Culture of the Moral Negative

by David Miller

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America has now become a "Culture of the Moral Negative."

I am not talking about "negativity," the boogie-man of the new age. Actually, I am convinced negativity can be honorable, in fact, desirable. Of God's ten Laws, eight of them are stated in the negative: "Thou shalt not." That is an 80 percent negativity rate. Flawed human beings need limits to inhibit our sinful behavior. But that is another topic.

I am talking about the kind of negative from which you develop a picture: On the photographic negative, dark colors appear as light and light looks dark. The image is reversed. A moral negative exists when right and wrong-moral light and dark-are reversed. When this moral negative dominates thinking in a society, you have a culture of the moral negative.

In Isaiah 5:20, God spoke through the prophet: "Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter." Woe to the culture of the moral negative.

Is America such a culture? When a Christian denomination denies the clear teachings of Scripture and elects an active, unrepentant homosexual as a bishop; when that bishop beams into the cameras and gushes about the maturity it required to take such a step; we are becoming a culture of the moral negative. When the Massachusetts Supreme Court orders that homosexuals be allowed to marry, dark is light and light is dark. When any judicial nominee who opposes a woman's right to kill her unborn baby is viewed as unfit for office, you have a moral negative.

When tolerance of all things is seen as the highest moral virtue, when a local clergyman calls evangelism "hate speech," when courts debate whether "one nation under God" is constitutional, our culture is becoming a moral negative.

Once this nation had a clear moral code. We were never the moral utopia some imagine, but America had a Judeo-Christian morality that was our nation's social foundation. Light was light and dark was dark. Sin was called sin and goodness was good. That moral foundation has slowly eroded. 

How did it happen? The church did not do its job. We are called to be the salt of the earth, to inhibit the decay brought on by wickedness. We are to be the prophets of God, confronting wickedness and presenting Jesus as the solution. But the church too often tries to fit in with its culture rather than exposing its depravity. Instead of letting God's word shape our minds, we shape our interpretation of Scripture according to the whims of popular culture.

My own denomination is a sad example of this. In the 1840s, Southern culture embraced slavery. Instead of confronting this evil, Southern Baptists conformed to the mindset of the day. They twisted Scripture and proclaimed slavery from the pulpit. I saw a book that "proved from the Scriptures" that God created blacks to be subservient. I stood with thousands of Southern Baptists years ago to publicly repent of our forefathers' sin. When the church twists biblical teachings to conform to the ideas of popular culture, the moral negative develops. 

Now other denominations are falling into the same trap. Our culture has embraced heterosexual promiscuity and homosexuality as normal, even admirable. No one would search the Scriptures and come to those conclusions. Few ideas are as clearly presented in Scripture as the idea that marriage is a man and a woman joined in a monogamous relationship, and that any sexual activity outside that relationship is sin.

But instead of confronting this wickedness in our culture, many churches are twisting Scripture to conform to the popular notions of sexual morality. Promiscuity is normal; virgins are oddballs. So-called Christian clergy are blessing homosexual unions. How can a minister bless what God condemns? The prophets no longer challenge culture to conform to God's Word; instead they give a blessing to human depravity.

"Woe to those who call evil good and good evil." The morally-negative culture is sick and depraved, teetering on the brink of collapse. Our nation is in deep trouble. The problem is not political, economic, or educational. The problem is moral and spiritual. No society can prosper, or even survive, in a culture of the moral negative. How can we stand without a moral backbone?

Are things hopeless? Not at all. Israel, at the end of the period of the Judges, had embraced debauchery in a way that would make Larry Flynt blush. They were a culture of the moral negative. But Israel's greatest days were 50 years in the future.

How did things change? One man, a prophet named Samuel, gave himself to God and His ways. He faithfully proclaimed truth for many years. Israel returned to God under his ministry, then climbed to glory under the leadership of the king he anointed: David.

America is in danger, but is not hopeless. Men and women of faith need to stand strong and refuse to compromise truth to please our culture. We must confront the moral negative with the brilliant color of God's light. The power of God still changes hearts.

I pray that in this election year, God might raise up in this land leaders with clear moral vision-leaders who see right as right and wrong as wrong. But the light of God will not shine in this land through politicians alone. It will shine through people like you and me: Christians who surrender to God and allow His Word to shape their convictions, and who let their light shine bright.

May the full color of God's truth replace the culture of the moral negative!

David Miller is the senior pastor of Northbrook

 Baptist Church in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

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