Not to sound like my father or his father, but what is this world coming to?
I always told myself I would not become one of those people who sit around complaining about the degradation of society. Now that I am older, I find myself appreciating my dad’s sometimes gruff commentaries on the state of things.
Before I come across as a grumpy, middle-aged preacher spouting holier-than-thou opinions and disparaging this upcoming generation, it’s necessary to make a couple of disclaimers.
First, I’m not holier than anyone. It’s only by God’s beautiful grace that I can make any claim whatsoever to any form of holiness that I might be fortunate enough to possess. That’s what a relationship with Jesus Christ affords me, and for that I’m grateful.
Second, the comments I’m sharing have nothing to with the younger crowd. I’m incredibly impressed by the next generation. We all could learn from them. My worship leader is a young man who has amazing integrity, character and a dedication to the kingdom of God that surpasses that of many older folks I know.
That said, I am concerned about the spiraling values that seem to be supported by our society. So many things that pass as entertaining today would have been rejected as not worth our time a decade ago.
An example is the recent rise to fame of the pitiful teenager, known simply as “cash me outside,” who appeared on the Dr. Phil show. (As an aside, he, too, could be an example of what I am talking about, but I’ll leave that for another day.)
This unruly, disrespectful and nearly illiterate child was elevated overnight to stardom and now apparently has millions of “followers,” commanding a speaking fee of nearly $40,000 per engagement.
What could she possibly have to offer that is worth that kind of money and the time it would take to go listen to her?
The fact that our modern society rewards the values her experience represents is troubling. Meanwhile, we are willing to let things that truly matter and can make a difference, like education and community enrichment ministries, go underfunded and understaffed.
This is a matter for the church to take note of, too, because we have allowed our voice to fall silent in favor of preserving our institutions.
While there is always much discussion about whose values are right, the big “hot-button” issues that fall into these debates are not as concerning to me.
I know genuinely good people on both sides of those debates, and the discussions we have are healthy and helpful. What I am talking about is the stuff that seems to be OK with everyone.
Issues aside, there is so much that society as a whole accepts as entertaining. We support it with a collective nod of approval or a million “likes.” Maybe we are so anxious about the seriousness of things that do matter that it’s easier to embrace the absurd. That does not bode well for the future, however.
I am reminded of how the Israelites had become so self-indulgent that they neglected the things of God in favor of embracing the profane society that surrounded them. The prophets of God spoke out, often and passionately, to no avail.
Their continued downward spiral led them off into captivity at the hands of their enemies. A once strong nation that served as an example to all the other nations became a different kind of example. It became the poster child for what happens when we lose sight of the values that are grounded in something beyond ourselves.
May the church become and may our society see that better example, that we might elevate that which contributes to a better world.
The Rev. Randall Monk is the lead pastor of Ekklesia Faith Community in Grovetown.