Posts tagged ‘Poll’

The Shifting Moral Tide

Screen Shot 2015-05-29 at 10.25.13 AMA couple of weeks ago, it was the Pew Foundation’s report on the decline of those who self-identify as “Christian” that left the faithful rattled. Last week, Gallup published survey on Americans’ moral attitudes that, once again, shook Christians. Gallup reports:

Americans are more likely now than in the early 2000s to find a variety of behaviors morally acceptable, including gay and lesbian relations, having a baby outside of marriage and sex between an unmarried man and woman. Moral acceptability of many of these issues is now at a record-high level.[1]

In the scope of fifteen years, the percentage of people who believe gay and lesbian relations are morally acceptable has gone up 23 percent. 61 percent of people now believe having a baby outside of marriage is morally acceptable compared to 45 percent fifteen years ago. Support for polygamy has more than doubled: only 7 percent believed it was morally acceptable 15 years ago compared to 16 percent today. And the case for doctor-assisted suicide is gaining traction. 56 percent of people now find it morally credible. According to this report, only two issues have seen their moral favorability decline over the past fifteen years. Fewer people now believe the death penalty and medical testing on animals are morally acceptable.

In some ways, this survey is merely a lagging indicator of a moral revolution that has already taken place. Frank Newport, who wrote the article on Gallup’s findings, explains:

Americans are becoming more liberal on social issues, as evidenced not only by the uptick in the percentage describing themselves as socially liberal, but also by their increasing willingness to say that a number of previously frowned-upon behaviors are morally acceptable.

Notice that Newport explicitly locates the change in Gallup’s poll in what people are willing to say. This poll does not measure what people may have already believed. If our own president is any indication, people may believe something is morally acceptable long before they are willing to publicly admit it, especially when what they believe is controversial.

So what are we to make of this tide of evolving moral sentiment? If this poll is indeed a lagging indicator of what people already believe and how people are already living, I would suggest this survey represents as much of a human desire for catharsis as it does a shifting of the moral tide. After all, when people do not live up to a given moral standard – which has been happening for a long time – they have two options. First, they can bring their lives into alignment with the moral standard in question. Second, they can bring the moral standard in question into alignment with the way they are already living. Option one is challenging because it demands change and effort. Option two is cathartic because it makes people feel better about what they’re already doing. This, I suspect, plays a large part in why so many are so willing to shift their standards. They don’t want to feel bad because their lives don’t measure up to a given moral standard, so they just change the standard so it no longer makes them feel guilty. Our shifting moral standards have become therapeutic comforts.

There is, of course, a third option for morality and life. This option admits our lives will never measure up to any moral standard – at least not any moral standard worth having – and so the way to address our shortfalls and shortcomings is not by shifting moral standards, but by repentance. This is the way of the cross. And this is the way our world needs.

We can try to live up to transcendent moral standards, but we will always fail. We can try to change transcendent moral standards, but history will only mark us as deluded. So we must repent. And we must be forgiven. Because forgiveness is what we need – even when it’s forgiveness for when we immorally shift our moral standards.

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[1] Frank Newport, “Americans Continue to Shift Left on Key Moral Issues,” Gallup.com (5.26.2015)

June 1, 2015 at 5:15 am Leave a comment

ABC Extra – Why Do Good Things Happen To Bad People?

The other day I participated in an internet poll.  The question asked was, “Do you consider yourself to be a good person?”  There were three options:  “Yes,” “No,” and “It’s not black and white.”  The results of this poll?  The vast majority of people – a little under two-thirds – responded that they did consider themselves to be good.  Another one-third of the respondents answered that such a question is not black and white.  Finally, two people claimed they were not good.  And one of the two was me.

This past weekend in worship and ABC, we looked at a list of spiritual gifts from Romans 12.  Before talking about spiritual gifts, however, Paul sounds a warning:  “For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you” (Romans 12:3).  Paul understands that humans have a proclivity, when asked whether or not they are “good,” to think of themselves as better than they are – to think of themselves “more highly than they ought.”  Thus, Paul calls for “sober judgment.”

Last week in my personal Bible reading, I read a seemingly simple and straightforward passage that gripped me:  “Lot looked up and saw that the whole plain of the Jordan was well watered, like the garden of the LORD, like the land of Egypt, toward Zoar. This was before the LORD destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah” (Genesis 13:10).  In Genesis 13, Abraham and his nephew Lot are on their way up from Egypt to start over and settle in a new place.  As they reach the Negeb, they arrive at a pinnacle from which they can see two lands – one to the east which looks well-watered and lush and one to the west which looks arid and barren.  Abraham, in an act of stunning generosity, allows his little nephew to pick which of the two lands he would like for himself.  Logically, Lot picks the lush land, leaving his uncle with the barren pit.  But as Lot is picking the lush land, we find out that this land is home to two infamous cities – Sodom and Gomorrah.  Before God destroys these twin cities of iniquity with fire and brimstone, however, they are apparently situated on a verdant plain.  But why?  Why would God bless such evil cities with such lush landscapes?  For these cities cannot be considered “good” by any estimation!  Even people who call themselves “good” would probably say that the residents of these cities were “bad”!

There is a foundational truth that undergirds all of God’s blessings:  God’s blessings come not because humans are worthy to receive them, but because God is gracious to give them.  Sodom and Gomorrah certainly did not deserve the land and bounty they enjoyed.  But out of His grace, God blessed them in spite of their wickedness.  And we must remember and recognize that God does the same thing with us.  The blessings we have are not the result of our worthiness, but a testimony to God’s graciousness.  As Jesus Himself says, “The Father causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous” (Matthew 5:45).

More than once, I have been asked, usually after a heartbreaking tragedy has struck a seemingly great person, “Why do bad things happen to good people?”  Though it is important to affirm the sadness of tragedy and mourn with those who mourn (cf. Romans 12:15), it is also important to understand that such a question has embedded in it a faulty premise.  There are no “good” people, at least not in the biblical sense.  Though people, when asked if they are good, may consider themselves as such, the Bible paints an entirely different picture of human holiness.  Paul explains, “As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins…gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts…We were by nature objects of wrath” (Ephesians 2:1, 3).  “By nature,” Paul says, “we are sinners.  By nature, we are bad.  And because of our badness, by nature, we deserve not God’s blessings, but God’s wrath.”  The question, then, is not, “Why do bad things happen to good people?” but “Why do good things happen to bad people?”  For we, like Sodom and Gomorrah, deserve not the verdant plains of God’s blessings, but the barren desert of God’s wrath at our sin.  So why does God give us good things even though we are bad?  He gives us good things because of His grace.  So praise God for His blessings to you today!  For you do not deserve them.  But God has given them to you anyway.

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April 23, 2012 at 5:15 am Leave a comment


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