If we have not tread on controversial ground so far, the mere suggestion that we are an immoral nation raises protests immediately. Why? Because defining anything as immoral flies against the prevailing cultural inclination to declare the existence of what is right and what is wrong. The idea that morality exists only in the eye of the beholder has so defined our thinking as a nation that few will even accept the proposition that any behavior or attitude can be regarded as immoral. Yet in reality, the reluctance comes not from the absence of an agreeable definition but from a desire to excuse personal choices and behaviors in others so that we can expect that same courtesy in return. In other words, “I will give you a pass on your behavior if you will do the same for me!”
But even if we acknowledge the reticence to admit the category of immorality into what we will tolerate as a culture, there are clearly some behaviors that no one tries to justify. Before addressing those that a biblical worldview defines as immoral, first consider those things which few in their best moments of rationalizing would try to say are morally acceptable.
Pornography. Even the most jaded skeptics agree that at least some forms of pornography are unacceptable—for example, child pornography is forbidden and is grounds for arrest and imprisonment all over the United States. But the secrecy and shame which surround the use of pornography in all of its forms indicates that few people would try to suggest that there is nothing wrong with it. Statistically, a few facts should cause us to blush before the rest of the world:
- The USA produces 24 times more porn than any other country
- Porn sales in the USA grosses $12.62 Billion Dollars (2005)
- Porn sales world wide top $97 Billion Dollars (USD) (2005)
- The USA hosts 244 million ‘porn’ websites (89% of all such sites)
- 12 percent of all websites online are porn
- 40 million Americans regularly visit porn sites
- 35 percent of all downloads are porn
- Kids first see porn online, on average, at age 11
- 20-25 percent of men watch porn at work
- The porn industry revenue is larger than all of the revenues for all professional football, baseball and basketball franchises combined
- 70% of men in the United States between the ages of 18 and 34 visit at least one pornographic website in a typical month
Is that jarring enough? One article noted that a survey taken in Canada a few years ago to find out how many adult males had never looked at pornography did not find even one. So even if we in the culture of tolerance in the United States are hesitant to identify something as immoral behavior, these statistics are an embarrassment at best and tragic evidence that we have lost touch with any behavioral boundaries.
Substance Abuse. Although few people think of substance abuse as a moral issue, the impact of alcohol, tobacco and other kinds of drug abuse on individuals, families, the workplace and the highways of our land should be sufficient to make us reconsider. The devastation of addictions to these and other substances is well-documented so I will not go into them in detail. However, there is also significant evidence that occasional or social use of these substances also introduces an element of instability at every level of our society. Putting your own life and the lives of others at risk in order to satisfy your own appetites is irresponsible at least, and I would also include that it falls into the category of immoral. Again, even if people are unwilling to say it is immoral, they are not prepared to say there is no need for concern or caution with regard to substance abuse.
Evidences of Moral Decline. What the culture says it believes and what it does in practice give rise to legitimate charges of hypocrisy. Many may admit that chastity is something they value but not enough to maintain it until marriage—if marriage is even a consideration.
Sexually Activity Outside of/Before Marriage. Surveys indicate that nearly 30% of adult men and almost 10% of adult women acknowledge have had fifteen or more sexual partners during their lifetimes. Fewer and fewer young adults are waiting until marriage for their first experience of sexual intimacy. In a bizarre twist, when someone chooses to remain chaste until marriage, they are considered to be eccentric and strange and the word ‘virgin’ once held as a badge of moral purity has become a term of derision. The entertainment industry perpetuates a model of sexual promiscuity that convinces the society that sexual purity exists only within a weird sub-culture and can never be considered normal behavior.
Among pastors, a new question now has to be asked in pre-marital counseling in order to insure that what follows will be understand in a biblical framework for what moral purity means. Unless we know otherwise, we have to ask the coupe of they are currently sexually active and if so to agree to cease until after they are married. And if they are living together, one of them needs to move out until they are married. Although this is not a brand new problem in our culture, it is now considered odd that a pastor would even care about such things because the behavior is so common (even among followers of Christ!) that it does not even occur to them that there is problem of morality at stake!
Cohabitation. More people are living together “without benefit of clergy” than ever before. Some are doing so as a “test drive for marriage” while others dismiss marriage as an anachronistic throw-back to a more naïve world. Divorces parents and marital infidelity have left a bad taste in the mouths of those in the 22-34 age bracket and they are rejecting sexual purity as a moral value to be retained as they jettison anything likely to produce a guilty conscience. How much has this change impacted the culture at large?
“Thirty or 40 years ago, cohabitation was relatively rare, mainly the province of artists and other questionable types, and still thought of as “living in sin” In 1970 only about 500,000 couples lived together in unwedded bliss…Now, nearly 5 million opposite-sex couples in the United States live together outside of marriage; millions more have done it at some point. Some couples do choose to live together as a permanent alternative to marriage, but their numbers are only a tiny fraction: More than 50 percent of couples who marry today have lived together beforehand.” (Nancy Wartik, “The Perils of Playing House,” July 1, 2005, Psychology Today).
If we went on to expand the idea of immorality to aborting unborn babies, or sanctioning homosexual lifestyles as nothing more than another among many acceptable alternatives, or corporate greed which approves of ridiculous wealth for the upper echelons while rank and file workers lose their jobs or struggle to make it from month to month on their low pay, rampant cheating in the classrooms and on tax returns, or unequal justice for poor and minority offenders of the law—there is plenty of room to justify the designation that we have become an immoral nation without substantial moorings.