When I ride the motorcycle to work, I pray and meditate. When taking the Mustang, I listen to sports radio. This last week, Colin Cowherd of ESPN talked about the differing responses to the NFL drafting Michael Sam, the first openly gay draftee. He noticed those over 65 tended to feel uncomfortable, while those under 30 didn’t see it as an issue. Yeah, the repeatedly televised kiss played a key role.
“Generational differences” was his conclusion, and he saw it expressed in views about violence on TV, movies, and video games, along with the legalization of marijuana. Clearly, cultural values are changing, and we see that in how differing generations view them. We’re all influenced by the culture we grow up in, and as social beings that often squeezes us to fit in.
I tend to agree with Colin, but I think he stopped his analysis too soon. Regardless of our generation, what is the source of our values? Philosophers call that axiology, the study of where we get our values. Like many, Colin seems to be influenced by the society. As society changes, we tend to change with it. And that has some validity, just look at how funny the short shorts of NBA players look like from the 1960s!
But should society be the prime driver of values? The “older” generation grew up in a society that largely accepted the Judeo-Christian ethic as an absolute foundation. The “younger” generation grew up in a society that accepts tolerance and views ethics as more relative and subjective.
For followers of Jesus, our primary axiology shouldn’t be a blind acceptance nor rejection of society. Society has brought great advances along with great regressions of humanity. Should values be subject to majority vote?
Just two passages that might help all of us critically evaluate the role that society plays in shaping values. First, Romans 14:23 says that anything not from faith is sin. Or, before we uncritically accept or reject ANY value from culture, let’s run it through the grid of our faith. Has God addressed this issue? Is it a clear command or a matter of opinion?
Underlying that is J.B. Phillips’ take on Romans 12:2, “Don’t let the world around you squeeze you into its mould, but let God re-mould your minds from within.”
I realize this post doesn’t address the specifics of Michael Sam and the role of gays in society today. Let’s leave that for another day, OK? But I do want us to think, intentionally and critically, as followers of Christ, where do we get our values? Let’s pursue the process of determining values.
Kick Starting the Discussion
How do you handle the changing values that have become so prevalent in our culture? How do you balance traditional values with emerging ones? How great a role do you give to a careful examination of all that God says about that topic? Do you tend to examine just one or two passages on the topic, or exhaustively investigate the entire subject, from Genesis to Revelation? What other values are in flux and being reexamined? Are some biblical absolutes or matters of opinion? How do you determine that?
Love to hear your thoughts!