Monday, November 05, 2007

Culture of the Moral Negative

America has now become a “Culture of the Moral Negative.”

I am not talking about “negativity,” the bogie man of the new age. Actually, I am convinced negativity can be honorable. Of God’s ten laws, eight of them are stated in the negative. “Thou shalt not.” That is an 80% negativity rate. Flawed human beings need limits to inhibit our sinful behavior. But that is another topic.

I am talking about the kind of negative you develop a picture from. On the photographic negative, dark colors appear as light and light looks dark. The image is reversed. A moral negative exists when right and wrong, good and bad, moral light and dark, are reversed. There have always been people with morally negative consciences. The culture of the moral negative develops when this kind of conscience becomes prominent in a society.

In Isaiah 5:20, God spoke through the prophet and said, “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 the culture of the moral negative.

Is America such a culture? When a Christian denomination denies the clear teachings of scripture and elects an active, unrepentant homosexual as a bishop, when that bishop beams into the cameras and gushes about the maturity it took to take such a step, we are becoming a culture of the moral negative. When any judicial nominee who does not believe women have the right to kill unborn children is labeled a radical and is filibustered, morality is reversed into a negative. When tolerance of all things is seen as the highest moral virtue, when a local clergyman calls evangelism “hate speech,” when courts declare “one nation under God” unconstitutional, our culture is becoming a moral negative.

The Cedar Rapids Gazette ran an article about a young couple trying to find a church to marry them. This couple lived together and wanted a church wedding. They did not want any biblical counsel, or to come under the ministry of a local church, or to alter their lives in any way, but wanted the blessing of the church on their union. Only in a culture of the moral negative would such a couple be viewed sympathetically as victims of intolerance.

Contrary to the pronouncements of the media elite, biblical Christians do not want to do away with religious freedom and force everyone to comply with our beliefs. It is debatable whether America ever was, or was ever intended to be, a Christian nation. It is hardly debatable that Christian moral standards were the cultural underpinning of this nation throughout its history until the 1960’s. America may never have been utopia but it was a moral nation, and that morality was based on Judeo-Christian ethics, on the scriptures themselves. Light was light and dark was dark. Sin was called sin and goodness was good.

The moral negative has developed because the church has refused to do its job. We are supposed to be the salt of the earth, inhibiting the decay that wickedness brings. We have a prophetic role, confronting sin and wickedness, and presenting Jesus Christ as the solution. But too many Christians have compromised biblical conviction to conform to the ideas of popular culture. We have let the sinful world shape our thinking instead of conforming to the revelation of scripture,

My own denomination is a powerful example of this. In the 1840’s, Southern culture embraced slavery. Instead of confronting slavery, Southern Baptists conformed to the prevailing mindset of the day. They twisted scripture and proclaimed slavery from the pulpit. I stood with thousands of Southern Baptists a few years ago to publicly and sincerely repent that our forefathers twisted the Bible to justify slavery. When the church twists biblical teachings to conform to the ideas of popular culture, the moral negative develops.

Now other denominations are falling into the same trap. Our culture has embraced heterosexual promiscuity and homosexuality as normal, even admirable. No one would search the scriptures and come to those conclusions. Few ideas are as clearly presented in scripture as the idea that marriage is a man and a woman joined in a monogamous relationship, and that any sexual activity outside that relationship is sin.

But because churches have compromised biblical truth, and because we have twisted scripture to make it conform to popular culture instead of the moral standards of scripture, we are entering a culture of the moral negative; everything is reversed. The prophets no longer challenge culture to conform to God’s ways, instead they have become enthusiastic participants in depravity.

“Woe to those who call evil good and good evil.” The culture of the moral negative is a symptom of a sick and depraved society, teetering on the brink of collapse. Great civilizations of history have reached the point of the moral negative, and have devolved into oblivion. Our nation is in deep trouble. The problem is not political, or economic, or educational. The problem is moral and spiritual. No society can prosper, or even survive, in a culture of the moral negative. How long can we stand without a moral backbone?

Are things hopeless? Not at all. Israel, at the end of the period of the Judges, had embraced debauchery in a way that might have made Larry Flynt blush. They were a culture of the moral negative. But, Israel’s greatest days were only about 50 years in the future.

How did things change? One man, a prophet named Samuel, gave himself to God and his ways. He led Israel and proclaimed truth for many years. He anointed a king who was “a man after God’s own heart.” David led Israel to its greatest days of glory.

America is in danger, but is not hopeless. As unpopular as it might be, men and women of faith need to stand strong, refusing to compromise truth to please our culture. We must not succumb to the moral negative, but live in the brilliant color of God’s light. The change will not come through legislation or coercion, but the power of God can and will still change hearts.

I pray that in the coming election year, God might raise up in this land leaders with clear moral vision – who see right as right and wrong as wrong. May the full color of God’s truth replace the culture of the moral negative in our land.

No comments: