Compared to that of just fifty years ago, our standard of living has deteriorated rather than improved. The reference here is not technological, but rather ideological. Looking briefly at the technical side, fifty years ago, the microwave oven, video recorders, cell phones, PCs, etc., were unheard of. Today without these conveniences one would find themselves at a disadvantage or loss. Some of these conveniences are almost beyond being called conveniences, but are now almost a necessity.
While there has been advantages and improvements in technology, some serious rifts in our personal and moral fibers have developed. This is where the conflict of "Black and White vs Gray" comes into the picture. Again, fifty years ago, a student in school would not stand up to a member of the faculty and assault them verbally much less physically as happens today; and young people were taught to respect the law by parental example.
Five decades ago, one would not see jitterbugging or dancing in the name of religious worship. A slogan that has become popular in Christian circles in recent years is "WWJD" or "What Would Jesus Do." Instead of causing one to give forethought, this theme has seemingly become a divisive tool for justifying ones behavior to do just about anything one wants to do.
Religion and politics have something in common. Among both there are those who tend to lean toward the conservative (extremists included) and liberal (extremists included here also) or left wing and right wing. Then there are those who fit somewhere in the middle of the two, this group sees the advantages and disadvantages of both sides. Conservatives adhere to rules, mandates, guidelines, and laws as a constant. While liberals quite literally take certain liberties while abhorring restrictions of any kind. Of which persuasion one leans is reflected in every aspect of ones life whether in the work place or school, socially, and within the home.
Focusing on the middle group in the religious sector, one might say they are in the gray area. Leaning either way is considered too rigid or harsh, or too noncommittal. The "middlers" strive not to dissolve either persuasion, but endeavor to find a happy medium or a comfort zone. Even in the gray area, those who tend to lean more one way or the other usually drift to the more moderate side. This is one problem with those in the gray area, if not extremely careful will find themselves falling more and more toward the less restrictive, perhaps without even realizing it. In the end, these will have only a vague semblance of religious beliefs if any at all, and therefore become worldly in every aspect of their lives. A humorous comparison is, "If it looks like a skunk and smells like a skunk, then it IS a skunk" or more comparatively, "If it looks worldly and acts worldly, then it IS worldly."
Christians are not supposed to look, act, or dress as the world. This is not saying that they should be extremists either, but one cannot picture Jesus dressing or acting as some do today in some of the more liberal beliefs. In His day, He did not wear the finest of clothing nor did He look like a beggar. One can wonder, if He were here today, what would He wear. Somehow, it is most difficult to picture Jesus wearing tank tops, spandex or cutoffs, nor can I see Him wearing Armani suits either. The scripture is right on line when it says, "man looks on the outward appearance," and man truly does, but the good thing is, "God looks on the heart." Of course, one must realize too, that the outward appearance reflects what is in the heart. It has been said, "If you want to know what kind of housekeeper one is, look inside their car." There is a lot of truth in that one! Simply put, if you have a clean or pure heart, you will live a clean or pure life.
But what about those who have no religious affiliation? The number in this category is growing by leaps and bounds. Even in this specter, we have a diverse representation of all three categories; conservatives, "middlers" and liberals. The conservatives are those who live by high moral standards with conscience respect for family, country and community. Then the "middlers," are not quite as dedicated as the conservatives, and will "fudge" here and there, taking some careful and calculated risks. The liberals however, are those who have very little regard themselves, much less any form of authority. It would seem that the ranks in this group is growing by leaps and bounds as evidenced by an alarming increase in the lack of regard to civil authority and the absence of moral fiber. The end result is a quagmire of selfishness and greed. There was a time when it mattered to one what kind of reputation they carried with their neighbors and community, but not so today.
In a recent newspaper article, it was reported by Bradley County Sheriff's office that out of 1,800 students at Bradley High School, that 1,500 are on probation. This is an alarming number! How can this be, you might ask? Someone once said, "a child will be what you make him/her to be." There is a lot of truth in that statement. Of course, there are extreme cases where that comment does not apply, but in general it does. So, why is it that 1,500 students at the school are on probation?
To answer that, one would have to look at each case individually and collectively. One would have to scrutinize the life and environment of the students from day one. What kind of influences or examples were they subjected to? What kind of TV programs and movies were they allowed to view? Did they ever have any religious instructions? What category does the parents fall into, conservative, "middlers" or liberals?
Part of growing up and maturing is marked by an increment of rebellion. This has proved true throughout the ages. Young people, teenagers especially, lacking practical experience seem to see idealize life and its situations. Mark Twain was said to comment to the effect that as he grew older his father became wiser.
Looking back in retrospect, one can almost mark the decline and deterioration in our character from generation to generation. There was a time the majority of the people fell into a conservative category. It makes one wonder if the young people of today, who are experiencing the throes of maturing and approaching adulthood are having difficulty distinguishing the line of definition between "middlers" and conservatives. Perhaps the gray area has become too obscure. It is not that young people have some compelling force driving them to be problem students or unlawful, it is that they have no real sense of direction so they follow whatever direction the wind seems to blow. Unfortunately, there are those who benefit from this mode of thinking. It is crafty to say the least. Our young people's minds are being preyed upon daily.
Parents need to take heed to the warning signals! Look for the signals! Look for the undertones and almost subliminal messages your child is receiving. Many of the cartoons and after school programs your child may be watching are not suitable for young minds. Some are teaching that it is okay to hate, despise, and be cruel to your siblings. Some portray the child as the heroic crusader while the parents are either mentally incompetent or the enemy. One could name a long list of TV programs as examples, but space does not allow it.
Parents, what kind of example are you setting? Are you living one example and preaching another? Young children are known copy-catters. So are teenagers in some respect. Only their idols have changed from the parent to the latest pop-star or singer.
No responsible adult would knowingly expose a child to a deadly virus. But what about exposure to things that can be detrimental to a child's character?
Where do you find yourself in the categories of Black and White vs. Gray? Be cautious if you are in the gray area, especially if you are a parent or raising children. You may be sending mixed signals that they find difficult to read. A young child's mind is like a lump of clay just waiting to be shaped and formed. What is molding our children's and grandchildren's minds today? Are we setting constructive and nurturing examples? After all, our children ARE what we make them!