Values

I guess this is another reminder that I am getting older (what isn't these days?), but I am continually amazed by what a crazy world we live in.

In one hour of morning television, I see our WV senator having to defend the people of our state against the outrageous so-called-reality show's portrayal of our youth in Buck Wild (taking the time slot formerly occupied by The Jersey Shore). In case you haven't heard about it, this is yet one more show that glamorizes bad and/or outrageous behavior ... because it sells and people will watch. (It's sad that this is what entertainment has become. But it's also true that if nobody watched, it wouldn't make money and it wouldn't be aired.)

Then, on the other end of the spectrum, you have people insisting that radio hosts should be held criminally responsible for the death of a woman who killed herself following the humiliation of having put a prank call through to Princess Kate's nurse (if that was indeed the reason she committed suicide).

I have been listening to disc jockeys make these kinds of prank calls (for entertainment purposes) since I was in my twenties. This form of entertainment has been acceptable and appreciated by many for years. These two people didn't do anything that hasn't been done again and again. And everybody was laughing about their call getting through until the news of the suicide. Because something terrible happened this time, and we know about it because this involved a high profile, royal family, it is drawing a harsh and judgmental response from many. But were any of those people laughing before the news of the death? And are those disc jockeys really responsible for someone choosing to take their own life? In the recording I heard, the things they said were harmless enough. And the nurse who answered their questions was also fooled, not just the one who put the call through.

My heart goes out to the nurse who felt humiliated on a global stage and her family. I'm sure I would have been in tears for days. But I am absolutely certain I would not have wanted to die and leave my family over being gullible. Maybe that's because I'm gullible on a smaller scale on a daily basis. But also, we can't know what else was going on in this woman's life that made her so fragile. We can't know her mental or emotional state going into this scenario. Our world is filled with fragile people. And we are all fragile in some way. That doesn't mean responsibility for a suicide can be placed on a person who uses poor judgment in their humor.

But the real question is: Why do we only object to this kind of entertainment AFTER something bad happens? Why can't we see in advance that being amused by outrageous behavior and humor at the expense of others often leads to negative outcomes? Why do we embrace this kind of entertainment to begin with? It's certainly not because we don't have the evidence in front of us that it doesn't result in good things for us individually or collectively.

It seems to me an incredible double standard that we live by anymore. We encourage a departure from morality and responsibility in so many areas, especially obvious in our entertainment, but then when the consequences of our abandonment of morality and responsibility result in tragic consequences, we want to jump on a bandwagon of blame.

If you know me, or have read some of the things I've written, then you know that I often feel a certain tension between holding my own Christian values and imposing my values on other citizens of this country. I don't assume it's my right or my duty to control the choices of unbelievers. And one of the reasons I don't is because God doesn't and Jesus didn't when He was here on earth. I tend to be a 'live and let live' person, lacking in any personal desire whatsoever to control anyone else's life or choices. I would rather err on the side of loving people unconditionally and leave all judgment to God. I also sometimes wonder if the Christian community champions too many causes in the public/political arena. After all, we are instructed in Scripture to be in the world but not of the world. And the decline of our broken world is prophesied. I am not surprised by seeing the breakdown of Christian values in our nation because I have expected to see it -- based on biblical prophecy -- for as long as I've been old enough to ponder it.

However, when I embrace a 'live and let live' attitude toward choices that reject God's boundaries for our lives, I feel convicted spiritually that I may be displeasing God. I want to be loving and compassionate, but not apathetic. I don't want to be a self-righteous Pharisee. And I want to be focused more on my own sin than the sin of others. But I don't want to be desensitized to sin in general by the culture I live in. And to some extent, I think I probably am.

I am reading a book right now, What's So Great About Christianity? by Dinesh D'Souza. And this book gives the strongest reasons I have ever read for us, as Christians, to do everything we can to preserve Christian values in this nation. I cannot possibly do the book justice with a few quotes. I recommend it to you as a book well worth reading cover to cover. But chapter seven, "Created Equal: The Origin of Human Dignity" really spoke to me on this topic, which causes me so much inner conflict.

D'Souza concludes the chapter (I urge you to read the book) with a warning...

The life of the West, Nietzsche said, is based on Christianity. The values of the West are based on Christianity. Some of these values seem to have taken a life of their own, and this gives us the illusion that we can get rid of Christianity and keep the values. This, Nietzsche says, is an illusion. Our Western values are what Nietzsche terms "shadows of gods." Remove the Christian foundation and the values must go too.

True, values like equal dignity and equal rights will persist for a period out of sheer unthinking habit. But their influence will erode. Consider the example of secular Europe. Secularization has been occurring in Europe for well over a century, and for a while it seemed as if the decline of Christianity would have no effect on Western morality or Western social institutions. Yet if Nietzsche is right we would expect to see the decline of Christianity also result, over time, in the decline of one of the great legacies of Christianity, the nuclear family. We would expect to see high rates of divorce and birth out of wedlock. And this is what we do see. Secular trends in America have produced the same results, which are not as advanced in America because Christianity has not eroded as much here as it has in Europe.

As secularism continues, Nietzsche forecasts that new values radically inconsistent with the Christian ones -- the restoration of infanticide, demands for the radical redefinition of the family, the revival of eugenic theories of human superiority -- will begin to emerge. These too, are evident in our day. And they are some of the motives for attacking Christianity and insisting that its values are outmoded and should be replaced.

Unfortunately, for the critics of Christianity, even values they care about will, according to Nietzsche, eventually collapse. Consider our beliefs in human equality and the value of human life. We may say we believe in human equality, but why do we hold this belief? It is the product of the Christian idea of the spiritual equality of souls. We may insist we believe that all human life has dignity and value, but this too is the outgrowth of a Christian tradition in which each person is the precious creation of God. There is no secular basis for these values, and when secular writers defend them they always employ unrecognized Christian assumptions.

In sum, the death of Christianity must also mean the gradual extinction of values such as human dignity, the right against torture, and the rights of equal treatment asserted by women, minorities, and the poor. Do we want to give these up also? If we cherish the distinctive ideals of Western civilization, and believe as I do that they have enormously benefited our civilization and the world, then whatever our religious convictions, and even if we have none, we will not rashly try to hack at the religious roots from which they spring. On the contrary, we will not hesitate to acknowledge, not only privately but also publicly, the central role that Christianity has played and still plays in the things that matter most to us.

Even with this long quote from the book, I have given you just a snippet of this chapter. This book is thoroughly researched and well-written. D'Souza explains why we cannot attribute any of our values to other ancient societies (as some try to claim), like the Greeks or Romans.

I don't think all of the tension I feel about government legislating morality will go away because I read this book. But this author convincingly reminds me that a 'live and let live' attitude will have serious consequences for our country -- not just believers. And he does so in great detail.

I'm really glad this book was suggested to me, and I enthusiastically suggest it to you!

This book addresses:

*Why Christianity explains what modern science tells us about the universe and our origins--that matter was created out of nothing, that light preceded the sun--better than atheism does
*How Christianity created the framework for modern science, so that Christianity and science are not irreconcilable, but science and atheism might be
*Why the alleged sins of Christianity--the Crusades, the Inquisition, the Galileo affair ("an atheist's fable")--are vastly overblown
*Why atheist regimes are responsible for the greatest mass murders of history
*Why evolution does not threaten Christian belief, but actually supports the "argument from design"
*Why atheists fear the Big Bang theory and the "anthropic principle" of the universe, which are keystones of modern astronomy and physics
*How Christianity explains consciousness and free will, which atheists have to deny
*Why ultimately you can't have Western civilization--and all we value from it--without the Christianity that gave it birth.

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