- Freedom of speech issues – CHECK
- Growing racial discord – CHECK
- Global instability and loss of respect – CHECK
- Fundamental changes and challenges to traditional marriage – CHECK
- Biblical and theological ignorance growing – CHECK
Some may think I have a negative view of the world, when in truth, I’m simply being realistic. There’s little debate how the international community now views America, and the second point of our national debt is well documented with many financial experts predicting another crash soon. Lacking moral fortitude can be debated, but the evidence based upon our rapidly changing attitudes toward what is and isn’t acceptable tells the story of our decline.
Take a moment, and think about a few recent events.
Some two weeks ago the sports world, as we know it, was up in arms because of the racial comments of Donald Sterling. His 31 year old girlfriend had secretly taped one of his archaic rants and later released his tirade to the media. Of course there was a national feeding frenzy, and the NBA quickly moved to punish Sterling with the harshest penalties possible. The 81 year old Sterling has been banned for life from all NBA events, and there is now an attempt by the league to force the sale of the team he’s owned since 1981. There is no defending his racial comments, and he has since apologized, but to no avail. As the old southern saying goes, “put a fork in him – he’s done.”
According to numerous news sources this isn't the first time Donald Sterling has found himself in the cross-hairs of public disdain, but it is the first in which the scope of his misdeeds have reached this level of national intensity. There have been reports throughout his years in Los Angeles about cheating, not paying players and hotel bills, and even serving as one of LA’s biggest slumlords. What I find most interesting is Sterling’s past actions didn't rise to the level of concern as did his words in this most recent episode of idiocy. There’s nothing right about Sterling’s racial ramblings, but where are all the defenders of free speech, capitalism, and rights of ownership? Americans once highly valued freedom of speech, but now it appears this right is only valued if it’s in agreement with the majority. No one in the NBA or media seemed all that upset when this man left his wife of 59 years to have an affair with another woman 50 years his junior.
Could it be that only the “right kind of free speech” is important while fidelity in marriage isn't a big deal to most of the American populace? Can a person who asks for forgiveness in our country never be forgiven of stupidity of speech while adultery and other acts of immorality are simply overlooked by the public at large?
The answer appears to be – yes. Lie, cheat, steal, or commit some form of sexual transgression and America shrugs. Commit the wrongful act of saying something considered offensive by the masses, and it’s as if you've committed the “unpardonable sin.”
Take a statement by LeBron James, for example, who apparently is the spokesperson for “all” current NBA players. He stated last week that “the players” believe no one from the Sterling family should maintain possession of the Clippers once the elder Sterling is removed from ownership. James’ answer is to punish the entire family for the crime of offensive speech, because the senior member of this family said something repulsive. Wow! Forgiveness when asked? No way.
So let’s understand this correctly. Free speech isn't really free. If we follow the logic of James and the NBA then exercising your right to say something stupid or offensive should cause you to lose ownership rights to your property. Your family members should also lose their rights to any property, and your ability to earn wages should be compromised.
This isn't an isolated event. Don Jones of the Miami Dolphins was fined and suspended by the NFL this week because of a “tweet” he made concerning Michael Sam’s show of affection toward his “boyfriend” on ESPN (May 10th). After Sam was drafted by the Saint Louis Rams he promptly kissed his lover to which Jones tweeted “OMG.” When asked if he was referring to Sam’s kiss, Jones tweeted “horrible.” Don Jones is now required to complete “educational training” before he’ll be allowed back into the NFL fold.
Educational or sensitivity training sounds eerily like the communist reeducation camps – get with the program or suffer. I know that may be a bit over the top, but other American institutions and businesses are requiring the same type of training the NFL is demanding of Jones. The message is that if you have a thought or a statement contrary to public opinion then keep your mouth shut or else. Note what Frank Schwab of Yahoo Sports recently wrote:
The NFL will not tolerate any negativity from within its own ranks about the Sam story. Most of the reaction has been very positive. And if you're a NFL player and you don't agree with Sam's lifestyle, you better keep that to yourself. ... The NFL is making sure that anyone wanting to turn this positive story into something negative will pay the consequences. There's way too much at stake for the NFL to be passive about this. Jones had to learn the hard way. Now that other NFL players see what happened to him, don't expect to hear a lot more negativity on the subject.
Our words and actions may cost us personally at times whether they’re right or wrong, but surely I’m not the only one who sees the real danger that lurks ahead. When Fred Phelps and his Westboro Baptist Church were protesting the funerals of American soldiers and saying the vilest things some wanted to pass laws to quiet his group which I believe would have been a mistake. I don’t have to like the views or what someone may say to appreciate their right to think it and say it – whatever “it” may be. If we continue to police every word as a nation, it won’t be long until it hits home with you and me. Our First Amendment rights aren't to protect the majority but the minority.
The reality is that these events are simply indications of greater problems in our country and the Church as well. Studies from Pew and Barna, along with other research groups, provide us enormous amounts of data each year from which we can intelligently decipher our national direction. One conclusion which is becoming ever clearer is that our constitutional rights are rapidly evaporating under the guise of a pseudo-tolerance and politically correct society. We should keep in mind that a majority doesn't automatically equate to being in the right. A large number of Americans no longer seem to care if the US Constitution is pillaged by ethically challenged individuals in leadership as long as it doesn't affect them personally. So from a secular point of view our problems appear to be a constitutional crisis that seeks to “fundamentally change America.”
In regards to the Church, her issues are not only intertwined and influenced by a worldly mentality but also from doctrinal ignorance and spiritual apathy. There is an issue with the refusal to deal with sin and especially the sin of homosexuality. This is extremely prevalent within the Millennial Generation – those born between the late 1970’s and 1990’s. Here are some things we know about them:
- They have a great need for instant gratification and lack the discipline to wait. They've grown-up in the age of rapid technology and expect answers quickly.
- (This should be a no brainier) – They have short attention spans; meaning that most would have only read a paragraph or two of this blog.
- They live at home longer and are getting married later in life.
- They hide their true identities online behind created personas.
- They care less about the things their parents and grandparents did at the same point in life.
- From birth to death, almost everything about their life is documented electronically. They’re different from Generation X before them (1964 – 1977) in some significant ways. Where Gen X accepted diversity Millennials celebrate diversity, almost reveling in the differences of others. Their predecessors also had a mistrust of established intuitions like the Church, but Millennials view institutions as irrelevant which I believe poses a greater danger. And lastly, Gen Xers maintained a distinction between family and friends where as Millennials take a different view. For this generation friends are considered family which may help to explain their strong and supportive views of homosexuality.
Here’s the good news about Millennials. They still want to maintain a connection to the Church. As long as these 20 – 30 something year olds want to be engaged we have a chance. We have a chance to lead them to greater biblical and theological understandings. The Church in America has a chance to thrive again.
So what’s the bad news or bottom-line? Internationally we’ve become the punch-line for a bad joke; at home personal rights are eroding daily; race relations are digressing into an abyss of cultural discord; the institution of marriage is being devalued and the family unit deconstructed; sin is viewed as a relative issue; and the Church is facing generational challenges which could lead to a Church that looks more like the Church in Europe – almost dead.
All of these things give followers of Christ more reason to pray Maranatha … Lord Come! I’m not suggesting we be discouraged in any sense. The Scriptures have never taught the world would grow progressively better but worse (2 Tim 3:1-9). God is still on His throne, and as believers we’re called to be faithful while we await the return of Christ. God is still God, His Word is true, and that’s something to be positive about!
LeBron James says NBA players feel no members of Donald Sterling's family should own Clippers; The Canadian Press – Sun, 11 May, 2014
Generation X and The Millennials: What You Need to Know About Mentoring the New Generations; Diane Thielfoldt and Devon Scheef, August 2004
Barna Millennial Project; https://www.barna.org/barna-update/millennials