We live in a time when we can no longer believe what we see, hear, or know to be factual. What was once right is now wrong. What was once wrong is now right. There is no clear definition of truth. Even the certainty of what constitutes a fact is lost as phrases like “fake news,” and “phony science” have entered the popular lexicon. The loss of truth and absolute standards of right and wrong is resulting is catastrophic cultural conditions.
This is not the way mankind was meant to exist.
Confusing Political and Cultural Issues
Yesterday the New York Times ran a story about the national outrage in Tunisia where 11 premature babies died in less than 24 hours due to unsafe health practice at a hospital. Meanwhile, in January the same newspaper ran a feature editorial series on abortion entirely tilted to the pro-choice side of the debate.
The contrast in these two narratives is confusing to say the least. The death of premature babies due to an unsafe hospital environment is outrageous and scandalous. The death of infants the same age due to a legal right to choose is defensible and must be protected. Which is it? I have long believed the greatest difference between the two sides of the abortion debate is a difference in belief of when life begins. Is there more to it?
Fifty years ago (even 20 years ago) the ideas of LGBT were considered deviant, perversion, and sinful. Today, even suggesting such things out loud can get a person into trouble. As my recent series on the topic demonstrated, there is no science to support this shift. The idea of “born this way” is not supported by biology, genetics or any other objective science. It is established upon a philosophical shift in our culture. Opposition to that shift can be considered hate speech. That is a big leap in a very short amount of time and there is no clear explanation as to why or how we made such a leap.
Our President has participated in multiple adulterous relationships with pornography stars (among others if we believe his boasts). He has bragged about his ability to lie and bully his opponents. He has lied. He has modeled foolishness and arrogance. He also enjoys unprecedented and apparently unbreakable support among Christians and those who once identified themselves with family values and the standards morality.
The #MeToo movement excommunicated celebrities and power brokers from America’s entertainment centers over the course of 2018. While more than 200 prominent and dirty old men were removed from their positions the entertainment system itself did not change. No one has even called for or expects it to change. The media and society at large have not even considered it. While the abuse, harassment, and control of individual women by powerful men is wrong, our entertainment and cultural systems have not been challenged to stop the systemic objectification and hyper-sexualization of women in a male-dominated world. Individual harassment and objectification are wrong. Widespread and systemic objectification are effective business. Sex still sells.
These paradoxes (and the list could go much longer than this) are not simply confusing and hypocritical. They are a sign of a cultural collapse.
There is no standard of right and wrong. There is no line upon which to judge one thing as right and another as wrong. The difference between right and wrong seems to change depending upon the situation, who is telling the story, and what the agenda is.
This loss of such a defining standard has significant repercussions.
A Culture of Doubt
When there is no standard of right and wrong in a culture then doubt becomes the dominant trend. How can we know what is right? How can we know what is wrong? How can we know what is safe and what is dangerous? We cannot and so we are constantly perplexed.
Our current and constant emphasis upon political correctness is evidence of this occurring today. Political correctness is about jostling to do or say the right thing or keep from saying the wrong thing, so we are not held guilty by the ever-fluid standard.
When doubt is the leading standard of the day we do not know what can be relied upon, trusted, or believed. Therefore, we retreat into the one thing we can be sure of. We retreat into our self.
As Shakespeare said, “To thine own self be true.” When we can’t believe the government, the churches, the media, or anything else in the social system – at least we can believe in ourselves.
That is why (as I wrote last month) more and more individuals have developed their own independent standards of right and wrong, true and false, as well as ethics and morality.
The Problem with Individualism
But this standard ultimately fails. When we retreat into ourselves, when the individual becomes the authoritative judge between right and wrong, the arbiter between what is true or false, then dysfunction and corruption results.
I realize this is a very un-American and un-democratic perspective, but it is true none the less. The individual plays a role in identifying right and wrong but because our individual nature will in the end always reduce to self-survival and protection we cannot, as individuals, be trusted to define endurable standards of truth or right and wrong on this basis alone.
When God completed His work of creation, He looked upon it and found it all to be good and worthy of His blessing – except one thing:
Then the Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone…” Genesis 2:18
The one thing that was not good in all of God’s creation was the aloneness and individuality of the man He created.
When the individual becomes the leading standard for defining right and wrong, corruption and dysfunction result. We see this today in the rise of division and polarization within our society. We see it in the increased fear, the growing anger, the widespread protest, and the nonstop outrage.
The disintegration occurring in modern culture and society around the world is evidence of the loss of fundamental moorings which can perceive, interpret, interact, and anticipate the world in which we live.
We are growing more divided and separated not because we are growing more racist, sexist, and hateful but because we are not quite sure what is racist, sexist and hateful anymore. The standards keep shifting and our society keeps giving us confusing messages. We have lost sight of right and wrong.
Life is less valuable, less sacred because we are not certain what constitutes as life anymore. It is debatable. Even love and hate have taken on different meanings, politicized and weaponized for the gains and agendas of different groups.
Not the Original Design
Life was not designed to be lived this way. By speaking of a design, we, of course, imply a Designer. There is a right and a wrong way to live. There is truth and there is deception. There is good and there is bad.
We have already seen how man was not designed to live alone but we also were not designed to live in fear, in anger, or in confusion. The phrase “fear not” is used more than 80 times throughout scripture.
Do not fear, for I am with you; Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand. Isaiah 41:10
The command, the design of God, is that we not live in fear, in doubt, in anxiety and confusion. But this is not a magical spell that we wave over our lives and situations. It is a system of life, a system of belief that keeps us safe, strong, true to the original design.
Who Is In Charge
The great secret to navigating our current age is not analyzing and assessing which political philosophy is best or most helpful. It is realizing that most of the issues we encounter are not political issues at all, contrary to what we are told. The real issue is answering the question – who is in charge?
When we know who is in charge then we know where and how to find the standards for discerning what is truth, what is right and what is wrong.
Yes, we should know the facts. Yes, we should know the history. Yes, we should be aware of what is going on in the world. But our understanding and interpretation of all of these should be less informed by our politics and more informed by our belief systems. Our belief systems should be rooted to Truth. In an age when the whole world is doing whatever is right in their own eyes, we should be predicating our responses and our actions upon a knowledge of what is right in God’s eyes. This is the key to a strong and stable worldview.
As a side note, this is the driving philosophy behind this blog JB Shreve & the End of History. If you have enjoyed this article please consider subscribing to my feed below.