Righteous Living in a Desensitized Culture...
All of us have probably had the distasteful experience of overhearing someone cursing and using foul language. Sometimes, graffiti "artists" ply their illegal slogans and we're the victims as we try to hurry our children or grandchildren past some freshly spray-painted wall, park bench, or boxcar. If you venture out very often to a mall or shopping area, then you have likely been subjected to foul language and unseemly activity at some point. If you lived much of your life without Christ in the world (as I did) then chances are that you remember the days when all of those off-color words were a part of your personal vocabulary. Praise the Lord that when He saved me He also cleansed me and, by the convicting power of the Spirit of God, He strengthens me to resist letting fly with a string of expletives in the manner that I once did. I'm not applauding myself here but just crediting the Lord for changing me and for continuing to refine His work in me day in and day out.
The fact is that our speech surely reflects what is going on in our soul. Jesus illustrates this in Matthew 12 as He makes the point that good men speak good things and evil men speak the opposite. He then states, "But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment. For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned" (Matthew 12:36-37). He visits the same line of thinking in Matthew 15 and again in Mark 7. It should go without saying that this is surely no trivial teaching. After all, the Bible succinctly proclaims that "out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh" (Matthew 12:34b).
I've said all of that to say that, as repulsed as I am by the crude and filthy things that so effortlessly stream out of the mouths of so many around us these days, I am not shocked by them. Still, I was completely blindsided by such a display when I walked into a Starbucks coffee shop in the Seattle area recently. I wasn't at all prepared for the blatant, in-your-face, vulgar proclamation spelled out in big block letters inside.
There in line in front of me - in the midst of a busy Saturday afternoon crowd - was an older teen with a brightly colored T-shirt which, on the back, displayed one of the most foul statements that one can make. In fact, I'm not even going to give you an idea of exactly what the shirt said so that your mind doesn't participate in the guessing game as to what the words were. I lived in the perverted, anything goes world of professional rock music for two decades and I thought I had been around when it comes to what the world offers but, frankly, I stood there nearly dumbfounded, wondering, "Does that offend anyone else here?" As I looked around the busy shop, I took stock of the twenty or so patrons and the four baristas busy serving them. With the exception of one couple at a table in the corner, I may have been the oldest person present and, though I noticed others staring at the fellow whose shirt displayed the message, no one shook their head or seemed to act as though something was uncomfortably out of place. There was no outrage. No offense seemed to be taken. The fact is, I surmise that those present weren't offended or shocked much at all. After all, it's only words. Right? No, in reality, the people present, like the majority in our society (especially those under 40), have likely become accustomed to the particular phrase so boldly displayed on the shirt. They had become desensitized and hardened to the culture around them and probably had little if any problem with one of their peers displaying words that not long ago would have outraged the secular culture in a similar circumstance, let alone sorely offended us Christians.
As I stood waiting for my drink and watching the young man, a number of things crossed my mind. Should I ask for the manager? Should I make a scene and publicly call him out, exposing his uncouthness? (This was the response my flesh wanted to take.) Should I follow him outside and try to speak to him? Or should I just shrug my shoulders and be glad that my granddaughters hadn't been with me to be subjected to the spectacle?
Once he exited the shop, I saw that the Lord had probably saved me a real, possibly dangerous, hassle, as he was obviously just one of several guys sitting around the tables outside. I couldn't hear what they were saying but, by the looks of them, I can imagine that the text on his T-shirt might have been lightweight in comparison. Frankly, they had every appearance of thugs, young punks just waiting for a turn on "Cops" or a posting on "America's Most Wanted." I realize that today it is "cool" to repeatedly tattoo and pierce and display how tough you think you are, but this kid had decided to tell the whole world off in the foulest of words and his friends fit the sentiment displayed on his shirt!
Still angered in a way that simply does not come upon me often, I walked to my car, got in, and observed. Knowing it was fruitless, I decided to call the local sheriff precinct anyway, if only to vent my feelings. When I explained what the situation was to the officer who answered my call, he said, "Sir, I completely agree with you. It is gross and bad for the businesses, but the words on his shirt are constitutionally protected free speech and there is nothing we can do about it." The officer again sympathized in agreement with me and we hung up.
THE "LOT" SYNDROME
Understand that I am obviously a huge fan of constitutionally protected free speech. However, the base level of which the courts have now ruled in favor does beg for an answer as to what might be protected next. Thanks to the efforts of the ACLU, Hustler's Larry Flint, and liberal politicians, the courts have neutered nearly every existing obscenity law. It would appear that almost every vile ideal is now hunky-dory in America. We are surely calling evil good and good evil (Isaiah 5:20-21) and, sadly, biblically-literate folk know where it is all heading. As I sat observing the scene in front of the coffee shop, I thought to myself, "This is what the breakdown of truth, the loss of decency, and our new "liberal" interpretation of the words 'right' and 'wrong' have gotten us." Now our kids take their lead from the pitiful role models and false heroes being turned out by Hollywood, MTV, and Comedy Central. Even the Christians - the real, authentic ones - have been conditioned and have lost much of their ability to blush.
I might add that Christians need to think twice before we condemn this kind of behavior and then shell out money at the box office or for DVD rentals to be fed the same by the growing number of misfits and social degenerates whose perceived talents have made billions while they advocate and validate the foul-mouthed, crude activities we are commonly subjected to.
It may be constitutionally protected free speech, but, until we Christians bring this stuff up and point out how prevalent and repulsive it is, we can expect only an escalation of the same. This is exactly the plight of Abraham's nephew, Lot.
The Bible identifies him as a "righteous man" who was "vexed with the filthy conversation of the wicked" (see II Peter 2:5-8). Yet, he had lived around such evil for so long that, when the two angels came to warn him of the pending destruction of Sodom (Genesis 19:1-11), he attempted dialoguing with demon-possessed men and even offered his virgin daughters to them in compromise! He had become used to living around the most evil attitudes and activities imaginable and, though disturbed by the foul "conversation of the wicked," his sensibilities had been severely dulled and his judgment was skewed.
Though I wish somehow that I would have publicly confronted the young man, in retrospect, I should have asked for the manager of the coffee shop and complained that they had even served him. However, judging from what I saw, it would probably have done little good. I have learned since the incident that the corporate policy of Starbucks is to never refuse service to a customer due to offensive language or behavior. Frankly, though, I encourage store owners and even corporations such as Starbucks to institute a discrimination policy similar to "no shirt, no shoes, no service" when it comes to obscenity. Yes, this is America, and I thank God that our free speech - even that which offends - is protected. However, we also have the right to ostracize clientele who are in effect running customers off and whose presence works against the intended shopping experience that businesses count on giving customers, particularly in a social/leisure setting like a Starbucks store. As I was writing this, a friend told me of an instance when a teenager was actually thrown out of a Sam's Club outlet because he was wearing a T-shirt similar to the one I've described here. Right on and Amen!
This is all a result of the culture's creeping acceptability of offensive and down-right evil language, behavior, and attitudes. Moreover, the real core reason for this is often because of "freethinking" parenting that an 18- or 19-year-old could act out in this casual, laissez faire way. By the way, the young man walked away with a fellow easily in his 40's. I wondered to myself, "Could that been his father???!!!" This is just a small reflection of what my generation has brought upon us with the hippies, free love, LSD, and the counterculture movement. Forty-five years ago we proclaimed, "If it feels good do it," and "Do your own thing, man," and the fruit of that thinking is now apparent in the teen culture of 2010.
SYMPTOMS OF THE END
But as the days of Noah were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. For as in the days that were before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered into the ark, And knew not until the flood came, and took them all away; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.
- Matthew 24:37-39
In 1 Samuel 15 we find that in God's economy rebellion is equal to witchcraft. This is surely the spirit of our age today. Jesus, of course, had it pegged in the above passage from Matthew 24. Just as in the days of Noah, the world today is oblivious to its precarious spiritual plight and the judgment that is fast approaching - but wise followers of God's Word do understand. The majority of those in the world around us seem to think nothing of what I've described above. The culture is careening headlong toward destruction and seems to be completely unaware of it. Here we are, condemning "free speech" and protected expression that would have horrified the world, let alone the Church, a short time ago. I feel certain that, instead of agreement, over time I'll receive some anonymous mail telling me how prude-like and backward I am. Somebody - claiming to be "Christian" - is bound to repeat the tired old line continually voiced so often by the world: "Don't shove your old-fashioned, outdated morality down my throat, Eric Barger!" Well, I'm not. If you are a defender of using dirty words and want to argue about it, take it up with God. After all, our now-extinct obscenity laws, which those hapless folks at the ACLU have managed to have stricken, were each reflections of biblical morality. Of course, though, who wants that now? Since we're so "educated" and so enlightened and so very much ahead of every previous generation, then we surely don't need to be concerned with the archaic rules that so restricted and repressed our thirst for immorality in times past, right?
Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers.
- Ephesians 4:29
But now ye also put off all these; anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth.
- Colossians 3:8
Let's also remember that, in the midst of all of this, we have a genre of people manning Emergent Church pulpits who claim it's kosher and oh so freeing to let fly with any and every profanity (including the one on the T-shirt that provoked this missive) and that these counterfeit Christians do so from behind the "sacred desk," the pulpit! I cringe to think of what many claiming to be followers of Christ have accepted - all because they don't bother to read or believe the Bible. There, my friends, is the root of the problem.
I imagine a few reading this might have a clue as to the type of talk and activity secular (and some Christian) teens engage in today. Frankly, however, most of you would be shocked to know the things texted by teens to one another. Each week we hear increasingly troubling accounts of children as young as 8 and 9 engaging in sexual activity and, as prevalent as this stuff might be, this grandfather of four isn't taking it lightly. I surely don't want to stand idly by while some foolish kid, flaunting his lack of morality and couth on a mission to acquaint my kiddos with the crudest of words in the English language, does so without any interference.
So, is it a lost cause? Have we so lost our way that we should just expect our teens to be drawn into the gutter that produced the T-shirt I saw this week? Many popular bumper stickers display the same sorts of messages and with atheist groups now proclaiming on billboards around the world, "There is no God," it makes me wonder if the same gross phrases will soon be visible for all to see along our nation's highways, too.
The most pressing question for the majority of those who will read this is, "What hope do our Christian teens and children have?" The psalmist asked the same question in Psalm 119. Verse nine asks, "Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way?" and then continues with the only answer - "By taking heed thereto according to thy word. With my whole heart have I sought thee: O let me not wander from thy commandments. Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee." It is only a lost cause if we clam up and do nothing when we are faced with evil. It is only a lost cause when we fail to point the next generation to the truth Psalm 119 expresses in this passage.
The only hope for our children and grandchildren is a foundation rooted firmly in the Word of God and a solid and reverent relationship with the Savior, Jesus Christ. It may go without saying to some and may not fit the psychologically-bound mold that so many think can fix their problems, but resolving to follow God's precious Word is simply the only antidote for what ails us and the only remedy that will stave off the judgment of God upon us.
I encourage you to be aware, yet not distraught, that we are watching as the end-times activities prophesied in the Bible are coming to pass all around us. Matthew 24 is a veritable checklist that alerts Bible-believers as to where we are on God's sovereign, prophetic time table at present. It was just the kind of repugnant filth that I saw adorning the young man's T-shirt inside the coffee shop that surely typified Noah's day before the flood and the time of Lot just before fire fell from heaven. The orgies of ancient Rome were surely on par with the public acceptance of foul speech and perverse activities that we are watching become normal in this hour. We can be absolutely assured that, unless there is a dramatic acceptance of Jesus Christ accompanied by true repentance across our land, it will end the same way for America as it did for Egypt, Sodom and Rome. The question for us remains: will we stand and be counted, or will we just try to blend in with the perishing and act like evil is actually normal?