A COMMENTARY ON OUR CULTURE
Lately our western culture has so deteriorated that it can almost be summed up in three words. These words are cheap, fast and filthy.
Today it seems that people are seeking everything “cheap.” However, cheap isn’t everything. Don’t we all miss helpful store clerks and the leisurely relationships with skilled and knowledgeable people in business? Don’t we miss the personal service? And am I the only one who gets nervous in the big box stores?
Some time ago I was examining a “cheap” computer device and was desperately trying to find out if it would work on my computer. Since there was absolutely no one available in that whole large department, a ‘skilled person’ was called out especially for me. When I asked my questions, the skilled person, who seemed to be a brand new immigrant, began to try to read the information on the box of the item I was considering. Unfortunately, this proved to be futile. Finally, I was rescued from my frustration by a computer “geek” who just happened to be shopping in the same area of the store.
The idea of “cheap” is everywhere today. It is the new watchword at America’s jobsites. American employees, even those with much longevity, are beginning to be treated like dirt. We are constantly hearing words like “downsizing” or “outsourcing.” These words usually mean that workers are getting treated cheaply by either losing their jobs entirely or by having to train their replacement from some foreign country. This is almost like having to dig ones own grave. Health benefits are also being cut for workers and retirement programs are being slashed by a third of America’s companies.
Many of those who are fortunate enough to have jobs are often working for what we might call “slave wages.” They are also often working under very poor conditions. A relative of ours, a single mother who is trying desperately to raise her two sons, carefully selected a job where she could at least be home at the end of the day and on weekends in order to care for them. Soon the employer announced that she would have to start working late each day until 7 PM. Also she was advised that she would now have to work on Saturdays. There are many people laboring in America in conditions that are hardly better than slavery. Some of these are managers, who are called upon to work many extra hours with no extra pay. Because of poor wages many will never be able to afford a home of their own. At least the slave had a place to stay with food and clothing.
Our idea of “cheap” has slopped over into our religion. The noted rabbi and Talmudic scholar, Adin Steinsaltz, once said that “America is looking for a good 5 cent religion.”* Many religions today would seem to qualify. However, Judaism and Christianity are certainly not among them. When one counts up the numerous offerings made by Israel, it is obvious that at least 50-60 percent of the income of an average Israelite was required for these sacrifices. Certainly Christianity is not a cheap religion because it required Jesus, the Son of God, to come to this earth and shed his precious blood for our redemption. To become a real Christian today will cost us plenty.
The idea of cheap has also gotten into our relationships. In the last forty years manhood, womanhood and family have all been cheapened. We will discuss this later.
It was Virginia Brasier who penned these lines:
This is the age of the half-read page,
And the quick hash and the mad dash,
And the bright night, With the nerves tight…
And the brain strain, And the heart pain,
And the cat naps, Till the spring snaps-
And the fun’s done…
Is everything speeding up or am I just getting slower with age? Could it even be that we are running out of time (Rev. 10:6)? Someone once remarked that the last grains of sand in the dial always seem to go faster. Why with all the time-saving devices do we have no time? We are so busy that if a website doesn’t respond in 30 seconds or so we blow it away and choose another one. We drum our fingers as the microwave brews our coffee for 1 ½ minutes. I can remember in another age when we had to first haul in wood and build a fire in the cast iron kitchen stove. Then we had to wait for the stove to heat up before we could even begin to make that pot of coffee.
Yet in those days we never seemed to get in a hurry or get restless or nervous while we waited. Today we want fast food and we want it now! Even with this, the cry of distress that often goes up is “the pizza is cold!” I can remember when we had never heard of pizza. In fact I was almost grown before I ever learned of this innovation.
We want quickie solutions in everything and we are unwilling for nature to take its course. That is what dope is about. It is a shortcut to pleasure and satisfaction that should come instead by spiritual and natural means as we apply ourselves to the issues of life. We also want a quickie relationship, instant gratification, the bypassing of the traditional. Hence we have multitudes of “one night stands,” “live-in relationships,” etc.
Although we are in a hurry, God is not. In fact he has all eternity. He invites us to slow down and enter into eternity with him, even while we live on this earth. After all, there are many things like good wine or cheese that just take a little time. We must learn to wait not only on the Lord and his salvation but upon a lot of other things as well. The Bible says: “But those who wait on the LORD Shall renew their strength; They shall mount up with wings like eagles, They shall run and not be weary, They shall walk and not faint” (Isa. 40:31 NKJ). Relationships with God and with people take a little time.
Many years ago our organization scheduled a meeting for its leaders in a monastery. That seemed to be a strange setting for such a gathering, however, it turned out to be a very productive meeting. We were amazed that when the work was all done there was still so much quiet time for rest, reflection and restoration of our minds and souls.
Well, in line with the “cheap” and “fast” we might expect “filthy” to be next and indeed it is. We now live in the age of filth – moral filth and lots of it. We would have to go back almost 2000 years to pagan Rome to find moral filth like we have today. The moral filth is everywhere- in the movies, on the TV, and the internet. We can’t even watch a Super Bowl anymore without having our modesty shocked.
In the church we have been watching an increasing and alarming statistic. First we were told that some 20-25 percent of Christians regularly visited porn sites on the internet. Now we are told that 50 percent of our ministers are visiting these sites.** What on earth will happen to the church and to Christian families if this keeps up? There are many more areas where filth and garbage are taking over. A cartoonist in our area recently published a drawing illustrating the new view of marriage. It pictured a little girl smiling at the traditional marriage relationship around the table. The caption was “Honor your father and your mother.” The next scene was the open marriage and the little girl seemed rather perplexed. The caption read “Honor your mother and her boyfriend.” Another scene was that of the homosexual domestic partnership and the girl looked even more perplexed and troubled. This caption read “Honor your father and his friend.”
Today’s quickie and godless ideas are not working. In April, 2005, Dr. Phil stated on his show that the likelihood of a marriage succeeding if born out of infidelity is less than 10 percent. He was speaking specifically of live-in relationships. Even the prestigious Cosmopolitan Magazine has now come out with a warning that living together can sink couples’ chances of having a good marriage. Charles Colson remarks how things have changed with Cosmopolitan. Thirty years ago its editor-in-chief was Helen Gurley Brown, who then wrote the provocative and best-selling book Sex and the Single Girl.
I cannot help but think how things have changed in the marriage relationship since my wife and I were married fifty years ago. We knew marriage was for keeps because the Bible said it was and our society demanded that it be. We knew marriage had to work and that there were no alternatives. We knelt and prayed beside our marriage bed, taking God as the third partner in the relationship. Today we feel so sorry for those who will never know the marriage bliss we have experienced. Still after fifty years when one of us leaves the house we wave and blow kisses at the other one.
Well, the Bible reflects over 4000 years of God’s tested and tried answers and solutions that are all guaranteed to work in our life situations. Imagine such a publication as the Bible, with its 66 books, 40 authors, over a thousand years in the making and with all the authors agreeing together. So many of the new fangled ideas we have today have only been around for thirty years or so. We are just now finding out that most of these new ideas are not working. On the other hand God’s ways have been tried and proved to be workable and beneficial for well over a hundred generations.
Today God desires that we repent of all our new-fangled ways and return to him. God wants us to be willing to pay the price for a real relationship with him and with others. He wants us to get out of the fast lane; slow down enough to read the road signs to eternal life; and begin to walk in his paths of safety and blessing. As he says in his word: “You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand” (Psa. 16:11).
* Michael Reagan with Jim Denney, Twice Adopted, (Nashville, TN, Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2004), p. 210.
** Hugh Hewitt, The Embarrassed Believer, (Nashville, Word Publishing, 1998), p. 92.