If you are old enough, you may remember a time when the difference between right and wrong was clearly understood in America. Even those who committed criminal acts did so in spite of knowing better. Up until the beginning of the last half-century, all of recorded human history had been characterized by a clear understanding of moral absolutes. From the Babylonian Code of Hammurabi to the Judeo-Christian ethic, every culture declared certain behaviors to be wrong and evil.
America’s standards for moral behavior and ethics sprang largely from the Ten Commandments, the teachings of Christ, and the letters of the apostle Paul. Regardless of one’s political preference, race, or socioeconomic status, society generally had consensus on a number of core values and moral absolutes: the value of human life, loyalty, respect, fidelity, commitment to family and marriage, responsibility, kindness, generosity, forgiveness, and love.
Things have changed, and the symptoms of this change are all around us—in today’s paper, on the news, on the internet, in the next cubicle, and likely in your own home. The following article is a distressing one, and I apologize for its graphic nature. But I share it with you because it illustrates an important point. Slowly read this account and ponder carefully the future consequences of this kind of thinking and behavior in our world.
Seventeen-year-old Elizabeth and her fourteen-year-old friend, Jennifer, made the mistake of taking a shortcut that night. It was 11:30 p.m. on a hot, steamy June night, and the two had just left a party at a friend’s house. They called home to let their folks know they were on their way, but they never made it. As Elizabeth and Jennifer cut through a wooded area near White Oak Bayou, in Houston, Texas, they stumbled into the initiation night of a gang called Black and White. Gang members had descended on this little area to drink some beer and engage in a macho induction that involved newcomers fist-fighting other members. The gang had just started to break up when the girls came in to sight. “Let’s get ’em,” one of the gang members cried. Elizabeth and Jennifer’s naked bodies were found four days later. They’d been raped repeatedly. Both girls had been strangled—one with a belt, the other with a shoestring. Apparently the girls didn’t die quickly enough. According to police experts, evidence showed that both of their necks had been stepped on to complete the executions. Six gang members were charged with the murders. Police reported that all six youth had participated in the rapes and murders, and they ranged from ages 14 to 18.
One of the gang members had appeared on a local television show the day before the murders. He hoisted a beer and boasted into the camera, “Human . . . life . . . means . . . nothing.” Basically, that message had reached the core of his being. Human life means nothing. Another of the boys upon hearing that they may be charged with murder is reported to have exclaimed, “Hey! Great! We finally made it to the big time.”
What a horrific event. Can you imagine anyone being so calloused, so confused about reality, so incredibly depraved as these young men?
Unfortunately, as we all know, this tragedy is not an isolated case. Moral chaos has permeated our schools, our streets, and often our homes. In fact, in the next twenty-four hours in America, 1,000 unwed teens will become pregnant, 500 adolescents will begin using drugs, and 6 youths will commit suicide. That’s not in a year, not in a month . . . that’s every twenty-four hours in America!
Even many of those who should be setting positive examples for younger generations are instead setting the pace for immorality, inventing new ways to “push the envelope” in regard to degrading behavior. It has become commonplace to read of university administrators misusing funds, padding their salaries, and making obscene phone calls from their campus offices. The nightly news is filled with sordid stories about prominent politicians, professional athletes, business leaders, and even clergy who are involved in adultery, drugs, illicit sex, or domestic violence.
What on earth happened? How did we get here? How did we get to the place where young teens boast of killing one another, where schools require security checkpoints, and where young government interns fall prey to lecherous politicians?
Chip Ingram, Culture Shock: A Biblical Response to Today’s Most Divisive Issues (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2014).
We have just released a new Bible Study based on the book: Culture Shock, by Chip Ingram
These lessons are available on Amazon, as well as a part of my Good Questions Have Groups Talking Subscription Service. Like Netflix for Bible Lessons, one low subscription gives you access to all our lessons–thousands of them. For a medium-sized church, lessons are as little as $10 per teacher per year.
Culture Shock, Lesson #1
Whatever Happened to Right and Wrong
How Did We Get into This Mess?
Culture Shock, Lesson #2
Culture Shock, Lesson #3
Culture Shock, Lesson #4
Culture Shock, Lesson #5
Culture Shock, Lesson #6
Each lesson consists of 20 or so ready-to-use questions that get groups talking. Answers are provided in the form of quotes from respected authors such as John Piper, Max Lucado and Beth Moore.
These lessons will save you time as well as provide deep insights from some of the great writers and thinkers from today and generations past. I also include quotes from the same commentaries that your pastor uses in sermon preparation.
Ultimately, the goal is to create conversations that change lives.