The good old days were not that good. On the one hand, sixty and more years ago Western civilization was not under attack by jihadis driving cars into crowds. Mobs did not burn businesses because someone was shot while committing a crime. Protesters did not march over lost elections, or a pipeline being built, or because they could not use whatever toilet facility. On the other hand, blacks were lynched or shotgunned for seeking rights we all fought for in world wars. Homosexuals were chemically castrated and – post-war – we turned our backs on tyrants and their atrocities as long as they were not German or Japanese. Human trafficking and domestic abuse were endemic in our culture and we did not want to know it. Good jobs and education were doled out on the basis of skin color, and drugs were thought to be a problem only in the ghetto. The good old days were not really that good.
On the other hand, in our time – unlike the good old days – we celebrate and enable wholesale destruction of unborn human life. We create a state holiday to honor a pedophile – Harvey Milk Day in California – and adopt laws compelling the retelling of history according to new dogmas about sexual orientation. We prosecute people for exposing the harvest and sale of baby body parts by Planned Parenthood. We mandate the teaching of the unproven theory of evolution, and prohibit – by law – debating the subject in public schools. We adopt laws calling for “assisted” termination of human lives deemed not worth living by increasingly arbitrary standards and personnel. We dare to call ourselves enlightened compared to previous generations; in fact, we claim to stand atop an enlightenment ladder with each preceding generation on descending rungs below.
Chronological snobbery is the elephant in the room, according to historian and philosopher Eric Metaxas. He attributes the term to C. S. Lewis and defines it as the uncritical acceptance of values and concepts on the sole basis of their novelty. Any idea that can be dated is declared obsolete, but – on the other hand – any belief claiming to unmask or demythologize earlier beliefs – on any subject – is deemed superior. By this logic it is better to expose children to shared use of bath and shower facilities with members of the (visibly) opposite gender not because it has been proven to benefit either the 99.5 percent that identifies with the gender assigned at birth or the .5 percent known as gender dysphoric – not for any scientific reason – but because earlier generations did not understand or tolerate what we accept in our supposedly larger hearts and minds. Yeah, right.
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So what is our model – the bad old days or the ugly new days? The answer is neither. If we have integrity coupled with intelligence, we choose nothing based on its comfortability or political popularity. We choose our behavior on the basis of an objective standard that both stands the test of time – scientists call this longitudinal study – and proves applicable to unforeseen developments; scientists call this external validity. The Ten Commandments stack up well against these criteria.
If we seek this standard, we need first acknowledge we are the created, not the creators, per commandments one and two. This implies we need help navigating the life with which we are gifted. We need next to stop acting as though God exists to gratify our whims and should be mocked if He doesn’t measure up – numbers three and four. Items five through 10 are honored as we practice honoring one another – those who nurtured us and those we have opportunity to nurture – seeking to encourage one another in acts of freedom and dignity that honor the freedom and dignity of others. Attempting this over time will quickly show us we cannot do it. The next step is surrender to the only One in history to fulfill all the commandments and enable others simply by association with Him.
In surrender we will find ourselves joyfully bearing one another’s burdens – whether the other is of different race or political persuasion. We will love the addict – whether the addiction is chemical or sexual – and seek help in loving intelligently. We become able to live harmoniously in a world structured around service rather than slavery.
We will quickly discover the salient question is not whether one generation is wiser than another, but how we are doing right now in our effort to leave the world better than we found it. We will also find ourselves traveling a road leading inevitably to deep relationship with the One who placed us here for that purpose.
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