The Troubling Sources Of American Values
By Dale L. Garrett
Abandoned by God?
During a class at Regent University, a professor spoke of a letter he had received from a friend. The letter carried an ominous warning. “The problem with the American church is not the fact our nation is growing more secular, our real problem is that America has already become pagan and our churches are becoming increasingly more secular.” The heavy silence hanging over the stunned listeners testified of the relevancy and truth of this statement.
Focus on the Family’s Dr. James Dobson described a similar reaction by Christians listening to a National Day of Prayer message delivered last year by Rev. John MacArthur. MacArthur announced to a horrified audience that the United States has already passed from the status of a nation being blessed by God to one abandoned by God, then began pointing out biblical references identifying symptoms of falling into this frightful state (MacArthur, 2007).
The clearest roadmap, along with a list of the stages separating people and nations from God’s blessings, is plainly laid out in Romans 1:18–32. These phases in sequential order include: a stubborn refusal, despite nature’s evidence, of acknowledging God as supreme (verse 21), replacing the authority of God with other things (verse 23), sexual revolution (verse 24), rampant homosexuality (verses 26,27), and finally a compulsion to erase the mention or memory of God in society (verse 28). There is little doubt America has already passed all these horrifying stages.
One only track the successful efforts of the American Civil Liberties Union eradicating all forms of public prayer and now attempting to erase “one nation under God” from our national anthem or “In God We Trust” from our coins to realize we are reaching the final stages of the disintegration process described in Romans, with nothing left but God’s reaction of giving us over to “reprobate minds” (verse 28).
Webster defines a reprobate mind as unprincipled, losing the ability for distinguishing right from wrong. Pompous American educators backed by elitist judges are ignoring overwhelming evidence supporting intelligent design. Instead, they endorse evolution while rendering creation theory unacceptable in public schools. They provide a prime current example of reprobate minds at work. “Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools” (verse 22) amply describe their actions.
Looking For Values in All the Wrong Places
So where does a society rejecting the Bible as its source for societal values turn for maintaining a reasonable amount of public order or rule of law? After all, every law is based on someone’s values.
Philosophers throughout the ages have grappled with this hopeless dilemma. Some, like Immanuel Kant, argue from a universal law perspective, with true values being discovered by gaining sensitivity to internal forces (conscience) then validating those findings through nature, which provides testimony of the concluding value’s credibility. The more one’s internal values align with the revelations of nature’s laws, the more valuable the personal value is for providing purpose in life. (Kemerling, 2001) One can detect elements of Romans 1:19,20 in Kant’s reasoning, at least acknowledging the existence of eternal truth.
Others philosophers, like German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, totally dismissed any agent other than enlightened man as the ultimate god worthy of establishing values. Neitzsche’s own life quickly provided ample testimony how unreliable his source was for delivering true meaning and contentment in life, so severely losing his mind at 45 that he had to be totally cared for as an imbecile for the last 11 years of his life. (Wicks, 2004)
This apparent discrepancy did not discourage members of his or future generations from embracing his flawed reasoning. The Nazi’s jumped on board the enlightened mankind theory, and their ability for justifying some of history’s cruelest acts provides fair testimony of what societies can expect by adapting such egocentric value sources. A close reading of the Book of Judges when, “everyone did what was right in their own eyes” (Judges 21:25) also provides ample examples of societies using such a degraded and unreliable source.
Many Americans, including several now in decision-making roles in Congress and Hollywood, began buying into a revived Nietzsche style philosophy adopted in the 1960s and 70s in America by resurrecting Neitzshe’s “God is Dead” mantra (Age-of-the-Sage, 2007). So prevalent did this philosophy become that 3 years after the U.S. Supreme Court ruling symbolically ejecting God from our public education process was completed, TIME magazine asked,Is God Dead? on its April 8. 1966 cover. (TIME, 1966)
This was soon followed by a “sexual revolution” (Romans 1:24) and an assault on previously held values concerning fidelity and the sanctity of marriage (Ridgway, 1997). No-Fault Divorce laws, introduced in Oklahoma in 1953, began reaching avalanche proportions after California adopted the law in 1970. (Krauth, 2002) By 1998, the number of children living in single-parent households in America had passed 56 percent of our population, among African Americans the number was closer to 64 percent. (US Divorce Statistics, 2002)
That of course merely accounts for children allowed to survive in the first place. Since legalizing infanticide under Roe v Wade in 1973 an estimated 48.6 million infants have been butchered. (National Right to Life, 2003) Put in perspective, abortion will destroy more lives in America in one day than the total number of U.S. soldiers losing their lives in the entire Iraqi war.
The More Modern Way
More modern philosophers like John Dewey sought to transcend the apparent flaws of the egotistical approach Nietzsche proposed while excluding any credence given to a supernatural source. His philosophy called for visualizing enlightened goals (ends) then altering present actions to achieve them (means). The impending logo “the end justifies the means” became a household quote. (Werkmeister, 1973) Secular humanism (openly supported by Dewey during his lifetime) and the National Education Association’s approach to our education system are examples of Dewey’s philosophy in action.
Such an “ends justifies the means” approach can be used in making excuses when present behavior does not align with stated or perceived values, discrepancies being tolerated under the guise they eventually lead to a future higher value state. Christians justifying a vote for a pro-abortion candidate on the grounds the candidate will make economic conditions better and eventually reduce abortions is an example of such reasoning. In fact, Dewey’s reasoning could be used in justifying all abortions if they eventually lead to only desired children living more materialistically blessed lives. The fact that later Dewey himself agreed that his processes and conclusions could always be reasonably challenged as wrong or mistaken provides little deterring effect on myopic followers of his reasoning (Kemerling, 2006).
Canadian Charles Taylor represents a growing number of philosophers recognizing pitfalls in eliminating spiritual influences for shaping societal values. Taylor suggests a complex interaction between personal, religious, and other societal forces for providing the most enlightened list of worthwhile values to base society. The redeeming role of religion in this approach is its ability to become the tool convincing believers into accepting the pre-ordained values chosen by the enlightened elitists. (Baker, 2003)
In practice, present values are being shaped more by an alphabetic soup of culprits like MTV, CNN, CBS, ABC, and NBC. However, decision makers embedded in these organizations are often guided by ideas stemming from value sources similar to those proposed by the philosophers mentioned above. The American public is surprisingly aware that they are fatefully being led astray as sheep to the slaughter, yet seem complacent while it is taking place.
A June 6, 2007, report conducted by the Culture and Media Institute (CMI) reveals 74 percent believe American values are declining and 68 percent believe the media is having a negative effect on our values. The nation’s news outlets fare only slightly better with 54 percent believing these institutions are contributing to our moral collapse. Furthermore, the amount of television a person watches largely determines a person’s view on social issues. (Fitzpatrick, 2007) It makes one wonder if our society is beginning to reap the same crop sown and harvested by Nietzsche himself, willingly submitting ourselves to the ultimate nervous breakdown lying ahead.
Where Do We Go From Here?
If America is to survive the Christian community must revive, offering a distinctively different approach to future values formation. One common fallacy in the philosophies of Kant, Nietzsche, Dewey, and Taylor is the role subjectivity, or personal feelings play determining the worth of given values. Although such a subjective approach makes sense when placing monetary value on objects in a free market system, it is an utterly chaotic method for determining societal order in other areas.
In Matthew 7:24–27, Christ outlined the source of all worthwhile values, offering the followers of these values a foundation that no circumstance of life can shake. “Everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like the wise man who built his house on the rock” (verse 24, italic added). The contrary is also true, “everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like the foolish man who built his house on the sand.”
Note the permanency and uncompromising nature of the passage. No room for wishy-washy subjectivity. You either pattern your behavior according to the eternal values Christ has spoken in His Word, or you are a fool building on a loose foundation which will eventually fail, destroying the faÃ§ade that appears in public view above that foundation. Those building on the Rock of Christ’s values will become a shining light of example for those lost souls searching something solid on which to build their lives (Matthew 5:14–16).
If recent data showing “Christian behavior” in American society in such areas as divorce or addiction to pornography is anywhere near accurate, there is little reason to believe “Christian” values should be respected much less emulated by others. (Barna) The American brand of Christianity has become like the salt of Matthew 5:13, worthy of little more than to be trampled under the feet of men.
If American Christians begin calling out to God, living out His values rather than adopting those of society around them, and begin shinning as the light God intended them to be, there is still hope for America’s future. In the meantime, one can’t help but sense we are approaching the precipice of no return.
Dale L. Garrett, Lt. Col., professor, Evangel University, Springfield, Missouri
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