Has Secular Culture Finally Been Shocked?

Olivia Lichtenstein of the UK’s Mail Online has written an article entitled, “How the Faceless and Amoral World of Cyberspace has Created a Deeply Disturbing….Generation SEX.” Lichtenstein is disturbed by the shameless immorality (actually amorality) of today’s teenagers and young adults. By her own admission she is no prude but still finds the overt sexuality of her daughter’s friends quite shocking. I won’t go into the details of the article in this post (read the article yourself) but I find it particularly surprising that Lichtenstein is shocked by these kids’ behavior!

After generations of teaching children that they are the products of blind, random chance and that there are no such things as objective moral standards -unless, of course, you are talking about the ultimate sin of intolerance – it is no surprise that they should simply do whatever feels right at the moment. Technology has opened a window into the private lives of people that was simply not possible before. Now, someone can gain their fifteen minutes of fame by posting some incredibly shocking behavior on YouTube or MySpace. The problem is that little consideration is given to the future repercussion of one’s foolishness, much less the morality of the act being posted. Lichtenstein correctly observes, “Instant fame is all. In today’s celebrity culture, no one cares how you made your name as long as you’ve made it; there’s no distinction between fame and notoriety.”

She is right to label today’s youth as amoral, for to be immoral they would have to have a morality to violate. However, what is particularly telling about this article is Lichtenstein’s utter inability to say why such behavior is wrong. Listen to this particular tidbit of moral confusion, “Few would wish to return to the hypocritical restraints of life before the sexual revolution; however, the trouble with the pendulum is that it has a habit of swinging too far the other way.” I wonder how Mrs. Lichtenstein is able to judge how far the pendulum should go? Once the “hypocritical restraints” are removed, who is to judge what is right and wrong. Is she shocked just because such things would never have been done so publicly in her day? Could not her daughter simply counter that such an observation is itself a “hypocritical restraint?”

I share Lichtenstein’s lament. As a pastor I am probably more sensitized to the growing amorality and general acceptance of shocking behavior with each successive generation. Unlike Lichtenstein, however, I can speak with moral clarity to such behavior because it violates standards which our Creator has set. I am certain that such a standard would be held up to ridicule by most of Lichtenstein’s readers and perhaps by Lichtenstein herself. However, one should not be shocked at society’s standards while at the same time holding that society is evolving and that rules of morality are anything but fixed. As I have reminded my church, moral laws are only as permanent as the moral lawgiver. While I applaud the general tenor of this article, at best it is merely an exercise in descriptive ethics. Lichtenstein can only describe the moral laxity she observes, but can offer very little of value in how or why it should change.

As ministers of the Word, we must not shrink from proclaiming a counter-cultural morality that demands repentance and surrender. This message begins with church members who all too often are guilty of adopting society’s standards. We also must be careful to preach the gospel of grace to the young man or woman who has succumbed to the deceit of this present evil age and has made sinful choices that may have awful repercussions. If Lichtenstein’s article is any indication, even the world is realizing that something has gone terribly wrong. God help us to shine the light of His truth into the darkness.

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