How come morality keeps shifting?

Our time is not the first to experience radical shifts in accepted moral standards. 18th century England, for example, was a time when public morality was at a very low point. In large part due to the work of John Wesley, that was being turned around by the end of the century. And the 19th century Queen Victoria inspired high and rigid moral expectations throughout England.

Now we are in a time when the Seven Deadly Sins are being applauded as modern virtues. Morality is at a low point in America and seems to be continuing its drop into the gutter. By the grace of God, there will be another turn around, but probably not for a few years.

Let me cite one specific and true story which illustrates one of the many influences which cause cultural standards to fluctuate. A married man with one dughter wants out of his marriage and wants to marry another woman instead. He rents an apartment with the other woman (a married woman with three sons), then realizes he has jeopardized his connection with his daughter. So he moves back with his first wife, continues seeing the other woman and paying for her apartment. Not long after, the other woman becomes pregnant and gives birth to her fourth son. The man, not really meaning ever to be truly bad, decides that he cannot desert either of his two children, so his solution is to demand that his wife simply accept the other woman and other child, allowing him to stay at his first home but spending significant time with his mistress. And he demands that his 5 year old daughter be told that she now has a half-brother, though of course she doesn’t know what that means. He begins bringing the new baby  to his first home, expecting his wife and daughter to treat the son simply as part of the family.

Now, two things are clear. First, the man is a self-centered scoundrel, demanding that reality bend to match his fantasy world in which everybody is supposed to do his bidding. Reality, of course, is going to explode in his face and everyone involved will be deeply harmed. Second, what he is asking of his wife, daughter, parents, and siblings is that they all love the son as if all were normal.

And, not wanting to make the little baby pay the price for his father’s immorality, the whole family is in effect forced to accept the situation. His wife is not fooled, his parents are not fooled, his siblings are not fooled. But he is fooling himself and he is teaching his daughter and nieces — all too young to understand the broader context — will grow up thinking such behavior is normal.

Such stories are increasingly common and decent people are being forced to accept such immeasurably selfish behavior. And the next generation will not even know there is a question.

And thus do morals crumble in a culture. Shame on the perpetrators who make others, who are more conscientious, accept sin as normal. Shame on them.

 

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About mthayes42

I am a retired pastor, interested in the Bible, cross-cultural ministries, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and the current and past history of western civilization.
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