Lately it’s begun to feel as though I’m only told I’m wrong when I say something is wrong. It’s as if the only action frowned upon is the act of frowning upon, and the only taboo is calling something taboo. In this day and age, it seems as though (at least in the media and popular culture—think Twitter) we’re not allowed to denounce anyone’s choices, actions, or beliefs without incurring criticism for criticizing. We’re only permitted to go so far as to say that we feel or think differently. Regardless of our own principles, we’re asked to accept all other beliefs and life approaches indiscriminately.
Some for better and some for worse, more and more of what used to be labeled illicit, insane, or ill advised is entering the realm of what’s considered mainstream, normal, and healthy. Where, then, are we to put our conflicting standards of morality? Who gets to decide when the line gets pushed (or erased) between right and wrong, good and evil, depraved and commonplace?
I don’t have the answers. I’m imperfect. And though I’m sure I often act otherwise, there are few things I know for certain. I have watched the world change. I have seen facades break. I’ve amended some of my beliefs. I’ve had to accept some ugly or uncomfortable things. However, I believe certain lines exist that should never be crossed. Some things will always be right; and some things are wrong.
There are a lot of issues that I could use to illustrate how as a Christian, woman, black person, American, human being, and all the other things I am, I’m often grieved to see certain beliefs and practices embraced—not just accepted, but praised. There are things that (deep to my core) I believe are wrong—pernicious and destructive—that society seems to have no problem accepting.
Rather than remaining fixed, it appears morality is at the mercy of the most vocal majority. And while some changes are the result of good research, insights, or innovations, more seem to simply be an unwillingness to offend or hurt feelings—like preventing the tantrum by giving the misbehaving kid a cookie.
Culture has an especially hard time criticizing things when “everybody is doing it.” But even that isn’t true. “Everybody’s doing it” is the oldest mantra of peer pressure on the books, and it’s deceptive. It simply isn’t accurate.
First of all, “everybody doing it” doesn’t make “it” any less wrong. Does everyone lie on his or her tax forms or surreptitiously download songs or movies for free? No. But even if everyone did, it wouldn’t change the act’s illegality. Just because a feeling, habit, or action is popular, doesn’t mean it does no harm. Have you noticed how many people roll through stop signs? It’s an epidemic, but that doesn’t make it any less dangerous or wrong.
And let’s not forget the simplest argument. “Everybody” does not equal “a lot.” Certainly some vices are more common. Some are even done by an overwhelming majority. Lots of people text and drive. We’ve all been mean. Everyone has at least one foot in the pool of dishonesty. But there will always be nonconformists who stand their ground—who don’t take the popular or easy view of right versus wrong. There will always be those who don’t equate a behavior’s popularity with its being above reproach. You may call us prudes, old-fashioned, or out of touch.
There are a lot of hot topics I could choose as my example, but the issue I’m most often confronted with in songs, movies, and television is the destructive distortion of love. Everywhere I look, I see romantic relationships reduced to the physical at the expense of the emotional, spiritual, relational, or intellectual. It’s rampant.
I had to stop watching shows by a certain popular television producer, because they all seemed chronically unable (or unwilling) to depict a happy and healthy marriage. Affairs were commonplace. Challenges were treated as impassable. Commitment was repeatedly subjugated by “the heat of the moment” or “what the heart wants.” Love seemed to be a license for adultery, and love looked a lot like lust.
As a woman who is married and believes in lifelong commitment, I find the media’s counterfeit offensive. It’s hollow. It’s dishonest, and it’s dangerous. Relationships are reduced to transactions, human beings to bodies, personalities to parts, and what is supposed to be a loving union to a performance. Consider the commonly referenced idea of a character being great in bed or the sex in a relationship being good—as if it’s a talent or a competition versus a learning experience or physical dialogue.
The way many movies and shows choose to depict sex in relationships underscores a complete misappropriation of its purpose and its power. The idea of being good in bed suggests that it’s just a skill as opposed to a form of communication—a hobby instead of a learned language of love. It promotes getting intimate without engaging in intimacy—the implication being that sex is an exercise instead of an expression of fidelity.
I’m not here to tell anyone how to live. I’m the only person under my authority—the only person I expect to live out my beliefs. I agree that autonomous beings get to make their own decisions. And so long as their choices don’t harm me or other human beings, I’m not going to get up on a soapbox and make a condemning speech. What I will do is try to not be peer pressured into abandoning my values. I must reevaluate my moral viewpoints in the face of new information, but I won’t allow popularity or today’s trends to be the only argument that leads me to abandon them. I can’t be so afraid of offending others or losing friends that I betray my beliefs. Some things are wrong; pretending otherwise is ill conceived.
“If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ.” ~ Galatians 1:10c