I Be not conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good, acceptable, and perfect will of God.
- Romans 12:2
I didnt realize it then, but growing up in the 1950s was a breeze - even if you were different, like being a Christian teenager. We may not have enjoyed the teasing because we didnt smoke, drink, dance or wear more than a smidgeon of make-up, but there were bunches of us and we had lots of support. Besides, there was something noble about setting ourselves apart from the world, as our church and parents taught us to do.
Surely no one wants to turn the clock back 50 years, but neither do I want to continue what the late Daniel Patrick Moynihan called defining deviancy down. From offensive music, movies and tabloid TV to what passes for fashion today, I wonder: Is it too late to reverse the trend, to pull back the envelope before someone pushes it over the irreversible edge?
Maybe Im just being nave, balking at change, jealous because todays kids act like theyre having more fun than I did. But when I hear words like average and in described as, whatever passes for the lowest common denominator, I wallow in despair. Thinking of my grandchildren and those who will share their world, I long for that noble cause, the strength to be different, the courage to forget average and start defining decency upward again.
But as the Old Testament prophet Elijah discovered, theres no fertility in despair. He thought all was lost, too. After preaching for years against increasing godlessness in Israel, it appeared that King Ahab and his idolatrous wife Jezebel had convinced the whole country to forget about God and worship the idol, Baal. Depressed and hiding in a cave, Elijah poured out his heart to God.
The Israelites have rejected your covenant, broken down your altars, and put your prophets to death I, only I am left, and now they are trying to kill me, too (I Kings 19:10).
When Elijah finished his sad tale, God replied, Elijah, I have reserved 7,000 in Israel whose knees have not bowed to Baal (19:18).
What a lesson for us today. Just as Elijah was not the only God-worshipper left in Israel, there are bunches of us who decry whats happening in our culture today. Neither are we without support, even from the most vulnerable among us, the younger generation.
Georgia Sen. Zell Miller had been despairing, too, until he returned to the college classroom in 1999 and discovered a surprising trend in what today's students believe. While discussing abortion in his current best-selling book, A National Party No More, Miller cites a New York Times/CNN poll revealing that among people 18-29, support for abortion rights has dropped from 48 percent in 1993 to 39 percent last year. Also, teenage pregnancy has declined for the past 10 years, and there is a dramatic rise in parent-requested abstinence programs in the public schools.
Just as Elijah needed to know he wasnt the only God-worshipper left in Israel, we despairers need to know we arent the only ones who haven't bowed our knees to todays culture. It may be too soon to tell about another trend, but ever since that deviant moment between halves of the recent Super Bowl, the volume on the outrage button is at least loud enough to be heard. Usually, in matters like this, we hear nothing but cries against breaking the First Amendment, and its encouraging to see so many segments of our society uniting against the freedom of foul speech.
on a relative matter, just days from now Mel Gibsons much-publicized movie, The Passion of Christ, will hit theaters all across the country. Its also too soon to tell what the impact of this film will be. But theres an excitement unparalleled in my lifetime that Gibsons monumental effort will explain as never before what is meant by living in Gods world, a kingdom above our own. As Jesus himself said, If I am lifted up I will draw all men unto me (John 12:32).
Incidentally, for those who do see the film, if you would like to share your impressions, please let me know. Id like to incorporate community reaction to this historic event in a future column.
(Barbara Seaborn is a local freelance writer. E-mail comments to email@example.com)
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