Sometimes changes occur so gradually that we lose all sense of perspective about the evil that has crept in to society. The public is no longer shocked by the last line of Gone With the Wind as they were in 1939. But even then the shock was not that people's ears were so tender that they had never heard the word damn; they were stunned because no movie had included such dialogue. Now it is likely that there are few words that moviegoers have not heard; people often ignore bad language or don't even notice it because they have been desensitized by its frequent use.
Nudity will undoubtedly be next, receiving a huge boost from the movie Titanic. A nude portrait figures prominently in the story line, and (judging from the success of the movie) few are outraged over the inclusion of this unnecessary scene. It was not too long ago that there would have been a hue and a cry over big screen nudity, but society has apparently become desensitized to that, also.
In fact, one wonders if there are any standards that anyone is willing to stand up and fight for any more. On January 23rd the Denton Record Chronicle published an AP article entitled "Clinton's Behavior 'Inappropriate' If True." The final two paragraphs read as follows.
Yet many voters seemed eager to excuse any presidential affairs.
This statement tells us quite a bit about Hollywood, if it represents thinking there, and it probably does--being the corollary to "It's only nudity." But wait a minute. Has not this actress inadvertently given a line of defense to sexual harassers, if not rapists: "Hey, it's only sex"? Certainly, this statement should find its way into the Guiness World Book of Stupid Statements.
Undoubtedly Potiphar's wife could have used Tracy Ray's assistance in her attempts to seduce the virtuous Joseph: "It's only sex." When Tamar gave Amnon the reasons why they should marry first, he might have replied, "Relax, sis, it's only sex." And when the multitude brought to Jesus the woman taken in the very act of adultery, He could have said, "You Pharisees are legalistic and hung up over things that don't really matter. Why don't you loosen up a bit? It's only sex."
Hollywood hasn't made many Biblical epics in the past 35 years (Richard Gere's portrayal of a faithless King David doesn't count); so they MAY have forgotten that God is opposed to illicit sexual relationships and punishes people for them. What does the Bible say?
If perchance someone overlooked Joseph's calling adultery a sin against God (Gen. 39:9), there is the little hint of God's disapproval dropped in the ten commandments: "You shall not commit adultery" (Ex. 20:14). Then there was God's displeasure with Israelite men who committed harlotry with the women of Moab; 24,000 were killed in a plague of judgment (Num. 25:1-9).
Moving to the New Testament, we find early on that not only is adultery wrong, it's something that shouldn't even be entertained in one's thoughts. Jesus said:
"You have heard that it was said to those of old, 'You shall not commit adultery.' But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust after her has already committed adultery with her in his heart" (Matt. 5:27-28).
In case Tracy Ray would say something equally intelligent, such as, "Oh, well, lust is YOUR problem," Jesus also talked about those who are stumblingblocks--how it would be better for them to put millstones around their necks and be cast into the sea (Luke 17:1-23). Do you suppose God might consider all the "starlets" who expose themselves (or most of themselves) in movies as provoking lust and being stumblingblocks?
Jesus told the woman taken in adultery: "Go and sin no more" (John 8:11). He referred to her act of adultery as SIN! Sexual sins head the list of acts that will prevent someone from inheriting the kingdom of heaven (1 Cor. 6:9-11). Number one is fornication (single people enjoying marital privileges); second is idolatry, but then Paul mentions adultery, homosexuals, and sodomites (NKJ). Idolatry is not out of place in this list since the exaltation of sex is a form of idolatry. Later in the list come thieves, drunkards, and extortioners.
If someone stole all of Tracy Ray's possessions, would she say, "It's only theft"? Adultery heads the list of sins in Galatians 5:19-21, which also includes murder. If someone killed Tracy Ray's dearest friend, would she comment, "It's only murder"?
God takes seriously people's sexual behavior.
Marriage is honorable among all, and the bed undefiled; but fornicators and adulterers God will judge (Heb. 13:4).
Furthermore, all those who are sexually immoral shall "have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death" (Rev. 21:8).
Sadly, the lack of values of those in the world has influenced those who profess to be Christians. Dr. Laura Schlessinger's first column on the first day of this year features a letter from a young man whose girlfriend wants them to live together. He is troubled because both of them are "Christians," and he knows their parents would be disappointed. His closing sentence reflects the lack of values that society has today.
I'm struggling because everyone else seems to have no trouble with it and I'm starting to feel weird or stupid for holding out for something I believe in and am not sure why any more (The Dallas Morning News (12C).
Dr. Schlessinger's response is excellent. Some of her comments include:
If those who are raised with Biblical values will not stand up for them and live by them, who will? Why are not those who claim to be followers of Christ teaching the values of Christ? How can one know the truth but just ignore it? When those who are supposed to have a degree of spirituality can allow themselves to be persuaded to live as do the ugly and profane, there must be very little light left.
In our August 31, 1997 issue of Spiritual Perspectives we made mention of Henry Lyons, the leader of the National Baptist Convention USA. This is the man who lied on his marriage license that he had not been married before when in actuality he was marrying for the third time. He also seemed to have an extra house, which his wife allegedly set on fire (apparently he had decorated it with another woman).
Remarkably, he was not ousted from his position as leader of this denomination. One would think it would be embarrassing to belong to a group with such an unscrupulous man as its head.
Now Mr. Lyons is in trouble once again. It seems he has what was a secret bank account with $350,000 in it. Worse yet, the money appears to have come from the Nigerian government and was to be used for him to lobby our government (although he is not registered as a lobbyist). Lyons' explanation is that he has to support his family and his efforts are strictly humanitarian. Will people buy that? He is currently denying all allegations (The Dallas Morning News, 1-18-98, 9A).
Is it any wonder that standards are so low and values so impoverished? The world needs some strong leaders with moral fiber. Those claiming to represent Jesus ought to live by His teachings. The average person needs to lead a moral life even if no one else does. We need positive examples, like Joseph, for all to follow. The world needs more light.
The extent of the moral and spiritual darkness in the land is seen in the reaction of people to the accusations made against the president. At the time of this writing nothing has been proven, and our purpose is not, of course, to determine guilt or innocence. Our quarrel concerns the indifference people have toward sin. Following are some statements overheard in the past few days.
"I don't know what people are so upset about this time. People knew about all his affairs while he was governor of Arkansas, and they still voted for him." If true, this statement does not reflect very highly upon the president or the American people; maybe he really does represent them if they are this corrupt (which certainly does not bode well for America's future).
Tapes made by Gennifer Flowers (obviously no paragon of virtue herself) revealed the president telling her to deny their affair, which he has now admitted did occur although he plainly denied it earlier to the American people (his wife defending him). Asked what was the difference between then and the current situation, one journalist said, "Then he just lied to the whole world; this time he would be lying in a court of law." Say what? Is the first situation comparable to swearing by the temple and the second swearing by the gold in the temple (Matt. 23:16). Jesus called the Pharisees who used such logic (?) "blind guides." Lying to the whole world is apparently not all that important.
"What the president does in his private life is his own business. If the first lady doesn't mind, why should we? What he does in his personal life doesn't affect his leadership ability." Who is responsible for such a line of thinking, if not the devil? Although this may not be the most important issue, some of us would like to think of the president as a man possessing dignity and integrity. Due to his admission of committing adultery (with Genni-fer Flowers while governor of Arkansas), lying about it, and asking her to lie about it, such is not possible. The man broke his wedding vows and then lied to cover it up. Why do these things not matter to people? Are they guilty of the same sins? Is this situation similar to the heavy drinker on a jury who refuses to convict someone else of drunk driving because he could be the one on trial some day? Where are our values?
As for the so-called discrepancy between personal life and leadership ability: "Leadership descends from character," Rush Limbaugh rightly says. If a man is a rock musician, he may bed a different groupie every night, and it will not affect his guitar-playing skill. A professional basketball player may have a woman in every major city, and it may not affect his Superstar status. But the same is not true of those in positions of leadership because their professional skills, unlike the rock musician and the basketball player, involve character.
If a man has no integrity in his personal life, why should anyone think he will possess any in public life? If a person cannot be faithful in his little domestic sphere, will he be faithful in a much broader domain? If he will cheat on the wife of his youth within the intimate relationship of marriage, what is to prevent him from cheating those with whom he has less of an emotional attachment? If he would lie to cover his personal failings, why would he not lie to cover his public failings?
How can people work with and serve a man who is deficient in character? Would they not have to lack the same values he lacks? And what of those who would vote for such a person, knowing these things about him? Americans have no one to blame but themselves. There needs to be a purge from the greatest to the least. There needs to be an effort to restore values and righteousness in this nation, which would exalt us, but sin is a reproach to any people (Pr. 14:34).
*Send comments or questions concerning this article to Gary Summers. Please refer to this article as: "THE POVERTY OF VALUES (2/1/98)."