Understand how to respond to the battle being waged against our foundation through the mainstream media, the entertainment industry, and the educational system.
More Americans than ever are counting themselves among the “nones”—the cohort of Americans who are not necessarily atheistic, but who do not claim allegiance to a particular religious system. The key question is: why? Consider that the nation’s three main educational systems—the mainstream media, entertainment, and the university system—lean to the political left and typically paint an inaccurate picture of what Christianity truly is.
With this in mind, Billy Hallowell skillfully explores how society’s main educational avenues fail to deliver fair-minded content and how their biases are reinforcing negative values and fueling the rise of the “nones.” Hallowell also offers practical steps for all Christians to take and provides advice on how to respond to these growing problems.
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About the Author
Billy Hallowell has contributed to The Washington Post, Human Events, The Daily Caller, Mediate, and The Huffington Post, among other news sites. Through journalism, media, public-speaking appearances, and the blogosphere, Hallowell has worked as a journalist and commentator for more than a decade. He has also appeared on Fox News, FoxNews.com LIVE, and HuffPost Live, among others. Hallowell attended the College of Mount Saint Vincent in Riverdale, New York, and graduated with a BA in communications, with concentrations in broadcasting, corporate communication, and journalism, and a minor in writing. Hallowell completed his MS in social research from Hunter College in Manhattan, New York. You can follow him on Twitter @BillyHallowell.
Read an Excerpt
By Billy Hallowell
Charisma House Book GroupCopyright © 2017 Billy Hallowell
All rights reserved.
AMERICA'S MORAL MELTDOWN
THE MORALS AND standards that once stood at the core of the American conscience are rapidly eroding, giving way to an entirely looser set of parameters, standards, and norms, especially when it comes to issues of sexual ethics.
There is a moral chaos of sorts afoot — one in which many of the traditional values associated with and adhered to through faith have been slowly loosened over time, with the speed of the denigration continuing to increase. There's a growing, active, and, in many ways, intentional hostility against many of the ethics and values that previously enjoyed a prominent place in our society.
Famed Christian apologist Josh McDowell, who has authored more than 140 books on Christianity and culture during his more than fifty years in ministry, told me that we're experiencing a profound "lostness of truth," pointing to a transformative cultural movement under way in both ideology and perspective. "We've had a complete epistemological shift, which means there's been a total shift in the nature and the source of truth," McDowell said.
Consider the rapid change in opinion that has taken root over the past fourteen years on issues such as premarital sex, having babies out of wedlock, divorce, or even polygamy. We're in the midst of a moral meltdown as Americans have become more apathetic, complacent, and permissive on a plethora of ethical fronts.
Don't believe me? Just consider the fact that 45 percent of American respondents told Gallup in 2002 that "having a baby outside of marriage" was morally acceptable. But when the same question was asked again in 2015, that proportion jumped to 61 percent. In the same vein, moral support for premarital sex jumped from 53 percent in 2001 to 68 percent in 2015.
Pause and think about that for a moment. Nearly seven in ten Americans actually believe that it is now morally acceptable for a man and a woman to have sex outside of marriage, leaving only a minority of the public standing on higher moral ground. And a 2015 study about Americans' changing sexual behaviors between 1972 and 2012 seemingly backs the notion that people are putting these opinions into practice.
Using the General Social Survey, the study found that adults from 2000-2012 had more sexual partners and were more likely to have had intercourse with a casual date, acquaintance, or pickup than adults in the 1970s and 1980s, according to the study's abstract. Additionally, they were more likely to accept most forms of sex outside of marriage.
"The percentage who believed premarital sex among adults was 'not wrong at all' was 29 percent in the early 1970s, 42 percent in the 1980s and 1990s, 49 percent in the 2000s, and 58 percent between 2010 and 2012," the text reads.
From a purely moral and biblical standpoint, that's nothing short of troubling, but it really only represents one facet of the overarching problem.
Consider the increase in support for polyamory (romantic relationships that include more than two participants), which ticked up from just 7 percent of Americans in 2003 to 14 percent in 2016. While that may not seem like an overwhelming proportion, in reality it means that more than one in ten Americans now believe that it is morally acceptable for individuals to have more than one partner or spouse.
There's also been an increase in moral support for divorce, jumping from 59 percent to 71 percent over the past few years, with the moral acceptability of homosexuality moving from 40 to 63 percent. And the list goes on.
In summarizing its data back in 2015, Gallup said, "Americans are becoming more liberal on social issues"— a sentiment that is impossible to deny based on the indicators. And as the dominos just keep falling, speaking out about moral truth is paramount. But beyond that there's a responsibility to protect the rights of free speech, as well as the right for people to live out their personal faith in all they do.
THE CAUSE OF OUR LACK OF MORALITY
So, how did we get here? That's the central question. While understanding the statistics and the changes in society over the past few years is certainly important, the bigger issue is pinpointing the causes, especially if there's any hope of navigating the fallout. It's clear there is a deeper willingness to suddenly embrace many behaviors that were once deemed immoral.
From a 30,000-foot view, the catalysts for where we find ourselves appear to be rooted in both tolerance and relativism. The former, which is defined as the "willingness to accept feelings, habits, or beliefs that are different from your own," is where the problem begins. Certainly it is entirely appropriate and rightful to be tolerant of others and to show love for every person regardless of any moral or ideological differences. But when tolerance moves us to the acceptance phase, things can get a little bit tricky.
Relativism, on the other hand, takes tolerance and injects it with steroids, leading many people to more generally conclude that "ethical truths depend on the individuals and groups holding them" and not on a broader set of universal truths, such as the parameters outlined in the Bible. When this happens en masse, the result is an apathetic populace filled with people who can no longer differentiate their personal moral truth from society's definition of what is right and wrong. This is, in fact, what we're seeing unfold before our very eyes.
In discussing these issues with me for this book, Josh McDowell recalled a proclamation a number of years ago from some professors who told him that they had a plan to "marginalize Christianity." He recalled asking how such a feat would be accomplished. Their response? "Through tolerance."
The apologist also recapped his belief that a series of broader changes in human history helped to bring us to where we are today — to a place where a higher standard no longer matters in the minds of many men.
"When all truth becomes equal, Christianity will lose its sting. We went from where all truth was in a personal creator God ... scientific truth, economic truth, historical truth, everything," McDowell said. "Then along came the Renaissance that said, 'Look how great man is.' That's when they started doing the sculptures of man, the painting of the human body, everything."
The next movement — the Enlightenment — then said, "We don't need God. Look how great man can reason," McDowell explained. From there the Industrial Revolution kicked off, and yet another ideology took form, further alienating society from its need for God. "The Industrial Revolution came on the scene and said, 'We don't need God. We don't need a personal creator God, because see how great man can create,'" he said. "This is when all great machines of history, patents, everything, exploded."
The next transformative ideology to emerge on the scene was Darwinism, a theory that involves the origination and evolution of species and life. It was this paradigm, McDowell said, that led human beings to conclude that "we don't even need the concept of a personal creator God." It was that idea that further helped to push the idea of God out of the minds and hearts of so many, he argued. McDowell dubbed this entire scenario the "God Is Dead Movement," using it to explain how culture ended up where it is today. "A concept of a personal, creator God [in] which all truth resides, that concept died," he said. "Out of this came the greatest virtue in culture today: tolerance. Every single university in America is based on tolerance, which is a false concept."
In light of the definitions of relativism and tolerance, McDowell's theories seem to hold some merit. Universities have sometimes been critiqued for fostering the notion that one must be tolerant to the point of obliterating personal moral codes and ethical values.
"Tolerance came on because how could one person say to another person, 'Your values, your belief, your lifestyle, your claim to truth is lesser than mine. Where is your external reference point?'" McDowell said. "There is none, so all truth is personal."
McDowell also spoke to the issue of multiculturalism, saying that it is "tolerance applied to culture" and that it can lead to a dynamic in which one concludes that "all cultural values, beliefs, lifestyles, and claims to truth are equal." That too, he argued, can come along with some dire consequences. "If you dare to say there's a value, belief, lifestyle, or claim to truth in your culture that's greater than the truth in another culture, then you are anti-multicultural," he said.
Surely not everyone will agree with McDowell's take on the culture, and that's perfectly fine. We're all entitled to believe what we wish, though I'd argue that at least some of his core arguments hold merit. Many certainly see our current cultural trajectory as one that is taking us on a favorable or progressive move in the right direction; others, though — particularly people of faith and political conservatives — tend to see these tectonic shifts as problematic.
AMERICA IS CHANGING
What's perhaps most striking about the current cultural dynamic is that ten years ago — or even five — there was an entirely different societal vibe. Extend that back a few decades and the differences are even starker. What is it that has so fervently transformed American culture? What is it that has changed our fabric so intensely? I would argue there is what I call a triangular dominance at play surrounding how members of our society receive their information — a systematic control over educational content that has permeated our minds, our hearts, and perhaps most tragically, our souls. And the situation is only intensifying.
Through the media, entertainment, and university system — the three main information sources that shape the American conscience — people are bombarded with moral codes and messages that are anything but modest, restrained, or in line with biblical tenets. These educational spheres have become overridden with progressive ideals and biases that work against traditional moral understandings. Each sector incubates one worldview while filtering the other out or, more routinely, simply ignoring it all together.
Think about it. It's no surprise that millennials — the individuals who will pave the way toward the nation's future — are the adult generation that is most profoundly impacted by this dynamic since they grew up just as media and technology began to explode. And as a guy on the upper end of the millennial scale, I can speak from experience.
But the disproportionate informational focus isn't the only problem; there's also ignorance and complicity unfolding that, unless it is checked, will only incubate, empower, and metastasize this educational conundrum, and tragically many people today are likely too indoctrinated at this point to believe — or even recognize — that there's anything wrong with the paradigm shift in moral values undoubtedly slated to transform a wide array of institutions, including marriage, the economy, and the circumstances surrounding children's upbringing.
Big changes are already afoot — movements that most certainly carry with them consequences for faith and family structures. And don't just take my word for it; Gallup made this sentiment clear in its 2015 report on morality in America:
This liberalization of attitudes toward moral issues is part of a complex set of factors affecting the social and cultural fabric of the US. Regardless of the factors causing the shifts, the trend toward a more liberal view on moral behaviors will certainly have implications for such fundamental social institutions as marriage, the environment in which children are raised and the economy.
This dynamic was more pointedly captured by the Barna Group in a 2016 report titled "The End of Absolutes: America's New Moral Code." The study opens with this ominous line about where our culture currently stands: "Christian morality is being ushered out of American social structures and off the cultural main stage, leaving a vacuum in its place — and the broader culture is attempting to fill the void." The natural resulting question is what are they filling the vacuum with? The answer: unrestrained chaos and confusion, or at the least, the impetus for such constructs.
I've heard some people scoff at the notion that something doesn't feel quite right in our culture; those who favor the move away from biblical or Christian sentiments see it as a societal benefit that we're abandoning what they see as a more limiting or conservative worldview — an abandonment that allows for a progressive and open society. And while it's true that many Americans do feel that way, the Barna study yielded perhaps one of the most bizarre statistics of all. While many people are expressing changing views on what they're willing to tolerate, the vast majority of the public also think that something doesn't feel quite right.
In fact, 80 percent of Americans expressed concern over the current "moral condition," with even 74 percent of millennials and 67 percent of people with no religion expressing concern. Not surprisingly, 90 percent of practicing Christians share these worries and concerns. Of course, I should caution that the question itself about moral condition is a relatively benign measure, considering that, at this point, morals have become oddly subjective; a high proportion among various cohorts, in this case, could simply be rooted in a dissatisfaction over the failure to see one's personal values reflected in the broader culture. Still the numbers at least tell us that there's a sense that something isn't quite right, societally speaking.
Even more shocking is what Barna found when respondents were asked for their level of agreement with the following statement: "Whatever is right for your life or works best for you is the only truth you can know." A majority of Americans — 57 percent — agreed, with 74 percent of millennials concurring either strongly or somewhat with this notion. Meanwhile 41 percent of practicing Christians agreed with this sentiment. What's perhaps most disturbing about these measures, though, is that the statement appears to link one's personal moral compass to whatever "works" for that individual person; it's quite a daunting measure when one truly pauses to consider the ramifications. But it doesn't end there. Sixty-five percent of Americans also agreed somewhat or strongly with the idea that "every culture must determine what is acceptable morality for its people."
These statistics cause one to wonder if we have become so intellectually lazy and desensitized that we can no longer separate personal standards that are shaped by thought and reason from the broader societal narratives that are imprinted and reinforced through universities, media, and entertainment.
Have we become so inept and lazy that we can no longer learn to love and respect people while still being willing to say that their personal beliefs and practices cross our own moral barriers? It seems the moral barriers have come tumbling down as our society continues to push out biblical truths — the only collective benchmarks and standards capable of helping human beings fully make sense of the world around them.
In the end, despite the doom and gloom and the obvious moral bewilderment, 59 percent of Americans somehow still agreed that "the Bible provides us with absolute moral truths which are the same for all people in all situations, without exception." So there's clearly at least a ray of hope for those concerned about the current state of morality.
WHERE AMERICA IS HEADED
Let's go back to that question that was asked earlier on in this chapter: If Christian influence over the culture is dissipating, what's replacing it? David Kinnaman, a researcher and the president of the Barna Group, offered up the idea that there is a "new moral code" that he calls the "morality of self-fulfillment" — and he believes it "has all but replaced Christianity as the culture's moral norm." Rather than being predicated upon biblical values or, at the least, the idea that a higher power has set standards and that those standards are good and enriching for everyone, the principles that comprise the "morality of self-fulfillment" are quite individualized.
Kinnaman narrowed down six attributes that apparently form the basis for this newfound moral center. To begin, 91 percent of adults believe that the best way to find one's self is to look within, 89 percent believe that people shouldn't criticize others' life choices, 86 percent say that one should pursue the things he or she most desires in order to be fulfilled, 84 percent say that "the highest goal of life is to enjoy it as much as possible," 79 percent say that people can believe whatever they wish so long as it doesn't impact society, and 69 percent say that "any kind of sexual expression between two consenting adults is acceptable."
Excerpted from Fault Line by Billy Hallowell. Copyright © 2017 Billy Hallowell. Excerpted by permission of Charisma House Book Group.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
Foreword Sean Hannity xi
Chapter 1 America's Moral Meltdown 1
Chapter 2 What's Really Going On With Our Culture 10
Chapter 3 Millennials: A Complex Generation 15
Chapter 4 Millennials: Losing Their Faith and Religion 22
Chapter 5 TV Then and Now: How the Tides Have Changed 31
Chapter 6 Scripting Culture: Driving Home an Agenda 40
Chapter 7 Movies Then and Now: The Paradigm Shift 50
Chapter 8 Lyrical Conundrum: Music's Devolving State 61
Chapter 9 The Greatest Irony of Our Age 71
Chapter 10 Campus Chaos Rages 79
Chapter 11 The Rise of Colleges' All-Comers Policies 86
Chapter 12 The True Impact on Academia 95
Chapter 13 The Media Paradox: Ignorance Versus Intentionality? 107
Chapter 14 Is There Proof the Media Are Biased? 117
Chapter 15 How Did We Get Here? 127
Chapter 16 Is Free Speech Under Attack? 135
Chapter 17 Religious Freedom Battles Abound 145
Chapter 18 The Solution 160