of fair laws that are enforced evenly for all. Justice can't be just for the rich or poor but must include the rich, poor and minorities. Although the American judicial system is better than most, at times it experiences glaring miscarriages of justice. When people see failure of justice, it tends to reinforce their belief that they had better get theirs while they can. Concern for neighbor disappears as everyone tries to climb the ladder of success at the expense of others. Justice is replaced with revenge and greed.
The Old Testament prophet Isaiah proclaimed a message from the Creator that rings out to us today. Notice what God says in Isaiah 1:16-20: "Wash yourselves, make yourselves clean; put away the evil of your doings from before My eyes. Cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice, rebuke the oppressor; defend the fatherless, plead for the widow. Come now, and let us reason together ... Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall be as wool. If you are willing and obedient, you shall eat the good of the land; but if you refuse and rebel, you shall be devoured by the sword ..."
God wants to forgive us of our sins. He also wants us to cease doing evil, learn to do good and seek justice. The only way any nation can have real justice is to return to the laws of God—starting with the Ten Commandments. The only way we can protect everyone's individual rights is to be concerned for the welfare of others instead of being consumed with selfishness.
5. The promotion of religion without recognition of God's sovereignty
This is the most dangerous difficulty facing Christianity today. We want feel-good religion, we want God's help and comfort in time of crisis, but we don't want anyone interfering with our personal lives. When we hide behind a facade of occasionally attending church services while denying God's right to govern our lives, we treat the Creator of the universe like a genie in a bottle instead of worshiping and submitting to Him as our Father and Ruler.
6. The promotion of good deeds without morality
The apostle Paul makes a startling statement in 1 Corinthians 13:1-3. Before we read these verses we need to understand that the word love is here translated from the Greek word agape, which Paul uses in this context to encompass the character of God.
"Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing."
The point is that, if we work in the local soup kitchen for the poor but our lives are filled with immorality, greed, envy and hatred, then our good deeds are largely empty. We can practice good deeds to feel religious while remaining unchanged in personal character. God demands good deeds from His children, but actions must come from our hearts—not because we use them to salve our consciences or as a badge of spirituality.
A clarion call
Christians must make a stand in the values war. Jesus will return to establish God's Kingdom on earth. We have no time to expend our energies in the insignificant, valueless details that consume our lives. Instead, we must return to the values of the God of the Bible.
There is a big difference between grasping your future and simply going on the way you have been. The choice is up to you. GN