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« Why I Believe That Miracles Still Happen Today | Main | The Engrafted Word »

The State of the American Character

A Florida State University study finds 39% of workers claim their supervisor failed to keep promises. 37% say the boss failed to give credit when due, 31% were given the “silent treatment” by their boss in the past year, 27% report their supervisor made negative comments about them to co-workers or managers, 24% claim their privacy was invaded by a supervisor, and 23% say the boss blamed others to cover up mistakes to minimize embarrassment. (Associated Press, 1-2-07). The study did not concern itself with whether or not employees were guilty of behavior just as bad or worse than their bosses. My guess is that there is enough blame to go around.

Maybe I was born too soon. I could just say that it’s different today. Honesty, integrity, courtesy and good manners were common traits of the culture that I grew up in as a child. We were taught to be kind to each other, to say “thank you” for any nice thing someone did for us, and to take responsibility for one’s own actions. We smiled at each other, opened doors for each other and asked permission before we took or used something. Loyalty, faithfulness and commitment were not considered stupid. People knew that they should treat others with the kind of respect they wanted for themselves.

But, it’s not enough just to say it’s different. At some point, the baby-boomer generation threw off the old rules of common courtesy and replaced them with a new rule of serving oneself and forgetting about anyone else. Animal instincts have been elevated to become the basic definition of human life today. That might be why we talk of a “dog-eat-dog” rat race where we look out for number one and please ourselves first before pleasing other people.

I trace this deterioration back to the societal revolution of the sixties. Not only did we see three powerful political figures assassinated and experienced the riots of Watts and Detroit during that decade, we also banned prayer from the schools, asserted total sexual freedom, began the widespread use of marijuana, cocaine, heroin, hallucinogens and other illegal drugs, and saw the Vietnam War escalate and incite an unprecedented firestorm of protest. “The Sixties amounted to one collision after another, as if the culture were an enormous pile of fissionable material and each collision shook loose particles that collided with other particles until the entire society was undergoing a chain reaction.” (Todd Gitlin, Life). Never forget that an intense skepticism of religion and a rejection of biblical morality led the way.

When society rejects the God of the Bible, it creates a gigantic moral vacuum that will soon be filled with any number of alternative beliefs and behaviors. Some mistakenly believe that the loss of biblical morality means nothing and that life just goes on. No. If we were to suspend the law of gravity, for example, objects that once were securely in place would begin flying everywhere. Even so, our dismissal of God’s laws means that fairness, kindness, courtesy and all the other norms of interpersonal behavior no longer stay put. The basis of righteousness must remain in place for righteous behavior to survive. Acting out a safe, rewarding and secure culture hinges upon our belief that these behaviors are indeed ordained of the God we love and serve. One cannot be divorced from the other.

Good character proceeds from basic faith.

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