Morality Outmoded?

“Behold, the Lord [Jehovah] maketh the earth empty, and maketh it waste, and turneth it upside down, and scattereth abroad the inhabitants thereof. … The earth … is defiled under the inhabitants thereof; because they have transgressed the laws, changed the ordinance, broken the everlasting covenant. Therefore hath the curse devoured the earth, and they that dwell therein are desolate: therefore the inhabitants of the earth are burned, and few men left.” —Isaiah 24:1-6

“WHAT’S happening to American Morality?” That question was recently posed by a writer in a prominent weekly news magazine. The article goes on to say that the increased violence, permissiveness, cheating, and corruption are signs of new trends in human behavior, and it suggests, ominously, that even greater changes may be expected in the future. Indeed, the writer speaks of the changing standards of modern morality that have lately invaded all walks of life as a tidal wave.

Watergate, with its overspreading corruption, illegal wire tapping, cheap lies, dirty tricks, and presidential disgrace, probably epitomized the current trend as well as any single situation could do. But iniquitous as it was, it did not represent the extreme of the growing condition—it merely marked another stage in the previously existing downward course of immorality. But the shock of Watergate on the national conscience was considerably dulled by the fact that for a long time now the public mind has been battered with increasing instances of misdeeds in places high and low, and in and out of public life.

Governmental Wrongdoing

Writer Meg Greenfield in a recent article in Newsweek also called attention to this condition of national moral apathy. She notes that Washington awaited with much concern the results of “the Church Committee’s disclosure of CIA assassination attempts against foreign leaders and its public hearings on the FBI’s campaign against Martin Luther King and others.” When the report was finally released, Greenfield states, the depravities that it revealed exceeded even what was feared. “And yet,” she tells us, “the [expected] bomb proved something of a dud. Why?”

She responds to her own question, “Part of the answer no doubt lies in the anesthetizing effect of years of revelation and shock. … Washington, by virtue of a seemingly unending flow of such disclosures in the past couple of years, has managed to perform a … nationwide lobotomy on the public.” The national sensibility to shock has, indeed, become numbed through constant revelations of wrongdoing at every level.

Big Business, Too—and Little People

Nor has big business kept its record clean. One writer points out, “Some of the country’s flagship corporations—Exxon, Lockheed, Northrop, Gulf, United Brands, have admitted funneling massive amounts of cash to officials of foreign governments.” Simply stated, these payments are common bribes to insure the consummation of sales of their respective products. But this, as with many other forms of dishonesty, is considered acceptable practice in certain areas. “Without it,” says The [respected] Financial Times of London, “business simply would not get done!”

The “little man” also manages to commit his share of not so petty crime. Shoplifting is now considered a normal cost factor by management in retail operations and adds about five percent to the cost of goods bought and paid for by honest shoppers. In certain parts of New York City the store doors must be kept locked for security purposes, and customers are admitted one at a time. Newsweek recently reported that $100 million worth of goods is stolen every year by fraudulent use of credit cards, while $450 million in bad checks is passed at grocery stores alone.

Obtaining illegal welfare and public assistance payments, a fruitful and widely practiced device, is made easy. In Maine, for instance, one can apply for state welfare by mail. Other states simply accept social security cards, or library cards, as identification for food stamps. Some months back The Reader’s Digest ran an article entitled, “Let’s Stop the Unemployment Compensation Rip-Off,” wherein the writer pointed out that people have found they can receive substantially as much money by staying home and collecting unemployment benefits as they can by working.

One angry man from Fort Payne, Alabama, says, “People around here I’ve known over 40 years are out of jobs and they’re not looking.” Welfare cheaters irritate a policeman from Pleasantville, N.Y. He complains, “There are a lot of people who just don’t want to work. They get a free apartment, free food, nice steaks and drive their own Cadillacs.”

Even at West Point—and in Sports

At this very moment the prestigious United States Military Academy at West Point, N.Y., is involved “in what could become the largest cheating scandal in West Point’s 174-year history,” according to Newsweek magazine. This situation arose out of the operation of the honor system of examining the cadets. So many students are involved in the present case that the student body voted a few months back to reduce the penalty that shall hereafter be dealt out to violators of the honor system. Thus, instead of holding to the standard and working to raise the level of conduct of these young men, the standard would seem to be lowered to meet existing levels of behavior.

Cheating even abounds in sports. A conference held at the State University of New York at Brockport concluded that cheating is engaged in “not only by individual athletes, but also by whole teams, by coaches, managers, owners, and even judges.” There was a time, and not so long ago, either, when sports were indulged in for pleasure, exercise, and recreation. Nowadays, winning is not merely the principal thing—it seems to be the only thing, and to be attained by whatever means.

The media are so constantly full of news of all of the foregoing kind that it barely causes a ripple in the public consciousness anymore. But now we find that even the grosser forms of immorality having to do with so-called “life-styles”—the formerly unmentionable, yea, unwhisperable forms of degeneracy—are openly defiling our cities, our nation, and the world. From news commentaries available to all who can read, it is evident that the late night fare on cable TV has become especially unsavory. The present guidelines of the high courts provide that that which is presented “must violate a community’s standards to be [considered] obscene” and therefore subject to being ruled off the air. In other words, if the standards of the community should be those of Sodom and Gomorrah, then the degradation would have to exceed that of these ancient evil cities before it could be judged objectionable. From what one reads in the public prints, one wonders how far the world is from that condition at the present time. It is doubtless a revealing commentary on our times to learn that this type of broadcast has brought only “a dozen viewer complaints … in two years.”

Offensive Moving Pictures

Evil as night cable TV is, the movies appear to be worse. At the time of its introduction a mere lifetime back, the modern moving picture machine was hailed as a wonderful new means of instruction and simple entertainment; and, indeed, it has become that. But in the hands of greedy, unprincipled men it has also become the means of portraying human degeneracy beyond the bounds of decorous discussion. One reviewer of a current movie recently testified, unwittingly, to the decadence of our times when he spoke of the “pervasive eroticism of contemporary culture.” Another indication of the direction in which the foul wind is blowing can be seen in the report that the Biograph Theatre, of Chicago, whose specialty was “G-rated” films, is closing up. Nobody wants to see family type films anymore.

The pace and depth of the decline of moral standards and conduct can be gauged by what has happened in this one industry alone. When the word “damn” was first heard in a moving picture theater (“Gone With the Wind”), we are told that the audience reacted “with a sense of mild shock.” Now, a mere ten years later, literally anything and everything having to do with the grimy side of human experience and the most intimate human relationships can be seen and heard by approving, swelling audiences. It is a measure of the level to which morality has declined that these conditions are no longer frowned upon by large segments of our population—rather, they are coming more and more to be considered normal and acceptable.

The well-known and brilliant British journalist Malcolm Muggeridge recently said that in his opinion “what is still called Western Civilization is in an advanced stage of decomposition. … With the media, especially television, governing all our lives, as they indubitably do, it is easily imaginable that this might happen without our noticing.”

He then described a laboratory experiment of which he had read, in which a number of frogs were put into a bowl of water and the water very gradually raised to the boiling point. As a result, they all expired without making any serious attempt to jump out of the bowl. “The frogs are us,” suggested Muggeridge, “and the media, by accustoming us to the gradual deterioration of our values and our circumstances, ensure that the boiling point comes upon us unawares.”

“Where Is God?”

Many sincere and honest-hearted people wonder why the great God of the universe permits evil and evildoers to prosper. Why does not a righteous God do something about it? The Bible tells us that God will, indeed, do something about it, but that he permits the human race to experience the evil effects of sin (the result of man’s own disobedience) for a season, and for a purpose. The Apostle Paul writes in Romans 7:13 that sin has been permitted to continue that man might learn a valuable lesson—that sin “might appear sin.” The Amplified Bible translates this passage, “that … sin might be shown up clearly to be sin, that the extreme malignity and immeasurable sinfulness of sin might plainly appear,” and that for man’s eternal instruction and benefit.

Man is now, in this present evil world, experiencing the direful result of sin, which is suffering and death. (Rom. 5:12) Satan is the god of this world, and he is still going about “as a roaring lion, … seeking whom he may devour,” as is clearly evident from the overspreading iniquity that is defiling the world.—Gal. 1:4; II Cor. 4:4; I Pet. 5:8

The first world, or social arrangement, was destroyed by the Lord in the Flood, because “God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” (Gen. 6:5; II Pet. 3:5,6) Later, Sodom was destroyed by the Lord because there could not be found even ten righteous within the wicked city. (Gen. 18:32; 19:24-29) And now the Lord God tells us that he will also destroy this present evil world, or social order, of which Satan is the god, because of its iniquity.

A God of Justice, Love, Wisdom, Power

The righteous Lord will allow the spread and the dominion of sin to go just so far, and then he will act to bring righteousness and justice to the earth. We read the words of the Prophet Isaiah, “The Lord [Jehovah] shall go forth as a mighty man, he shall stir up jealousy like a man of war; he shall cry, yea, roar; he shall prevail against his enemies. I have long time holden my peace; I have been still, and refrained myself: now I will cry like a travailing woman; I will destroy and devour at once.”—Isa. 42:13,14

In another passage, the same prophet tells us that this retribution will come upon the wicked in the day of Jehovah: “Howl ye; for the day of the Lord [Jehovah] is at hand; it shall come as a destruction from the Almighty. … Behold, the day of the Lord cometh, cruel both with wrath and fierce anger, to lay the land desolate; and he shall destroy the sinners thereof out of it. … And I [Jehovah] will punish the world for their evil, and the wicked for their iniquity; and I will cause the arrogancy of the proud to cease, and will lay low the haughtiness of the terrible.”—Isa. 13:6,9,11

The Prophet Zephaniah also foretells this great time of trouble to come upon the world because of the prevalence of sin. He writes, “The great day of the Lord [Jehovah] is near, it is near, and hasteth greatly, even the voice of the day of the Lord: the mighty man shall cry there bitterly. That day is a day of [Jehovah’s] wrath, a day of trouble and distress, a day of wasteness and desolation, a day of darkness and gloominess, a day of clouds and thick darkness. … And I will bring distress upon men, that they shall walk like blind men, because they have sinned against the Lord: and their blood shall be poured out as dust, and their flesh as the dung.”—Zeph. 1:14,15,17

This day of Jehovah is described by Jesus also as a time of “great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be.” (Matt. 24:21) It is significant that our Lord mentioned this time of trouble, or great tribulation, along with the increase of iniquity (vice, Emphatic Diaglott), as signs of the end of the world, or age; for thus we see where we are on the stream of time.—Matt. 24:3,12

The Apostle Peter also describes the destruction of this present evil world, or social arrangement, by Jehovah, in “the day of the Lord.” He writes, “The day of the Lord [Jehovah, see vs. 12] will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up.”—II Pet. 3:10,13

New World of Righteousness

Yes, the Lord God will destroy this present evil world, or social order. But after the debris of this great destruction has been cleared away, he will establish his new world, wherein dwelleth righteousness. Peter, of course, picks up this wonderful promise from Isaiah’s prophecy, “Behold, I create new heavens and a new earth: and the former [evil world] shall not be remembered, nor come into mind.” (Isa. 65:17) By inspiration, the Apostle Peter properly places the establishment of this new righteous order of things as following the destruction of the present evil world. He writes, “Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for [wait for, RSV; look forward to, NEB] new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness.”—II Pet. 3:13

And what a glorious new day that will be for the resurrected world of mankind! In this present evil world, iniquity still abounds. In that glorious new world, when Christ and his church are reigning, wickedness shall be punished and finally abolished, while righteousness and love and justice and mercy shall flourish. Satan shall then be bound. “And I saw an angel come down from heaven, having the key of the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand, and he laid hold on the dragon, that old serpent, which is the Devil, and Satan, and bound him a thousand years, and cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal upon him, that he should deceive the nations no more, till the thousand years should be fulfilled.” Satan, the god of this present evil world, is still deceiving the nations and the people; but in that new world to come he will deceive the nations no more. (Rev. 20:1-3) Hear how joyously the psalmist describes that glorious millennial day:

“Give the king thy judgments, O God, and thy righteousness unto the king’s son. He shall judge thy people with righteousness, and thy poor with judgment. The mountains shall bring peace to the people, and the little hills, by righteousness. He shall judge the poor of the people, he shall save the children of the needy, and shall break in pieces the oppressor. They shall fear thee as long as the sun and moon endure, throughout all generations. He shall come down like rain upon the mown grass: as showers that water the earth. In his days shall the righteous flourish; and abundance of peace so long as the moon endureth. He shall have dominion also from sea to sea, and from the river unto the ends of the earth.”—Ps. 72:1-8

Dawn Bible Students Association
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