April 26, 2007
April 28-29, 2007, weekend

April 27, 2007

PUSHING BUSH ON THE CLIMATE

A cardinal says Pope Benedict XVI should press President Bush on the risks of climate change when they meet in June. Wonder where global warming would be on the pope's list of most important issues to talk about with Bush. Fairly high, I'm guessing, but below the war in Iraq, Darfur and perhaps some other matters. Where would you put it?

* * *

IS OUR MORAL SKY FALLING?

I'm often skeptical of polls and surveys, even though I find them interesting.

MoralToo often, it seems, they find pretty much what the people who pay for them want found, just as the search for the historical Jesus quite often yields the historian's Jesus.

So I'm both skeptical of but intrigued by a new survey from the Culture and Media Institute. One reason I'm skeptical is the sweeping language the institute uses in its mission statement. It wants to "preserve and help restore America's culture, character, traditional values and morals against the assault of the liberal media elite. . ."

Yes, well, just what are America's culture, character, traditional values and morals? Ask a million people, get a million answers. And who are the liberal media elite? As I've said here time and time again, such labels hide much more than they reveal. Labels like "liberal media elite" are used not to convey information but, rather, a certain tone in a certain code.

That said, I am not arguing that our culture isn't more coarse today, more crude, less pristine than it ever has been. Just watch a little prime time TV, go to the movies, listen to music on the radio. A lot of it is simply disheartening. We all know junk flies through the cultural air that would have knocked my sweet grandparents dead on the spot.

At any rate, this new survey says that 74 percent of adult Americas agree that moral values in the U.S. are weaker than they were two decades ago. There are lots of other findings that you can ponder at the site to which I've linked you (and pay attention to the odd "Orthodox," "Progressive" and "Independent" divisions the survey makes among respondents).

But here's the study's conslusion: "America no longer enjoys cultural consensus on God, religion and what constitutes right and wrong." And Americans "have clearly identified the media as primary culprits in the nation's moral decline." (Media, of course, means way, way more than just newspapers or TV.)

So what do you make of all this? Are we a less moral nation than when Americans could and did legally could own slaves? Are we a less moral nation than we were when women couldn't even vote? Or when our schools were legally segregated? Does the sludge that passes for pop culture desensitize us to the values religion calls us to?

Finally, should I have ignored this survey and, instead, read People magazine or some similarly vacuous publication?

To read my latest Kansas City Star work, click here. (My column tomorrow is about the 400-year history of the Episcopal church in the U.S.)

P.S.: For a Baptist Press story about a chaplain who ministers to the Blue Angels, grieving the loss of one of their pilots in a recent accident, click here.

Comments

Mary Behr

Bill wrote: "So what do you make of all this? "Are we a less moral nation than when Americans could and did legally could own slaves? Are we a less moral nation than we were when women couldn't even vote? Or when our schools were legally segregated? Does the sludge that passes for pop culture desensitize us to the values religion calls us to?"

GREAT QUESTIONS, BILL. OH YES, WE ARE BEING DESENSITIZED. BUT THAT'S ANOTHER CHALLENGE WE CAN RECOGNIZE AND HOPEFULLY,MEET.

Maybe, morality--the war between good and evil--will always be an ongoing challenge in this less than perfect world. Just different aspects and means of challenge. "We've come a long way, baby "(Cigarette add)from slavery and women being "allowed" to vote, but we still, obviously, have a long way to go.

Quick question to myself: "Have I been guilty of tarring the so called "media" (never mind labels like "liberal"--just "media" has a bad name) with a wide black brush when it suited an argument of mine? An easy (and sometimes legitimate) target. WELL, YES, I have. And now recognize that that's like using a swear word or a gratuitous insult when logic is shaky.

Are we a less cohesive society with understood and mutually shared values? IT SEEMS THAT WAY.
AND THAT'S HARD. and yet, and yet, and yet...there are some mutually held values of the human race. We have to startsomewhere.

Re: (missionstatement) "traditional values and morals against the assault of the liberal media elite. . ." YIKES! RED ALERT! My M.O.: Keep on keeping on checking the bias of statements in the media. (liberal, conservative, --republican? democrat? and there we go with labels. As long as we know that a label isn't all there is.

This "sweet old grandmother" has a sense of humor, which will get me through such shattering new challenges. (I never wanted to be labeled "sweet" but rather "fascinating, wonderful, brilliant." I'm older and wiser now and will settle for being me and accept whatever positives I receive in the spirit with which it is intended. ("enjoying the flattery, but now swallowing it.")

P.S. "God's in His heaven/all's right with the world." in spite of sometimes contrary appearances. It's called FAITH.

Mary Behr

OOPS "enjoying the flattery, but now swallowing it.") should be
NOT swallowing it.

Mary Behr

OOPS "enjoying the flattery, but now swallowing it.") should be
NOT swallowing it.

Jeff

Years ago when I was in college (Indiana University, early 80's) a brilliant professor of antiquity taught us that the Romans believed generations decay. That the successor generation could never match the accomplishments or the glories of the prior generation, because the prior generation's accomplishments and glories spoil the successor generation. They worked hard to make things more comfortable; we take that comfort for granted. We assume it's a normal state when it's not. Ultimately, the shared culture of generations decays to the point where another culture violently overtakes it--usually in the name of moral superiority.

Food for thought.

Dolores Lear

I have experienced 6 generations of changing morals, for the masses, since I was born in 1922. From my Grandparents and the Puritan morals, to WW1 and the roaring 20s morals of my parents, to Clark Gable saying "Damn" in the movies and our morals, to the colorful language morals of my children, grandchildren, and rap morals, and now my Great Granddaughter that is almost 17. What will her generation morals be, with Paris Hilton and all the rest?

The Bible says the sins of the fathers will be handed down to three or four generations, and those sins of Genetic defects and diseases, are going on in the six generations of my family, since people live longer. The Bible also says good will be handed down for those that love me and keep my Commandments.

How can people obey the Commandments today or ever, with defective genetics? Until we understand what the Original Sin is, that makes us all defective genetic disease people, that kill our brothers/sisters of Life, we will hand down the sin of Body Birth, and evil morals, to All people.

Look at the past of countries that had free sex, drinking, and playing while their government fell. We are in that cycle of Body Birth generations again, when all the results of Body Birth have overcome the good teachings of Humanity. Religion controls people to a degree, but we still had evil morals, killing and wars and rumors of war, but nuclear war will be the End of Life as we know it.

I do not know how anyone cannot see the writing on the wall, of where our generation is headed. We are ready for the Judgement Day, and Saving, before we blow up our planet. This is also a Biblical Truth that will happen, like all the Immoral Lifestyle of Body Birth on record, has happened.

Dolores Lear

I left out WW2 in my generation, and all the other USA wars since, which has been the USA Lifestyle.

Just Thinking

Sadly, my generation has made sure that the next generation will not achieve what we did.

We're leaving the next generation with the burden of an illegal war, and the scorn of the world community. This generation turned the necessity of housing into something to be exploited for profit. This generation has polluted our environment to the point where there is so much mercury in our vast, vast oceans that eating large ocean fish on a regular basis is unsafe, all for profit. This generation has consumed oil and other natural resources in an unbridled and selfish manner. This generation has aborted 2,000,000 babies every year, must of it government sponsored and paid for with the dollars of the future generations, because this selfish generation refuses to accept responsibility or to pay for its own bills. This generations feels it deserves huge tax breaks even while we are racking up debt at an unprecedented rate. My generation embraces Communism just so long as there is a plentiful supply of cheap labor, regardless of the harm that does to our country. My generation even sold off critical defense technology to China. My generation exploited the poor from Mexico for profit and now health care and many other services had been undermined.

If the next generations achieve what we did, then this world will surely end soon.

Dolores Lear

Jeff's remark that the successor generation could never match the previous generation, could explain the third and fourth generation in the Bible. The WW2 generation were called the greatest generation.

If we use WW2 as greatest, then successor generations are my children, grandchildren, and then my greatgrandaughter is the 3rd generation to decay. What will the 4th bring? Judgement Day?

Dolores Lear

J.T. I could not have said it better. Except I say Body Birth is the basic reason for decay, and for the generation cycles of 3rd and 4th good and evil generations. Only there are no good generations because the good generations still go to war.

Just Thinking

I know you've saying these things for a long time, Dolores. Thanks.

Dolores Lear

"Bill. Is our moral sky falling"?

The moral sky starting 'falling' when Adam and Eve reproduced Cain. Ever since Man has been a Killer of their brothers/sisters of Life and all the rest of the Life on Earth, including their Eco System. Morals have improved and decayed up and down ever since. We have the Christian Bible and all writings and myth to prove it.

Now the defective Ozone Canopy is decaying, and when it goes, Life as we know it cannot exist. What is moral about ruining our Physical Bodies, and our Life Support System in 6000 years, and use Killing as a moral Lifestyle?

What happened to Thou Shalt Not Kill, and Turn The Other Cheek? Are we victims of a mouth worship Lifestyle, instead of an Equal Sharing Lifestyle?

Ron

JT is right. The current generation of Americans is the most amoral in this country's history.

The next generation will be worse. Amoral adults don't raise moral children.

Rich B

From the Bible I glean that each generation doesn't get worse--it just stays equally bad, e.g., Adam/Eve, the Kings of Israel/Judah, the prophets. Only individuals have the opportunity to be righteous.

Ron

"Only individuals have the opportunity to be righteous."

Actually, many folks on this blog believe everyone IS righteous until they become an adult. All of us are born pure and sinless, as Jesus was born pure and sinless. We just don't remain that way like He did. Probably many people's first sin was the purchase of a incadesant light bulb and putting in a lamp.

Don't worry, I'm sure the Pope will talk to President Bush about this.

Stephen Lewis

I think we may be a less moral nation than our forefathers, but the blaim should not go to the press.
Place the blame where is really lies, on religion. Much of the Protestant movement in this country has be envious of the Catholics with their larger churches and numbers. To get themselves there, they were willing to sacrifice certain morals-like greed is a sin, and humility, simple living, and hard work are good for the soul. This has allowed you to bring the money grubbing wealthy into the churches, but at what cost?

corbin

I know this is off subject and all, but I would like to ask you all to pray for a family that lives below us. This morning, EMTs showed up because their only child, a 7 month old was very sick. About an hour later, I was outside and one of the EMTs told the mother that her baby had died. This family has gone through a lot this past year and as you can imagine, their grief is incomprehensible to most. Many thanks.

Dolores Lear

Ron.
I differ with you. We are all born in Sin, or Mis-bred Body Birth. When Pure-bred people like Adam and Eve reproduce by Body Birth, it caused all the problems on Earth.
But we do not do the unforgivable sin, after we are born, until we mature and use the sex act to reproduce by Mis-bred Body Birth.

Jesus was born by Body Birth, but the fetus put in Mary was Pure-bred. None of us are born that way, even those made from seeds joined in a lab, and inserted in the female womb. We are not born sinless. Even though Jesus was made from a Pure-bred fetus, he still was 'regenerated' before he went to Heaven/Space.
We do not have the High Tech to make Pure-bred fetus' yet.

--------------

If we count the WW2 generation as the 1st generation, then my great granddaughter is the 4th generation. Maybe the next generation will be the start of a new 1st generation, or Judgement Day.

Ron

Prayers for the family ascend, Corbin. They are fortunate to have you living nearby.

corbin

Thanks Ron.

Just Thinking

I pray that the couple will be comforted by the true God, the God of justice and mercy who offers His unbounded and inconceivable grace and mercy based on the heart, and not on the wisdom of men. Praise and Honor to God who will judge men's secrets through Jesus Christ, as my gospel declares. Praise to God the Father and Creator Who knows the heart and cares for each child, as only a grieving parent could begin to conceive.

Mary Behr

My prayers, too, Corbin for the family you entrusted to us to pray for. I'll enter them in our Divine Mercy Prayer Request Journal as well. We pray for each other's intentions and for the whole world.

Phil

In regards to our moral sky falling, I've had some pieces of that sky hitting me in the last eight years. All of the children I've baptised since 1998 were born out of wedlock. The fathers were sometimes present and sometimes unknown, but no parent was married at the time of the child's baptism. And despite the pastoral counseling and despite the soberness in which the parental vows were taken, I can't remember one returning on the following Sunday. Not even one of these children and parents and grandparents have attended worship in the past year.

Further, I have seen one "rock solid" Christian after another cash in their consciences on significant principals rather than enduring the slightest bit of discomfort. In their desire to avoid any controversy they have found it easier to part company with long-standing friendships. Parishioners faced with a moral delima have increasingly chosen flight to a greener pew over perserversance.

In the span of my thirty-four years as a pastor I have enjoyed the earlier years when most of the children had two parents in possession of a marriage license. In those earlier times people would work through a problem and communicate their distresses for a long time before they would even consider joining the growing ranks of the unchurch Christian. Today, at the first hint of the slightest problem too many not only stay home. They don't call. They don't answer.

In this present time a pastor will redesign the worship service and discard everything that might not be "cool" in order to draw in and keep a congregation with a short attention span and a demand for ever increasing sacrifices to the to the god of style. With one hand holding the trigger of their offering envelop and the other hand holding up all the other forms of Sunday entertainment competing for that one or two hour slice of their lives, throngs and multitudes of "worship style police" pressure the pastor to elevate their "worship style god" to the place of being the "One True Style of Worship god". Of course each "worship style god" commands the pastor to eleminate all competing "worship style gods". The pastor is commanded to ignor and starve all of the disciples of the competing "worship style gods".

Oh, for the good old days when we didn't feel cheated on Sundays because all of the hymns were found conviently numbered inside of a worn hymnal given in memory of someone's loved one. It wasn't such a bad time when we managed to pack the pews despite the absence of a digital projector. It wasn't such a bad time when everyone searched for a place to sit, only to find that the order of worship and the selection of liturgy was the same every week. It wasn't such a bad time when the pastor could dress according to his church's accepted tradition without being pulled back and forth between wearing a robe or wearing jeans.

The moral sky might not be falling in your neighborhood. But the ever-increasing numbers of people suffering from worship-service-love-sacrifice ADD/ADHD brings me to some modest conclusions.

Possibly, I'm just a big preacher-baby. Maybe I'm just whinning because someone has hidden my old black robe while my jeans are still in the dirty clothes.

Maybe the good old days weren't as good as I remember them to be. Come to think of it, the copier was a device with a drum filled with black ink that always waited until no-one was in the office to create a puddle of ink that looked a lot like John Wesley. There was a typewritter that didn't have spell check opperated by a guy who couldn't spell. The telephone was black and was unincumbered with caller i.d. And then, there was Miss M., a cranky old woman who had been blessed by the almighty with the correct oppinion on every conceivable subject known to the human race. It's impossible to express my feelings when this sweet, precious old saint would shake her finger in my face as she corrected me and helped me to understand the ramifications if I failed to understand and submit to her will.

Today's preachers have it made. We have photocopies, computers, internet, caller i.d., and tons of incredibly creative and wonderful resources for every facet of church life.

Now that I've said so much about what has irritates me, maybe that crack in the moral sky is just letting in some light to expose the opportunities to serve people in the here and now. Because a child in my arms needs a father, I have a few moments to be one. Because someone drifted away I have the opportunity to find others even as I'm searching for my brother.

I take it all back. The sky is where the sky has always been. People haven't changed since the day we were kicked out of Eden. We are broken and flawed today exactly as we were the moment we broke God's heart. We're called to take care of our little piece of terra, dirt and all.

There is one irritant that keeps testing my self-control. Like a prairie dog hiding in her mound, I'm caught off guard. The chubby beast bit my ankle and then scurried back to her subterrainian home. This hairy hunter disguises herself as a furball of fun. Cute? This one was determined to chew my leg off.

The cranky old woman of years gone by keeps coming back to life! Her finger in my face. Her voice like fingernails on a chalkboard.

I think God's been laughing at me over the cleaver way I get to revisit this lesson.

God's been laughing at me. The woman who cracks stained glass with her voice finally did it.
She left for a greener pew.

On her way out, when I was feeling guilty for my lack of concern for the pastor with the greener pew, she spoke the last word. The door closed behind her but the soundwaves of that last word kept bouncing around the room until it hit something.

I'm going to miss that stained glass window.

Mary Behr

Wow, Phil. You are up in the wee hours of the morning. So am I, shaking a headache. Glad I decided to read the tail end of Friday's comments. Everything you wrote seems to be common experience these days. When i was pregnant with my first child (in the days before the dinosaurs) and old lady told me: "I'm glad I'm not raising children in this day and age," it put starch in my backbone. That was the only age I had and I was going to live it.
I keep reminding God that all these present misguided children are His. Haven't been struck by lightning yet. You have still retained your sense of humor. That and the grace of God will get you through. Keep on keeping on. Your words will be with me through the weekend.

Patricia

So what "moral" era would someone like to live in, if not today?

Perhaps when they were throwing Christians to the lions? Or when monarchs, with full support of churches, kept a slave class called "serfs" and personal Bibles were unheard of?

The 1950s were just great! Civil rights were still not practiced and you could make a black person come in the back entrance or make a Jew live across town.

And, honestly, Phil, if religion is all about marriage certificates and pastors' chosen attire, who needs it?

Patricia

Regarding the media as "bad guy".....

Consumerism and the social, political, and economic structure that support it is the real "bad guy". Its handmaiden is information technology.

One of the most life-altering decisions that our government ever made was when advertising became the money base by which to support "free" media. If it hadn't been.......our world would be much more PBSish and NPRish.

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