Plastic Bag Morality
If you are a Christian, you will no doubt be challenged at some point on your moral foundation. “How can you allow a 2000 year old book to determine your morality?” people will ask. Times change, people evolve, and basing everything on a book written at a time when people couldn’t even grasp simple scientific concepts like the earth being round can seem at best close-minded and at worst lunacy. So why do we cling to scripture for guidance on how we should live our lives?
Before we answer that question, let’s delve into the alternative. If you don’t use the Bible as the basis for your moral beliefs, then you likely subscribe to one of two other moral baselines: (1) some other centuries-old religious text (in which case the same criticisms arise) or (2) you let the culture set your morality for you. For the large majority non-Christian Americans, “what the culture currently says” is the belief system of choice, so we will dive deeper into that one.
Here is the problem with that mentality — the culture is in CONSTANT flux. If you don’t use the Bible as your baseline then everything just rides on the time period in which you currently live. You may be for civil rights and believe that “love wins”, but if you would have been alive 200 years ago, you would have believed that enslaving black people was appropriate and that homosexuality was disgusting. You may be against domestic abuse, but had you been alive 100 years ago, you would have thought that your neighbor beating his wife and kids was none of your business. You may believe in a woman’s right to choose and think that smoking is harmful to your body, but had you been alive 70 years ago you would have thought that aborting a baby was wrong and that smoking was fine. Even in short parts of our lifetime things can change dramatically. If I put on a dress and walked into a woman’s restroom 10 years ago, I would have been arrested and considered mentally ill, but today I would be given an award for courage.
Allowing the culture to decide what’s moral and what isn’t moral is a shaky way to live. Take a plastic bag outside on a really windy day, stand on the edge of a tall building, and see if you can get the bag to drop on a target below. What happens? The bag blows around in the wind, changing directions aimlessly. It may go left for a while, then go up, then go down, then go left again. There is no way the bag will land on the target because there is absolutely nothing guiding it. It just floats around wherever the unpredictable wind takes it. That’s what allowing the culture to dictate your morals is akin to.
People will make two arguments against this. First they will say that they would have opposed slavery or been in favor of gay marriage had they been alive in 1816 because they would have been the open minded pioneers who would have changed minds, but that’s simply not true. How do we know? Because they are not doing anything “open minded” today! It is unlikely that most nonbelievers can cite even one moral issue of the day where they are not totally in step with the popular opinion. If someone is just following the crowd now, then the odds are pretty high that they would have done the same thing 200 years ago.
The second argument people will make is that our generation is just the most enlightened. Everyone before us had silly beliefs because they just didn’t possess the knowledge and understanding what we have today. But the problem there is two-fold: (1) It’s beyond arrogant. Can we REALLY say that our Starbucks-swilling, comfort-driven generation possesses some kind of superior quality to the generation who was willing to sacrifice everything to defeat the Nazis? (2) EVERY generation thinks that! Our grandchildren are going to look back at us as the obdurate bigots as they have a good laugh reading about what we believed. By that time, sexual hook-ups and choosing your gender may be deemed immoral, but incest and polygamy may be welcomed. Xenophobia may be stamped out but foreign sex trade may be applauded. Abortion may be illegal but child labor may be seen as a great way to earn money for families. It just all depends on which way the wind blows.
The Bible on the other hand never changes. Jesus told the story about the man who built his house upon sand instead of rock to teach us the foolishness of basing our beliefs on something as flimsy as the culture’s current mood. And for all of the nonsense you hear around Old Testament legal guidelines or supposed endorsement of oppression (which can all be refuted), the Bible is actually an incredibly consistent book (an amazing fact given how many different authors contributed to it). Does it require a certain level of faith to accept? Yes. Does it require more faith than believing that the people living in this area of the world in this exact moment in history are the only ones who have all the right moral answers? I would say no.
I not only believe in the Bible but I also believe that had everyone TRULY followed the words of Jesus for the past 2000 years (not ignored and/or twisted them), we wouldn’t be looking back at moral atrocities like racism or genocide because those wouldn’t exist. Instead we let the winds of the culture guide us way too many times.
This is why it is SO VITAL that our Christian culture today understands this and has the courage to believe in it. Far too many churches and believers think that they can have one foot in both camps. Maybe if they staple a few pages of the Bible to the plastic bag then it will hit the target! They believe in Jesus but they also believe in the lies of the culture which directly contradict God’s word. They want SO badly to be liked and accepted by the culture that they acquiesce when it comes to their long held beliefs. However, the culture will NEVER accept us. They were never meant to accept us. But like an unpopular high school kid that desperately wants to be part of the cool crowd, we keep trying to do things that will get us in, not realizing the long term damage we are causing to our eternity.
Being a Christian in today’s endlessly fluctuating culture means not only knowing why you believe what you believe, but having the conviction to stand on it too. We need to recognize that this period of time that we live in is a tiny little slice of the world history pie. What the world believes today will be turned on its head tomorrow, so we must not waver. If we do then we cannot be the light for others and we most definitely cannot fulfill the potential that the Lord has for us.