Those who can make you believe absurdities, can make you commit atrocities.Voltaire
In 1993, the brilliant Daniel Patrick Moynihan wrote an essay titled “Defining Deviancy Down,” in which he postulated that “…there is a limit to the amount of deviant behavior a community can afford to recognize.” Oh, if only he could see America’s society, entertainment, culture, and politics as they are today. As a country we have embraced a lack of standards that implies that anything goes—and don’t you dare criticize what happens as a result.
Deviance is defined as the departure from usual or accepted standards, especially in social or sexual behavior. That begs the question as to just what the acceptable standards are today. Look at the state of politics: Our history shows how deviant these standards are.
The most profound anomaly is the ensconcing of self onto the throne of godhood, putting one’s belief in oneself rather than God. Today something like a secular Christianity is growing. It has become accepted to ask, even rhetorically, “Why can’t God be more like me?” My baser self wants to ask the person, if he considers his lifestyle, actions, and nature, whether he would reconsider such a recommendation.
C. S. Lewis once wrote, “The vice I am talking of is Pride or Self-Conceit: and the virtue opposite to it, in Christian morals, is called Humility … According to Christian teachers, the essential vice, the utmost evil, is Pride.” A perfect example of this kind of thinking is prevalent today when we hear someone say, “God loves me just the way I am.” That is true, yet we must not use this as license to engage in actions that violate God’s laws. God does love us as His children, but He also despises sin.
The God of Science
If not deification of the self, then many in our society suffer from belief in the all-consuming god of science. A gentleman to whom I am witnessing for Christ once told me why he was having difficulty believing in Jesus. His answer was summed up, almost reverentially, in one word: “science.” A powerful form of preternatural belief today is the almost god-like worship of that word. “Believe the Science,” as they say. So many think that if they simply invoke the word, all arguments are over. Case closed. Science is used as an excuse for non-belief in Christ, or for experimental governmental and social policies, outlandish behaviors, and on and on.
Science is portrayed as all-knowing and inevitably accurate, but this is a misuse of the term. Science is the pursuit of answers, not the answer. That is why it consists of hypothesis, theory, and supposition. Those who misuse the word “science” as proof that there is no God, use arguments made of low-grade clay.
Science can’t tell us or how the universe was created. Darwin was frustrated by the fact that his theory couldn’t explain why eyes never evolved. Science can’t tell us why we have consciousness or a sense of humor that no other creatures have. It can’t explain the irreducible complexity of some cellular mechanisms in the human form. It can’t answer whether the universe is either expanding or shrinking, what it is outside of it, or why it is that when you get to the molecular level, gravity disappears.
It doesn’t require any expertise to raise these questions, but we’re supposed to believe that the word “science” cancels out belief in Almighty God and His Son? Imperfection does not exclude the existence of perfection. To see science as the answer to everything is to postulate that one can explain everything, which is simply not true. Einstein, Newton, Pasteur, Schrodinger, Ben Carson, and so many more scientists have professed belief in God. One need only read the brilliant books by John Lennox to see how faith and factual scientific knowledge can and do go hand in hand. Scientists discover where their conclusions were wrong and continually attempt to correct them.
Not a Person, But a Label
Instead of reasoned dialogue, today we have precious little civil discourse. It has been replaced by yelling and haranguing, often followed by hate and cancellation efforts toward any who disagree with the stated position. The last time the lack of respect was even close to this bad, we had a civil war.
Social media, the wicked nephew of the Internet, has opened a Pandora’s Box of aberration. It has provided this narcissistic and self-absorbed society a daily format to tell the world, “Hey, look at me.” What was originally used for communication has been twisted by too many of the users and so many of the leaders in Silicon Valley. They cancel or close down the accounts of those with whom they disagree but allow other extremist groups to continue. Cowards with keyboards harangue, accuse, threaten, postulate ignorance, besiege the innocent, create fake news, and socially cancel.
The godless Nazis perfected this formula. The first step is to make one’s enemy not a person, but a label. Politics, religion, gender, race—all become labels, and everything disliked about an individual adheres to that label. The next step is to convince oneself that it is acceptable to hate those under the label because they are the ones who are filled with hate. They are incapable of redemption in the eyes of the labeler. The one who labels sees himself as judge and jury, with visions of his own virtuousness.
First the Spiritual
As Christians, our message of love and Christ-like service can be drowned out by the click bait of hateful commentary. Blaise Pascal put it perfectly in the 17th century when he wrote, “Truth is so obscure in these times, and falsehood so established, that, unless we love the truth, we cannot know it.”
Beware of what C. S. Lewis called “the great cataract of nonsense,” or the tendency to practice chronological snobbery. This occurs when supposedly learned individuals only concern themselves with current theoretical sources, presenting the history and foundations of the faith as they please. We risk disregarding the lessons from past writings that might provide a pathway through the battalions of voices and movements that vie for our allegiance. Objectively reviewing the wisdom from our Christian history provides the opportunity to avoid the deceptions and deviancy of the present.
In the early twentieth century, for instance, the social gospel movement attempted to reform society through non-religious means. To fulfill the Great Commission as stated in Matthew 28, however, we must focus first on the spiritual: our relationship with the Lord and our commitment to bringing souls to Christ. Our foremost message must be as stated in Romans 5:8, “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” That will enable us to tackle the secular challenges that confront our times.