Who’s to say what is right and wrong? That was a question that the radicals in the 1960’s often asked. Those of us who were among them and heard their arguments realized that they wanted to throw off the restraints of Christian beliefs that had been historically embraced by our society. The desire to embrace a new “freedom” was openly advocated. “Free love” was promoted, but that essentially meant no restraints on the desires.
The cultural taboos that had been associated with illicit sex, illicit drugs, and profane speech and actions were dismantled by asking on whose authority those cultural prohibitions existed. The truth was that few people in positions of leadership (government, education, business, entertainment, politics) had an adequate answer. These leaders had for the most part already abandoned a belief in God as the source of truth. The radicals were merely promoting the logical extension of unbelief and skepticism of those cultural leaders.
As soon as the old basis for evaluating right and wrong was abandoned, a new morality emerged. It first started with something like this: “You can’t tell me what I can or cannot do.” Hence, the unrest on campuses over dorm visiting rules, campus police staying out of the dormitories, and open visiting hours for dorm students of opposite sexes. But that was only the beginning.
At Penn State when one student was uncomfortable with his roommate’s homosexuality (he objected to being the daily object of another’s perverted lust) and requested a new roommate, he was sent not to a new room but to sensitivity training. He needed to learn to applaud, not avoid, homosexuality. So the culture turned from “You can’t tell me what to do” to “We’ll tell you what you can or cannot do.”
This change, like yeast growing in bread dough, began to be seen in every aspect of culture. Where a school teacher once began the day by Bible reading and prayer, she is now prohibited from using the Bible or in some cases even having one on her desk. Where the Ten Commandments were once on display in many public areas, they are now removed, lest a student seeing them may have a religious thought, according to a Supreme Court Justice, and that would be “unconstitutional.” Where a mere dozen years ago homosexual acts were criminal in the majority of our fifty states, gay marriage is now promoted as some kind of new civil right and criticizing perversion is now considered hate speech.
Patriotism was once understood to be a defense of what had been virtuous in America, including defending religious speech in the public square, standing for traditional moral principles based on a Judeo/Christian understanding of right and wrong, a respect for the American soldier and the American policeman, belief in hard work as the way to personal advancement, respect for private property, esteeming the honest entrepreneur, veneration for the virtues of the Founding Fathers, honoring the flag, and believing that America was great because of godly influence in its history and brilliance of its Constitution.
When flag burning began as a political protest statement in the sixties, those who engaged were considered by most Americans to be unpatriotic. And for some time the very word patriotism was equated with those beliefs that the flag burners were denouncing. But that changed. A female politician who had been part of the radical movement stood at a rally and in her high pitched voice shouted, “I’m tired of being told I’m not patriotic.” That statement was made fun of by various people, but it signaled a change in the American culture’s view of patriotism. The old was out, the new was in.
Patriotism was exemplified by our founders as being willing to devote “our lives, fortunes, and sacred honor” for the idea of American liberty. The American army fought for such ideals. But what of our military now? They are told to refrain from appealing to God in the name of Jesus. They are prohibiting chaplains from presenting the Biblical message of salvation. What are they fighting for? The concept of same sex marriage as a civil right? A woman’s right to abortion? Free sex in the streets?
As a senior studying education at the university, I was in a class where there was a radical student promoting free sex in the streets. After all, who is to say what’s right and wrong? How can you force your morality on me? Where do you get the authority to limit my freedom? When he concluded, neither the professor nor anyone in the class raised any objection to his argument. Being rather reticent of demeanor, I waited for a few moments. Finally, I raised my hand and then my voice in protest to his libertine proposals. At the end of class, about 150 students filed out, none of which as I recall made so much as eye contact with me. The professor stopped me as I was leaving. “I admire your courage,” he said. But what of him? When the culture was being attacked and dismantled before his eyes, he stood mutely watching it as though it was no more than an academic exercise.
These are not the first times when evil seemed to win out. The prophet in ancient Israel preached under similar degradations. “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter. Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes and clever in their own sight. Woe to those who are heroes at drinking wine and champions at mixing drinks” (Isa. 5:20-22). He was describing inverted morality. Yet he did not stop at merely describing the problems of his sad day. He held out hope.
“Comfort ye, comfort ye my people.” Where was this hopeful comfort to be found? His prophetic vision showed a redeemer who was coming. One who made it possible for those who sat in darkness to see a great light. One who was “wounded for our transgressions” and “bruised for our iniquities.” His message was to the self-centered wanderers who had strayed to the wilderness. There is a way back. There is hope again for the lame to leap, the dumb to speak, and streams to flow in the desert.
Jesus said that he came to seek and to save that which was lost. We live in a lost culture of lost people. These are just the ones the Savior came to save. There is one hope for all of the peoples of the world. “And we have seen and do testify that the Father sent the Son to be the Saviour of the world” (1 John 4:14).