What people born after the 1960s don’t know: How much culture has changed, or I could say, indeed how much it has changed in just my lifetime.
For example, during the week before Christmas, my wife and I watched a Perry Como Christmas music program first aired in 1975. In the latter part of the program Como introduced the Christmas story narrative and read it in entirety from the biblical book of Luke, saying it was his favorite story of all time because its message blessed all mankind with peace and hope and “because it is true.”
Think about whether an artist today would read the Christmas story at all on national television, much less claim it is true, or whether any entertainer would even use the word “truth” in reference to anything religious. This change in itself is an amazing and far-reaching shift in the moral/spiritual presuppositions of cultural philosophy just in a generation.
Another small example comes from ESPN’s “Good Morning Football.” The panel participants were talking about players wearing down late in the football season and a commentator used a Scripture paraphrase, i.e., “Spirit has to be willing when the body is weak.” Three others on the panel reacted immediately, “Wow, what a great quote” with raised hands and Woo-Woo hoots. The commentator who made the reference actually chair-danced. None of the four panelists seem to have a clue the paraphrase originated in the Bible. It’s like history books crediting the great Abraham Lincoln with originating the observation “A house divided against itself cannot stand," a notion from the Gospels familiar to Lincoln's audience but lost on 21st Century scholars.
Still another example from the Christmas season: It amazes me how many Christmas cards feature nothing or next to it about Christmas, i.e., lots of snow and red and green but not much else. OK, it’s a free country. But the really amazing part to me is how many ostensibly or avowedly Christian or church-related nonprofit organizations mail what amount to secular cards. Their cards feature no references to Scripture, the Christmas story in the Gospels, no pictures of the babe in the manger—which some people still use even if they don’t make reference to other religious words or symbolism. When I see these cards it always strikes me that these “Christian” organizations are missing a messaging opportunity.
Now these are just a few examples from the past Christmas season. We could list much more, including dramatic shifts, as alluded to above, in understanding what is objective truth yielding moral relativism, since 1973 the legalization and now expansion of abortion, the normalization and public promotion of LGBTQ followed by paradigm shifts in acceptance, then legalization, of same-sex marriage, since 1988 a steady legalization of commercial gambling including sports gambling in 2018, increasing complacency about debt along with a growing sense of entitlement, fatherless children, along with a decline in the importance of church in daily life with a parallel increase in secularization. More fundamental changes could be listed.
Of course, some positive changes can be listed too: greater awareness of women’s rights and potential, sensitivity to the needs and prospects of the poor, increased attention to opportunities for all races and ethnicities.
Ideas have consequences.
Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2019
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Somehow, we’ve come to a point in our culture where historical figures must be fully aligned with our ideology or they are not worthy of consideration, much less honor. If such people are, from the point of view of current trends, no longer considered worthy, or they failed in some aspect of life, then no matter what their achievement, they must be rejected, condemned, or simply ignored.
The problem with this all-or-none, you’ve-got-to-love-me-AND-love-my-dog approach is that virtually no one qualifies. So, no achievement, irrespective of its value to humankind, can be lauded because, well, the achievers were flawed, meaning most often that they didn’t agree with me or I don’t agree with everything they said or did.
But let’s do a reality check. No human leader or scholar or philosopher or hero or inventor or change agent or world class athlete or beauty queen or artist or politician, preacher, or professor, much less celebrity, has it all together and is without flaw. None.
The Scripture puts it this way: “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one” (Rom. 3:10-12). Yet God loves us all: “But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). God understands the tug-of-war of good and evil in every human heart.
In the current cultural zeitgeist, it seems no historical figure, despite considerable laudable achievement, like Columbus or Martin Luther, the until recently properly appreciated Founding Fathers, the revered Washington or Lincoln or TR, or latter day MLK Jr, not even the earlier day Moses, David, or chief of sinners the Apostle Paul, is truly worthy of recognition if they are perceived as imperfect per our ideology, e.g., they owned slaves, they were a womanizer, they were rich…
I am not, of course, defending wrong-doing or misjudgments or outright sin. I am simply saying no person is perfect, no one fully and completely aligns with all other people’s ideological perspectives, which by definition are many, distinct, and perhaps contradictory.
Certainly, I am not perfect, nor is the person who lives for a time in the White House or sits on the throne of the United Kingdom. In fact, the only human being who lived a perfect life is God-Incarnate Jesus Christ.
So pulling down statues might be appropriate or it might not—either way, the decision should be made by duly elected representatives, not mobs—but this, along with sanitizing history books or museums of the presence of certain people, don’t accomplish much, unless indeed a serious review has taken place that can demonstrate the figure’s bad outweighs the good. I’m not closing the door on this, just saying kneejerk social media reactions aren’t the best way to determine who should or should not be honored.
This discussion brings to mind one of my highly-respected grandfathers, who served as a wise deacon for 40 years, and was regularly sought out for counsel by young and old from several counties around. He is the spiritual patriarch of our family. Yet when I was very young I twice heard him make comments about race or Catholicism that in contrast to the rest of his gracious life and jovial personality were and remain rather shocking. But I understand these comments as representing areas of his life that his well-developed Christian worldview and the Spirit of God had not yet penetrated. Had not yet convicted. Had not yet transformed. They do not discount all else that he did. And the memory makes me consider, what will my grandchildren remember about me?
It is possible to give honor to whom honor is due without lifting the person(s) to a godlike pedestal. It is possible to appreciate and value human achievement and legacies without certifying the person(s) who gave us these gifts as perfect. It is certainly possible and admirable to recognize and appreciate people whose contributions blessed the world, even if those people did not necessarily, even in fact likely did not, align with yours or my views. To reject such people is to miss the opportunity to demonstrate grace, perspective, and nuanced understanding of the interplay of good and evil in the heart of every human being since Adam and Eve.
Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2017
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Soon after we got married at 21, I decided to wash the car and discovered I had no rags. Back home, we just went to the bottomless “rag barrel” in the basement. Now, everything Good (Brand New) Wife and I owned was also new. Wasn’t long, though, before rag-less-ness wasn’t a problem. Nor is it now after 43 yrs of marital bliss.
Today I discovered one can buy rags. But who wants to use a soulless “rag”? No, this is just cloth. A rag is a long worn, beloved, and promoted T-shirt or even towel that continues to be part of the family story. As you work, you remember. Can’t do this w/new material.
Seems to me buying “rags” robs young marrieds of a key life experience.
Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2017
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Evolutionary theory, the idea that life began by chance and proceeded through natural selection toward some higher order, has long since gone mainstream in American culture. Gambling, games of chance, has also taken the culture by storm, more recently but just as thoroughly. While one didn’t cause the other the relationship is nevertheless interesting.
Evolutionary theory’s story has a long arc, but the tipping point came in 1859 with the publication of Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life and 1871 with The Descent of Man, and Selection in Relation to Sex. Evolutionary theory quickly gained recognition as the dominant paradigm in the biological sciences and many other fields of intellectual and social endeavor. Evolutionary theory, evolution for short, remains the accepted scientific if not social metanarrative today.
Nevada legalized commercial gambling in 1931 and Atlantic City in 1979. Other than a few racetracks that was it: two states with legal commercial or casino gambling. While reintroduction of state lotteries in the 1960s and 1970s set off a “third wave” of gambling in the United States, gambling hit critical mass with the passage of the Federal Indian Gaming Regulatory Act in 1988. Now, only two states remain in which commercial gambling is still illegal: Hawaii and Utah.
Evolutionary theory roots its interpretation of the world in closed-order naturalism. It assumes away the need, then the existence, of a Sovereign Creator God, i.e., replaces intentional divine creation design with chance. While there are many ideas about how this chance works, in the end, it’s just biological happenstance that somehow always moves species toward higher, more complex, and, mysteriously, better organisms. In the case of humankind, begin with protoplasm, become self-aware intelligent human beings.
At its core, gambling, or gaming as it’s now called, encourages people to suspend their faculties in favor of chance, luck, fate, or the “gambling gods.” In this way, gambling at its core is a celebration of irrationality (the “House” or gambling operation owners always work with an “edge”—They’re the only ones in the gambling process who aren’t gambling). Gamblers know this, saying, “You can win a race but you can’t beat the races.” Ultimately, gambling is largely an experience in futility, a vehicle for entrusting ones resources and perhaps future to chance.
In a culture that embraces the idea that life begins by chance is it any wonder that gambling has been enthusiastically adopted as both (harmless?) entertainment and a (harmless?) source of government revenue? As I said, one didn’t cause the other, but the philosophic outlook is neatly aligned.
It isn’t much of a stretch to jump from the idea life began by chance to the idea life is just a gamble, that nothing rational let alone moral guides life, and ultimately nothing invests life with meaning. Evolutionary theory and gambling share a “faith,”—and that is what it is—in chance detached from God and meaning.
If life is meaningless it must be “morality-less.” There are no objective standards, no absolute values, just moral relativism. It therefore doesn’t matter what a person does, much less who he or she is. We know what we want to do, when we want to do it, with whom we want to do it, and why doesn’t matter. We can do what is right in our own eyes because “what is right” is (objectively) assumed out of the equation.
This is what we now think of the human condition. We may be higher order animals but ultimately we’re just animals, ethically as well as biologically. Life is just a crapshoot. It’s just chance.
© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2013
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