Here are the cultural trends, see if you can spot the common thread:
More porn of every type imaginable is available, instantly, ubiquitously and privately. As a consequence, more men beginning in the teenage years on up are not just addicted to but enslaved by lust. As the epidemic has gone up, it’s also gone even further underground, locked safely away in private.
Beginning in earnest in middle school and carrying on for most throughout their adult lives, boys’ friendships and relationships have eroded away to being extraordinarily superficial or non-existent. Girls don’t do much better, learning that their main virtue is how they look and how well they can attract a guy. Guys and girls live in constant insecurity that if anyone discovers who they really are, whatever superficial friendships they do have will go away forever.
The common American father image has gone from “all knowing dad” to “bumbling idiot” in the change from the Leave It To Beaver era to the Home Improvement era. Moms haven’t faired very well either, going from the loving maternal figure to nagging shrew in the same time frame.
Globalization is going up, and kids and employees everywhere are feeling the pressure of competing with not just the folks one town over, but with 7 billion other people. As communication has increased, competition has exponentially increased and loyalty has all but gone away.
Wise stewardship has gone away to slogans like: “Drill, baby, drill” (which appears to be the Republican platform) and “Spend, spend, spend.” (which appears to be the [unofficial] Democratic platform) Very little thought is given into what we leave the next generation, we just want to satisfy our own desires and whoever that might affect … well screw ‘em.
Speaking of satisfying our desires at any costs, we have a bunch of 30 something guys running around the country that are screwing anything that moves, eating, drinking and smoking anything they can get their hands on, and acting like a bunch of overgrown, immature frat-idiots.
Oh, and what about our consequence free outlook on life? Have a quickie and get pregnant? No problem, there’s a procedure for that. Got a tattoo you don’t like? Yeah, we got something for that too. Got married, had some kids, and now you miss your care free college days? Screw the kids, we have a procedure for that too.
The fatherless problem is quickly becoming the most important crisis of our age. 90% of all homeless and runaways come from fatherless homes. 63% of youth suicides. 85% of kids with behavior issues. 85% of all kids in prison. 71% of pregnant teenage girls. 71% of high school drop outs. All from homes lacking a father. (source)
Ok, I could keep going for hours, but I think you get my point. Now you could go back through history and say that none of this is new. You could even bring up some of the great Greek philosophers that wrote about this “next generation” and how vile and terrible they are.
Points well taken. I think the fact that none of this is “new” points to how dangerous it all is. We have certain sinful tendencies, and all of these exploit them in one way or another. If it was dangerous 3,500 years ago, it’s probably still dangerous. Humanity hasn’t changed that much.
And of course, there are angles that we can look at and say some aspects of culture are more dangerous, or at least have the potential to be. I think smartphones are a great example of this. Porn is now, in no exaggeration, available instantly, freely and everywhere you are. Culture changed when you could get a full color Playboy in the privacy of your own mail. Culture will again shift when you can get so much more, for free, and anywhere, instantly with even greater privacy. It’s just a fact that culture will adjust to that, and our new normal will shift too.
Of course, I challenged you to look at the common thread through all of this, and I’m curious what some of your answers might be. You might have said increased technology. And that is part of some of them, but not all. You might have said a new attitude of all fun and no consequences. That is, again, I think, part of it.
Here’s my theory, and I could have kept going with more examples, but I believe that (as Paul said) we have an enemy that goes about seeking whomever he can destroy. He does this in many ways, but I think one of the best tools he has is how he’s shaped society. And as a disciple of Jesus, I want to be fluent in cultural trends — but not pushing them.
The enemy is shaping people to be isolated, insecure and vulnerable. Here’s just one example I see all the time with students: the enemy isolates them from life-giving relationships, makes them feel insecure about themselves, preys upon their weaknesses and plays up the things that make them feel insecure, then leaves them hopeless.
What a contrast to the gospel. I got to pray with a seventh grader who has been getting picked on at school and feeling outcast, and tears filled my eyes as I thought about the hidden traps the enemy has laid out for him. As I prayed, I prayed for the things that would move right to the heart of those issues: that he would have life-giving long-lasting relationships with friends that would speak words of hope, affirmation and love into his life. Everybody needs that. We were made for this.
The enemy wants nothing more than to alienate and isolate as many people as he can from great relationships. Then he’ll sell you into sin and trap you like a bird in a cage as soon as you realize you’ve made some mistake. It’s a trap. And one that we must be aware of.
What can we do about it? Ultimately, what the enemy offers is alluring, beautiful and tempting. But like a gilded cage, it’s a trap. It’s alluring until you’re stuck.
What Jesus offers is hope. Hope for a life full of the things you were made for. Hope for relationships with people who care. Hope for a relationship with a really big God, who isn’t mad at you but loves you dearly.
Somewhere along the way, we decided we needed to “fit into” culture. To make our mark … we had to copy the styles and trends. To make people feel comfortable … we had to make the Church look a lot like the world.
I want as few barriers between Jesus and people who need him (that would be all of us) as possible. But maybe we need to get back to a focus on the message. The counter cultural gospel the enemy seems to be so desperate to silence at any cost. Who knows. It might just change the world.
It did once before.