Imagine that scientists came up with a new drug, one that promised to improve people's mental and physical performance. Imagine also that society's leaders proposed to do away with the kinds of food that man has eaten for thousands of years and replace them with this new drug. Imagine that the public as a whole went along with it. Sound far-fetched?
It is. Most people would never give up eating for the sake of some miracle drug. And they would want to know what sort of side effects the drug produced. They would want to know what long-range impact it had on the mental and physical health of those who took it. After all, people today are starting to be cautious about what they put into their bodies.
But they aren't so picky about what goes into their minds and hearts.
For thousands of years mankind has known what was right and what was wrong. When they lived according to that knowledge, families and society held together. When they departed from that knowledge, families and society fell apart.
These deep-rooted principles of good and evil are very simple:
Man is to work hard for a living, not sponge off of others. Woman is to desire her husband and willingly endure the pain of childbirth. She is to submit the rule of the family to her husband. Sexual relations are to be confined to the marriage covenant of man and wife. Human governments are to punish evildoers so that those who do good can live without fear. Murderers are to be executed for their crime, so that human life does not become cheapened. Children are to obey parents and respect elders. Human beings are to treat one another the way they would want to be treated.
Such "traditional values" have been the cement of human society for centuries. The hard-working husband and the submissive wife have been its building blocks. But just like traditional food can only keep the human body going for 70 or 80 years and can't give a person immortality, so these basic moral values are limited in their effect. They preserve human society from destruction, but they can't cause it to be perfected. Even at its best, human life has for thousand of years had an underlying sense of emptiness and futility. Even those individuals who lived moral lives and reaped the benefits still ended by going to the grave, leaving those who depended on them behind to mourn their passing.
In the view of some, the life of the decent, hard-working traditional family was to be despised. It seemed like a waste that these people spent most of their time earning a living and the rest of their time raising children who would then do the same. They had little time for literature or the arts, little money to spend on world travel or gourmet dining. Their loftiest thoughts were about the God that made them and what He expected out of them. They did not study the works of philosophers. Their leisure activities mostly consisted of conversation, storytelling, and folk music.
Such was the view that was educated into many of us. We were persuaded that such a life was undesirable and that technology and education would provide the answers to such a humdrum existence.
Technology has changed the lifestyle of the common man. There is more leisure time available. Punk rock and rap have taken the place of folk music. Instead of storytelling, modern minds are occupied with videos and computer games. And modern philosophy has reached such heights that people hardly consider their duty to their Creator. Instead, they have been taught that they are merely chemicals that evolved into their present form by chance, and therefore nothing is expected of them.
So now the educational systems and media of this modern society promote a philosophy aimed at advancing humanity beyond the narrow confines of tradition. Just like the new super drug of our far-fetched example, this philosophy is replacing the moral "food" of traditional values with something which has not been scrutinized for its side-effects. Simply stated, it is this:
Good is evil and evil is good. Hard work is no longer a virtue, but something which keeps you from enjoying life. Pain is of no benefit, and suffering is to be avoided, especially by women who give birth. Children (especially in large numbers) are also of little benefit. Like hard work, they also hinder your pursuit of pleasure. Woman should by no means submit to the rule of man, for male dominance violates women's rights. Confining sexual relations to man and wife violates the rights of homosexuals. Demanding obedience from children violates the rights of children. Execution of murderers violates the rights of criminals.
Such views have an appeal partly because they have been popularized by media personalities and partly because human beings long for something greater and more satisfying than merely living a moral life, raising children, growing old, and dying. We are enticed to believe that these new and popular views on life are the greater and more satisfying thing that we are looking for. At first it doesn't sit right with our conscience, but the more we hear these things and tolerate them the more dull we become to them. And when we see the "side-effects" they produce, we hardly make the connection.
Why are there so many white-collar crimes, so many abuses of the welfare system? It couldn't be because we were taught to despise the "Puritan work ethic" could it? Why are there so many troubled teenagers? It couldn't be that the father's authority over the family has been broken down, could it? It wouldn't have anything to do with women abandoning the natural function of mothering for the unnatural one of supporting the family financially, would it? Would such things produce children who were insecure, unwanted, worthless, without direction, growing up to be empty teenagers, looking for some experience, any experience to fill their hollow souls? Is it just coincidence that virgins and most heterosexual monogamous spouses are not infected with STD's? Is it coincidence that so many homosexuals are infected with AIDS?
Is there a connection between the rise in crime and the fact that government no longer has the task of punishing criminals but rather of trying to rehabilitate them? Does the fact that the average murderer is not executed but instead is released after a few years have anything to do with the fact that so many murders are committed by repeat offenders? Is this the value of human life today?
There is a definite connection between the disorder of society today and the wholesale abandonment of ancient principles of right and wrong in favor of modern psychological and sociological opinions. And it didn't just happen. People had to ignore their consciences to promote such philosophies. Others had to ignore their consciences to accept them. Each has a share in the guilt, and the guilt is great.
Take for example the child who grows up in today's society, abandoned by his parents (or parent) to the day care/educational system, where he is taught that he is nothing more than an intelligent animal, that traditional male and female roles are obsolete, that there are many valid forms of "sexual expression," that people don't need to pay a penalty for their evil deeds, but only need to be reeducated, etc. Very often a child like this gets involved in a casual sexual encounter (or several), becomes emotionally damaged, depressed, and commits suicide by overdosing on drugs. But who is responsible for his ruin? Who shares in the guilt? Is it just him, or his friends who gave him the drugs, or the sexual partner or partners who used him for their own pleasure? Is it the teachers who directed him on the course of his life? Is it his parents who cared so little for him?
Some would say it is society's fault -- that the child is a victim of his environment. But society is made up of individuals -- individuals that promoted or accepted the kinds of attitudes and practices that led to his downfall. And each person will be judged for the deeds he did, the attitudes he held, and how he affected others.
You may say that this has nothing to do with you, that you are not responsible for what happens to people you've never even met. But what if you were working on a building and you knew you were using substandard materials? When part of the building collapsed and someone was injured, their life ruined, wouldn't you share in the blame? Well, everyone alive has at least some sense that today's society is being built with morally substandard materials, no matter how vigorously he tries to deny it.
All of us who are now in the communities of the Twelve Tribes had the sense that the way the world was going was not right. But most of us were caught up in the flow of society, guilty of rejecting our conscience and embracing the things we knew were wrong. Many of us had swallowed the lure of progress, thinking that we were somehow headed toward perfection and not toward destruction. But the reality we experienced never matched up to the philosophies we hoped in. Empty words produce an empty life.
There is something deep in human beings to long for a greater reality than the decent but temporary life that the knowledge of good and evil is able to bring about. But the great arrogance of modern man is to think that in his wretched and self-seeking condition he can bring that greater reality about. We came to the place where we saw that we were desperately damaged and needed help. Not only could we not bring about a perfect society, we couldn't even obey our conscience and keep our own lives from falling apart.
The astonishing thing is that when we admitted our utter helplessness, our Creator forgave us and brought us into the very reality that we longed for. We had blown our chances of living by the eternal covenant of conscience that God had made with all humanity. At the final judgment we would have been found worthy of destruction. But He paid that penalty for us and gave us a new covenant, one in which we are led by His Spirit to love one another tenderly and purely, the way that He Himself loves.
The resulting life that we share together is richer and fuller than anything that merely living according to conscience can produce. It is greater than just treating people decently and fairly. It is a warm life, a satisfying life, beyond what anyone could imagine an ideal life to be. And it is real -- a life in which even our hardships become a source of joy to us, for our suffering transforms us in our character to be like the one who saved us: our Master Yahshua.