Those who share traditional norms and values have had their bell rung in recent months. I know this to be the case, because I have the ringing in my own ears. It seems that popular opinion has suddenly embraced a more permissive view of morality. Those previously unassailable certainties, like marriage and gender distinctions, are in serious danger of being overturned. The recent culture swing is so sharp and so rapid that it can be disorienting for those who object to the shift. So if you are dizzy by all the recent changes, you have good reason. If you are discouraged, you have less reason.
I am alarmed, troubled even, but not discouraged. What we are seeing is not good, and make no mistake, if our country veers off into a permissive ditch the butcher’s bill is going to be savage. The damage brought by this sanctioned immorality is going to be monstrous. And still, I am not discouraged. Nor should you be.
Some ‘progressive evangelicals’ like Rob Bell have acquiesced to the inevitable. He recently made his new allegiance quite clear, “I am for love, whether it’s a man and a woman, a woman and a woman, a man and a man. I think the ship has sailed … this is the world that we are living in and we need to affirm people wherever they are.” In his mind, the battle is lost and it is better to be among the victors.
While few readers of my blog are likely to follow Bell in his abandonment of Biblical truth, I fear that they may share his assessment of the battle. All is lost! Alas, we are defeated! This kind of pessimism tempts us to revert to a kind of ‘evangelical fundamentalism’ where we shrink into our homes and build stout walls. Better to keep the ungodly at bay while we create an enclave of righteousness that is impervious to their corrupting influence. As Frost famously said, “good fences make good neighbors”.
But what if the battle is not lost?
We need to liberate ourselves from the myth of inevitability. Too often we are told that history moves inexorably towards increasingly ‘progressive’ and ‘permissive’ places. The trajectory of time is leading us further and further away from the ways of God. But this simply isn’t true. If there is anything to be learned in recent days it is that culture is incredibly malleable—it can, and does shift quickly.
Most are unaware that between the two world wars, eugenics was widely held among the cultural and intellectual elite of America and England. The likes of George Bernard Shaw and Bertrand Russell were quite explicit in their desire to eliminate the ‘unworthy’. Shaw said, “I don’t want to punish anybody, but there are an extraordinary number of people who I might want to kill.” Russell suggested that it would serve society to reduce the number of “idiots, imbeciles, and feeble minded.” It is hard to imagine anyone speaking these thoughts openly, and yet there were three World Eugenics Conferences held between 1912 and 1932, two of which were hosted in New York. The point I am making is quite simple—public opinion does change and it does reverse course.
This realization should make us less anxious and less reactionary. A calm measured response is needed. We are fortunate to have God’s truth as a guide and we can communicate it courageously. Our voice may not be heard by all, but a gentle correction repeated multiple times by a multitude can sway society. Bell may be right, the ship may have sailed, but it has yet to reach its port.