I read a Bible passage (Philippians 3:18a-19) recently that hit me: “… many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. …”
It was the phrase “their glory is in their shame” that struck me as a sadly accurate description of our current society.
Things that used to be shameful are now glorious. Pick something that would have been shocking during Laura Ingalls Wilder’s day and see how tame and commonplace, even lauded, it is now. Out of wedlock births? Abortion? An entitlement mentality? A victimhood status? Foul language? Serial marriage? You name it and we’re glorifying it. No longer are these “lifestyle choices” something to be embarrassed about. Instead, they are actively embraced and celebrated. Wheee.
Hollywood is a perfect example. Temporary marriages, affairs, “bumps” out of wedlock, drinking binges, shocking fashions, ridiculous spending sprees and other examples of decadence are now not only accepted but expected. And sheeple that we are, we feel no shame in imitating this stuff. “Hey, if Lindsay Lohan / Britney Spears / Tommy Lee / Robert Downey Jr. can do this, why can’t I?” It’s no surprise that our moral standards are rock bottom.
Take bad language, for example. Teenage boys might have experimented with it while hanging around behind the barn, but in more moral times saying such words in public would result in soapy mouths.
Dress codes? If girls showed the bare skin they show today in public schools, they would have been shunned until they conformed with suitable standards of modesty.
Out of wedlock births? Hello? Such a thing was shameful beyond words. The shame was so great that for the most part it kept young women in line with moral standards. And like it or not, it’s the woman’s behavior that controls the man.
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Serial marriages as exemplified by Hollywood? Can you imagine a suitor trying to explain to Laura’s parents why he’d been married eight times?
Abortion? Fuhgeddaboudit. Secretive abortions have happened since the dawn of time, but they certainly weren’t anything to brag about, much less force everyone to fund with taxpayer dollars.
Body modification? I wonder why these people don’t realize they’re going to be 82-year-old grandparents at some point, and they’re gonna look pretty stupid with multiple piercings, tongue studs and six square feet of wrinkled and withered tattoos adorning their skin.
See where I’m going with this? Our moral standards in the past half-century have sunk so low I wonder how we can survive as a society at all. These “morals” have somehow been transformed into bragging rights. Their glory is in their shame.
The mainstream media play on this, of course, by panting after more and more shocking things to garner reader (or viewer) attention. Readers and viewers aren’t blameless in this partnership since “Sex and the City” had high ratings. But as people become numb to shock, it’s up to the mainstream media to find more and more depraved things to get our attention. What was shocking becomes the “new normal” as our moral center shifts.
In other words, shame feeds on itself until nothing is shameful. And now we are reaping the results.
Much of this decadence can be traced to unearned abundance. Constant abundance can nurse boredom. Boredom can lead toward poor choices. What’s the old adage? “The devil finds work for idle hands.” When every need is lavishly met, when our children grow up in 6,000-square-foot homes and their indulgent parents give them everything they want, then their hands are idle and they find the kind of “work” that gives their parents gray hair. Children who grow up depending on unearned entitlements and whose hands are idle are inclined toward shameful behavior.
But all is not lost. I’m sensing something different in society. Underneath this glut of shame is a thread of shame about our shamelessness. It’s like people are longing for … something. They’re not quite sure what, but they’re longing for it. It’s almost as if people can only sink so low before they realize “lowness” isn’t a goal to aspire toward.
My husband will occasionally tune in to a hard-rock radio station. He says that the music used to focus on songs with “I hate the world and here’s why everything is miserable” themes. But in the last couple years he’s noticed more and more songs with “I’m missing something and my life is empty and I’m not sure why” themes.
So despite the society-wide tendency to glorify shame, I see hope. I see better things rushing in to fill the void left over from living shamefully. That’s a weird statement, so let me qualify it.
When bad things happen – tragedy, accidents, disasters – it has the universal effect of making people count their blessings. Right now our economy is tanking and hard times are collectively making us pause and reflect. It’s been noted that church attendance increases during economic downturns. I believe it’s because people instinctively know that things (fancy homes, designer clothes, status jobs) can be take away from us. They are tangible but temporary. It’s the eternal values, and the moral guidance offered by those values, that begin to make more sense. Armed with these values, a decadent lifestyle starts to lose its appeal. The tolerance for decadence diminishes when everyone must work, and work together, to survive.
If worse economic times are indeed in our future, and I believe they are, then perhaps a generation of young people whose wants are not met with entitlements and handouts will learn to work hard for what they want to achieve. They will no longer have the idle time to pursue shameful pursuits.
Don’t misread me: I don’t wish hard times on anyone. But if ever a silver lining can come out of this coming Greater Depression, we can hope for a return of old-fashioned values that have withstood the test of time for a reason (they work). Then our glory can once again be based on values, not shame.
Just a thought.