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Alarming American Amorality
"Morality" concerns the quality of actions and thoughts regarding right or wrong. Behavior is perceived to be right (moral) when it conforms to the ethical code to which one subscribes. One's conduct is perceived to be wrong (immoral) when it violates the moral standard that he has adopted (Romans 14:23; 1 Corinthians 8:7, 10). Conscience is the human mechanism that praises or chastises one (produces guilt) corresponding to how well he implements morality in his life.
However, the conscience can be improperly educated with a defective standard. Hence, cannibals can kill and eat fellow humans without a sense of guilt. Remarkably, they instead might be praised by their consciences for practicing cannibalism. Likewise, Saul of Tarsus (Paul), because his conscience was improperly educated, imprisoned Christians and consented to their deaths (Acts 8:1, 3; 9:1-2; 22:4-5; 26:9-11; 1 Corinthians 15:9; Galatians 1:13; Philippians 3:6). Consequently, Paul stated," . . . I have lived in all good conscience before God until this day" (Acts 23:1). He ". . . was before a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and injurious . . ." without offending his conscience because he ". . . did it ignorantly in unbelief" (1 Timothy 1:13).
Christians realize that there is a moral standard that is superior to personal and community ethics. Conflicting individual standards of authority depicted in Judges 21:25 resulted in anarchy against God and chaos in Israel. The community standards of Nazi Germany that allowed the holocaust to occur are viewed almost universally as violations of a superior ethic. The Bible is the final, absolute standard authority for all people, irrespective of whether they realize it.
"Immorality" is the violation of a moral code to which one acknowledges he is amenable. Strictly speaking, immoral people are aware that their behavior is not sanctioned; their consciences condemn them (1 John 3:20-21). One's conscience becomes "seared" through the repeated practice of immorality (1 Timothy 4:2); eventually a "pure" and "good conscience" is "made shipwreck" (1 Timothy 3:9; 1:19).
However, "amorality" (that is, "morality" with the negating prefix "a"), is the lack of consciousness of any moral code to which one is obligated. In his mind, there is an absence of a perception of a moral standard. Ordinarily, this condition is confined to small children, other mentally unaccountable souls and animals. Of course, young children, mentally deficient persons and animals lack the capacity to perceive morality. God does not assign sin to them for otherwise evil things they may do (Matthew 18:3-4; 19:14). Accountable souls, though, are capable of responding to a moral code. God does charge all accountable souls with the transgressions (sins) that they commit in violation of his moral law (Romans 3:23; Acts 17:30-31; 1 John 3:4).
Unfortunately, current events forcefully emphasize the deplorable moral condition of our nation.
. . . nearly one of every three American babies is born to parents who are not married . . . By the year 2000, 40 percent of U.S. births may be outside of marriage. . . . This year, about 1.2 million unmarried women will give birth . . . (Cleveland Plain Dealer, December 5, 1993).
Today, unwed mothers are not confronted with social stigmas. American families have adopted a relaxed attitude toward pregnant daughters. Women, not just the illiterate and poverty stricken, often choose to have children outside of marriage. Among black women, 67 percent of births are illegitimate. Among Hispanic women, 27 percent of births are illegitimate. Seventeen percent of births among white women are illegitimate. Illegitimacy is increasing rapidly among all racial, economic and social groups. (Steubenville, Ohio Herald-Star, November 9, 1993). Add to this, consideration of pregnancies of unmarried women which end in abortion or where the parents wed before the birth. Shamefully, increasing numbers of Christians also are parenting out-of-wedlock.
The bloody abortion saga relentlessly continues in America (and worldwide). Homosexuals are assaulting the public with their moral perversion; entertainers and politicians are endorsing them. Frequently, news articles chronicle sex crimes of religious leaders, mothers who harm or kill their children, young children who molest or kill their playmates, abandoned infants, husbands and wives swapping partners, nude entertainment, rape, assault and murder. Some doctors kill their patients; at least one lawyer endorses selective murder. Mothers admit that they do not know who fathered their children. Pornography circles the globe on the internet.
A few years ago, a car dealer in a northern Chicago suburb began sending money to area churches. The explanation accompanying the first check lamented our country's moral bankruptcy. The dealer lost his insurance carrier. To secure replacement insurance, he was compelled to subject his employees to an extensive evaluation. The investigators concluded that the employees were not morally responsible. However, technically, neither were they immoral. The dealer's employees were deemed amoral, not aware of any moral code by which to uniformly regulate their conduct. He subsequently resigned himself to the urgency with which Christianity needs to instill morality in Americans. The dealer resolved to contribute financially to that end.
There is a moral crisis in America. Every New Testament catalog of sins depicts our society (Romans 1:24-32; 1 Corinthians 6:9-10; Galatians 5:19-21; Colossians 3:5-9; Revelation 21:8). Regrettably, the Lord's church is not immune to this moral crisis. The good new is that both erring Christians and other Americans can change, if they choose to do so. "And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God" (1 Corinthians 6:11). The blood of Christ can "purge your conscience" (Hebrews 9:14). This "good conscience" occurs in baptism and is equivalent to salvation (1 Peter 3:21).
The churches of Christ are biblically obligated to require their members to practice divine morality. Parents must counter the immoral influences of the world upon their children. Mom and Dad need to refrain from immorality and set proper examples. Our accountable children share responsibility for their moral upbringing. As Christians, we need to acknowledge the dangers of immorality and amorality. We must resolve to influence our fellow citizens and affect moral changes (e.g., at the polls, interaction with education) with the Gospel. Above all, we must renew our determination not to be of the world though in the world (John 17:11-16).