…that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine… (Ephesians 4:14)
It’s easy to be discouraged at the state of morality in our culture (or cultures, as the case may be), but slightly harder to pin down what exactly that morality is. The fact remains that we don’t live in an amoral society, because such a thing is impossible. Human societies will always be guarded by a morality. The real question is not whether morality, but which. We definitely have a morality and for the sake of the church’s future in this society, we need to more deeply discern the waters in which we swim.
My proposal is a new name for our new morality: Reactionary Morality. I have come to believe that our society’s deepest beliefs on what’s right and wrong and good and bad are now being based almost entirely on reactions to media presented to us.
Some recent examples:
- We as a society aren’t deeply passionate about or generous toward ALS research…until a social media trend catches fire and we all jump on board, giving our time and money to this one particular disease (even though there’s a thousand other avenues of research no less important).
- We as a society didn’t care too much about Ray Rice beating his fiancee unconscious…until we saw a video of the event and then we became outraged (even though the truth was already known).
- We as a society don’t have any settled standards on raising and disciplining children…until another famous football player violently uses a switch against his child. Now we’re pretty sure that all physical discipline is bad or close to crossing the line.
- We as a nation don’t have any settled convictions on foreign policy and so while we generally prefer to stay out of wars, we find ourselves stirred up against whoever posts the goriest videos of persecution to the web or the nightly news.
These are just a few examples to make the point: our society does have a morality, we do care about right and wrong – but we simply take our definitions of right and wrong from what is most immediate and concerning to us. It’s our new Reactionary Morality. Because we have, by and large, abandoned God’s revealed Word as the standard for our morality, we have taken another standard: peer pressure and the media. The reason such wishy-washiness prevails is because it feeds our self-righteous desire to feel and act very moral while saving us the hard work of studying to know and do God’s Word. And perhaps the scariest part of our new morality is the power of those who control the media (both traditional and new) to dictate our Reactionary Morality.
Now for the good news. Right now is a good time and here is a great way for the church to be a light in the darkness: for us to carefully cultivate a Biblical morality that is not dependent on fads and trends in social media or what videos are or aren’t shown on the evening news will make us stand apart. Surely this is part of what Paul means when he warns the church not to be tossed to and fro by the waves.
If giving to medical research is important, let’s plan our giving proactively instead of waiting for a new Facebook trend.
Instead of taking our parenting cues from the nightly news, let’s study and develop Biblical convictions for raising our children according to the gospel.
Without giving up on watching the news or being part of social media, let’s decide ahead of time that they won’t dictate our morality to us, but that we will bring God’s Word with us wherever we go as our standard.