Friday, August 14, 2015

The "New Normal" and the Future of Sound Judgment

There is currently war being waged against the practice of sound moral judgment in our society. Secular author and radio host, Tammy Bruce, in her book, The Death of Right and Wrong, puts it this way:
How best to change Americans’ fundamental values? How best to indoctrinate you into a culture that grows sicker and more corrupt by the minute?...The Left has had to restrict individual freedom of thought and deed in order to destroy the concept of judgment and undermine notions of right and wrong that have been held nearly universally for millennia.
She is right. Over recent years, cultural attacks on sound moral judgment and biblical thinking, have been lodged with alarming success and surprising rapidity. It's as if our society has undergone a Blitzkrieg of political correctness and moral relativism that has left the Judeo-Christian foundations of our country in shambles and turned absolute truth upside down...Bruce Jenner has been celebrated as a "hero" for adorning his body with breast implants and dressing like a woman. Female celebrities have been lauded as "brave" for donning t-shirts announcing in bold-print the abortion of their unborn children. Coldblooded cop-killer and death-row inmate Mumia Abu-Jamal has been glorified by masses of young supporters for over a decade for his black activism and politically driven writing. And more young criminals have since been venerated, while cops have been unjustly vilified.

Our children are growing up in a new era in which Christianity is more counter-cultural than ever before in America. Sexual immorality is unabashedly exalted in our culture. Homosexuality is lionized on Emmy-awarded TV shows like Modern Family, for example, which received mass acclaim for airing an "historic" gay marriage proposal (how many "ground-breaking" or "historic" gay moments can there really be?). Promiscuity is promoted everywhere we look. Sexual sin is becoming so deeply embedded into the fabric of our society that it's hard to distinguish it anymore as we become increasingly desensitized to it. The shock-factor we felt back in the 80s when celebrities like Madonna first flaunted their sexuality so controversially has less impact now that an anything-goes mentality is so prevalent. We might have talked about the antics of Miley Cyrus for 5 minutes, but now we're getting used to the new Hannah Montana. She's just one of the many skin-baring, hip-gyrating young stars stooping to new moral lows in the name of "expressing themselves." These young women are selling their bodies, and people are buying in droves.

These few examples alone indicate that the normalization of wrong has become commonplace in our society. Are we still talked about the body parts of murdered babies being sold for profit by Planned Parenthood? Or is that already yesterday's news...?

In the midst of all this, the Great Accuser is ready and waiting to condemn all those who practice sound judgment. And our culture is proving an accommodating climate for him to do so. We are increasingly being dubbed as closed-mindedeven as bigoted haters.

A widespread sickness has gripped our nation. And it often attacks where we least expect it. While more striking cases of moral corruption such as those above might be easier to detect, some attacks against sound judgment are far less overt and arguably all the more insidious as a result. For example, the practice of mindfulness—a meditation practice that finds its origin in Buddhism—is steeply on the rise in our society. Widely deemed a harmless stress-reliever, mindfulness is in fact a dangerous form of false teaching that unapologetically undermines the use of our God-given conscience, our ability to practice sound judgment, and discern right from wrong. Psychology Today describes mindfulness as, "a state of active, open attention on the present. When you're mindful, you observe your thoughts and feelings from a distance, without judging them good or bad. Instead of letting your life pass you by, mindfulness means living in the moment and awakening to experience." (Emphasis added).

As a form of therapy, mindlfulness is now a growing trend in psychology and psychotherapy, which has been strongly promoted through mainstream media outlets as an effective stress-relieving remedy. Mindfulness is now being implemented in the American workplace (in companies such as Google, Safeway, Target, General Mills, and Aetna), in the public school system, in the federal government, and even in the armed services. And Christians need to take heed.

Why? Because mindfulness, especially when practiced routinely over a prolonged period of time, places the mind in a mild hypnotic state and leaves one vulnerable to the power of suggestion. Think about the long-term implications of our public school students growing up with the practice of mindfulness. They might have better attendance records and test scores (as has already been reported by a number of schools). They might feel temporarily more relaxed. But they won't be at peace (just because it feels good for a moment, doesn't mean it is good). And if this practice continues to grow in popularity in our schools, it'll be like we're fostering a generation of zombies who are trained to be indifferent to sin and who are preconditioned to resist their consciences for fear of experiencing stress. Think this is an overstatement? Google the number of schools that have adopted the practice, some as a routine part of the school day, like Patterson High School in Baltimore, for example. It's a growing trend, and it's coming to a school near you.

The implications of this are quite frankly mind-boggling. For the less we exercise sound judgment as a culture, the more our nation will embrace sin and reject God.

Our post-modern culture already encourages us to live in the here-and-now and place subjective feelings and personal experience over universal and absolute truths. Moral relativism (what is true/good for me might be different from what is true/good for you) is barely talked about anymore; it has become so ingrained in our collective consciousness that it's difficult to stand back and observe it. But, like a cancer, it's working its way to the backbone of our society. And it's eating us away at the core.

The evidence of this is undeniable; you've probably noticed that exercising judgment of sin is widely frowned upon nowadays! It's often confused in people's minds with judgmentalism and is hurriedly passed off as a negative behaviorsomething to avoid. Yet, Scripture repeatedly teaches that sound judgment is essential for spiritual health. In Proverbs, we are urged to preserve "sound judgment and discretion." (Prov 3:21). Jesus consistently encourages us to exercise righteous judgment, to hold one another accountable and to watch out for false prophets in our midst, for example. And Paul tells us to "test everything" (1 Thess 5:21); We are to judge every teaching, holding it up against God's Word, like the "noble" Berean Jews were commended for in the Book of Acts. For Scripture warns us that, "the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths." (2 Timothy 4:3-4). It is crucial, then, that we cling to sound judgment in a world of deceit in which Satan masquerades as an angle of light (2 Cor 11:13-15).

Don't believe the lie that sound judgment is judgmental! Throughout Scripture, there is a clear distinction drawn between two contrasting natures of judgment; judgmentalism (being excessively critical) is decried, while sound judgment (exercising wise discernment) is strongly prescribed. While humility is at the essence of sound judgment, judgmentalism is motivated by pride. Sound judgment is permeated with an acute awareness that it is by God's grace that we are saved, so that we cannot boast in our own strength. We can exercise sound, righteous judgment purely because our righteousness is in Christ. Judgmentalism, however, is self-righteous—and is not, therefore, of God.

Secular culture, however, is rejecting the use of moral judgment altogether—just as it is rejecting God—to embrace a "new normal" and the pursuit of "self truth." Just because immorality is being normalized in our culture, however, does not mean Christians need to accept it and refrain from discerning right from wrong for fear of being condemned by the world as bigots. For it is indeed very possible that within the next decade or two, it will be illegal to practice certain aspects of biblical Christianity, especially within our public school system. Signs of this have already begun. Gender-neutralization, for one thing, is on the horizon. How are we going to respond? With courage and righteousness, or with fear and capitulation?

As believers, we must live with our eyes wide open, while not giving into fear (it's not about being fearful, it's about being awake). As Christians, we are called to go against the tide of our culture when it comes to morality, not to live in denial or to unwittingly go with the cultural flow. For now is the time to be vigilant and to watch (Mark 13:37). Now is the time to pray for, practice, and preach sound judgment with courage. We must pray for our children. Pray for our country. And pray for the lost. Before it's too late.

1 comment:

jan said...

Excellent article AM. What is also disturbing is the philosoophy behind mindfulness meditation is essentially Buddhist so in ordr to 'sell' the technique the philosophical overtones have been removed. The pratice is still underpinned by a world and spiritul negation which spills out into this acceptance of any emotion engendered at the time. There i no transformative or Christian sanctification going on; no hope but to be detached from all semblance of living as our Lord instructs us to be in bt not of this world and allow the Holy Spirit to work within. It ha invaded the counselling and educational arena here in UK recommended by 'gurus'. Keep up the good work. Jan