August 25, 2023

A Foolish Generation

How moral relativism, technology, and lockdowns have shaped the behavior of our culture.

No rules, no right and wrong, live your truth, the “me generation”: these are all apt descriptions of our modern culture’s moral values. Moral relativism along with the infiltration of technology and the boredom of the COVID lockdowns have metastasized into a genuinely heartless generation.

The motto of the era is “you do you,” and that is leading to all sorts of chaos. As Federalist writer Maureen Mullarkey points out, we can mark our own cultural decline by the influx of amoral celebrities as the leaders of public voices and by the lack of public intellectuals.

She also throws out this disturbing stat: “The word ‘influencer’ is no longer an ordinary noun; it has become a career goal. To some 26 percent of today’s young people, it eclipses occupational choices that require training and formal qualifications like a college degree. The thrill of online affirmation, measured in followers, crowds out time-honored pride in useful work.”

Mullarkey accurately traces the start of this descent into cultural decline with the advent of screens. When this writer was training to be an elementary school teacher, it was common knowledge that screens, particularly personal screens like phones and tablets, were not good for children’s brain development. The overstimulation of the blue light alone is rewiring their brains. Now, though, it’s not talked about as much because there is a big push in education and really in all spheres of life to modernize with personal screens.

But alas, it is a Faustian bargain, and the trade-off of books for screens is taking its terrible toll.

Besides the warped world of life on screens and through social media, another disturbing aspect appears through our modern notion of dating and relationships. There is the whole kerfuffle of online dating that is more often used for a one-night stand than for finding a serious long-term relationship.

Part of the problem goes back to the moral relativism so celebrated in our culture. It prohibits more serious people from feeling like they can be honest about what they want. It manipulates both men and women into settling for a lifestyle that they really don’t want but culture says they should celebrate (hookup culture, ghosting, living with someone before marriage, and other risky behaviors).

No one is happy in the long term, and everyone pursing this is ultimately so lonely. The lack of taking love and relationships seriously is another factor messing with this foolish generation.

Podcaster Matt Walsh in a show this week addressed another interesting aspect that has been exacerbated by the lockdowns: the lack of etiquette people show during performances.

During the COVID pandemic, people got used to doing everything for their social media accounts, including all sorts of behavior that, in a kinder time, would have gotten them kicked out or arrested. These range from the rude (scrolling on their phones during a performance or movie) to disruptive (throwing things at performers on stage). These people are so addicted to their screens and so addicted to propping up their own social media profile that they are willing to do just about anything for clicks.

No such thing as bad publicity, right? Wrong.

The attitude of self-centeredness is not unique to our generation, though the technology certainly is. There is nothing new under the sun. In the Bible, the book of Judges cites over and over again the struggles that God’s chosen people had with following him. They were constantly doing “what was right in their own eyes.” Pastor John MacArthur called this period of Bible history “an age of absolute moral chaos.”

Our foolish generation must abandon moral relativism — which enables and glorifies all atrocity and evil — lest they follow it to its logical, disastrous conclusion. The cure in Judges was total repentance and turning back toward God. That is also the cure for today’s moral decay. Let’s pray that miracle happens.

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