Evidence Of Cultural Decadence: The Case Against Cultural Accommodation

Sep 23rd, 2023 | By | Category: Culture & Wordview, Featured Issues

The mission of Issues in Perspective is to provide thoughtful, historical and biblically-centered perspectives on current ethical and cultural issues.

One of my favorite columnists is Ross Douthat, who writes for the New York Times.  Douthat is a devout Roman Catholic and has written extensively on his faith and the Church.  I do not always agree with some of his theological conclusions, but I am usually challenged by his insights.  Recently, he wrote on the theological and cultural divisions within his Church—between the “liberal Catholic” and the more conservative Catholic on certain cultural issues.  The typical “liberal Catholic” is pushing for greater accommodation of the Church to the broader culture.  Among other things, they argue, this is a necessary step for the Church to remain relevant in this postmodern world.  He writes, “But I just don’t see how you can look at the modern world, writ large, and its most developed precincts especially—the world of sex education via ubiquitous pornography, faltering marriage rates, collapsing birthrates, the alienation of the sexes from one another, the rising existential angst attending all these trends and the creep of euthanasia as a ‘merciful’ solution—and say that clearly what the church needs to do at this historical moment is water down or just talk less about its teachings on sex and marriage and family, rather than find a way to reassert them or offer them anew . . . don’t tell me that the church should de-emphasize its unfashionable ideas about sexuality just for the sake of reconciliation with our decadent culture, our depressing post-Dionysian world.”  I could not agree more!

In this Perspective, I want to posit three examples as to why the evangelical Protestants should not advocate for cultural accommodation.

  • First, consider Justice Samuel Alito’s comments after the historical 2015 Obergefell v. Hodges decision, which held that states could not deny marriage licenses to same-sex couples:  “I assume that those who cling to old beliefs will be able to whisper their thoughts in the recesses of their homes, but if they repeat those views in public, they will risk being labeled as bigots and treated as such by governments, employers and schools.” In short, Alito predicted that a new orthodoxy of intolerance would manifest itself in the years to come.  Well, that intolerance is now pervasive in American civilization.  Michael and Catherine (“Kitty”) Burke powerfully illustrate this new ethic of intolerance.  The Burkes live in Massachusetts and applied to the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families to become foster parents.  Michael is an Iraq War veteran, church organist and small-business owner.  Kitty, a former special-education caregiver, is a church cantor and also a small-business owner.  “They were willing to foster children of any race, culture or ethnicity, as well as children with special needs and even siblings . . . After 30 hours of interviews, training and assessments of the Burkes’ home and financial security, the license team determined that they ‘would not be affirming to a child who identified as LGBTQIA.’”  The report, which one of the evaluators wrote, stated that “Kitty and Mike are devoutly Roman Catholic and not only attend church with regular frequency, they both also work for local churches as musicians.”  The Burkes are “lovely people” but with regard to LGBTQIA issues, “their faith is not supportive and neither are they.”  The Burkes were especially troubled that so many of the interview questions focused on their religious views about sexual orientation and gender identity, and said that they “experienced hostility toward their Catholic beliefs” in violation of the First Amendment’s free-exercise clause.  For that reason, the Burkes are suing the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families.  As Kathleen Parker observes, “It is at least ironic to note that, in Massachusetts today, a child could more easily be placed with a gay or transgender couple than with a Catholic heterosexual couple.”  What an example of cultural decadence!
  • Second, the impact of social media on culture remains a matter of in-depth study and concern.  A recent article in The Atlantic by Alec MacGillis, posits some possible connections between social media and America’s murder surge.  In 2022, homicides spiked by 30% and fluctuated around that level for the next two years.  MacGillis writes that “Violence-prevention workers described feuds that started on Instagram, Snapchat, and other platforms and erupted into real life with terrifying speed.”  There is growing evidence suggesting why “social media might be a newly potent driver of violence.”  There already is evidence of the connection between “heavy social-media use and mental-health problems and suicide among teenagers . . . The nationwide homicide rate for 15-to-19-year olds increased by an astonishing 91% from 2014 – 2021 . . . [P]olice, prosecutors, intervention workers—are adamant that social-media instigation helps explain why today’s young people are making up a larger share of the victims.”  MacGillis goes on: “Teens bait rivals in Instagram posts or are goaded by allies in private chats.  On Instagram and Facebook, they livestream incursion into enemy territory and are met by challenges to ‘drop a pin’—to reveal their location or be deemed a coward.  They brandish guns in Snapchat photos or You-Tube and TikTok videos, which might provoke an [teen] to respond—and pressure the person with the gun to actually use it?”  Overall the system is failing to anticipate violence via social media and as Desmond Upton Patton of the University of Pennsylvania concluded, “What we underestimate time and time again is that social media isn’t virtual versus real life.  This is life.”  Social media is enabling and empowering teens to create their own dangerous and life-threatening reality.
  • Third, for decades, feminists have argued that “women are not just men with long hair.”  They are different in every way and need to be respected as different but equal.  That feminist proposition is now under threat.  In an attempt to make men and women’s sports equal in every way and also with the attempt to make it possible and legal for transgender men, who now identify themselves as women, to play in women’s spots activities, womens’ sports are in jeopardy.  Consider these incontrovertible facts:  Women’s bodies are smaller, on average, than men’s even among elite athletes.  Women are shorter than men.  Women are slower and cannot jump as high.  Those differences persist even among the most athletic members of each sex.  In both professional and amateur athletic competitions, there is a recognition and acceptance of these factual differences between men and women.  For example, women put lighter shots, throw lighter discuses and leap over lower hurdles than men do.  The WNBA, a women’s professional basketball league in America, uses a lighter ball.  Volleyball uses a lower net, and women’s soccer (football in Europe) used lighter balls until the 1990s.  As The Economist concludes, “”Men and women should be treated equally in sport as in any other walk of life.  But they are not physically the same, and it does no one any favors to pretend that they are.”


Quoting the Creation Ordinance of Genesis 1-2, Jesus declared, “Have you not read that He who created them from the beginning made them male and female. . .” (Matthew 19:4).  Jesus made this declaration to a culture with no gender identity or gender difference issues.  Instead, He was affirming a basic proposition concerning the human race:  God made the human race in two grand streams—male and female—and they are totally different.  No matter what humans try to do, they can never erase this fundamental attribute of the human race.  Therefore, we must acknowledge what God declared from the beginning—men and women are different.  But, in much of the federal government and certainly in much of public education, it is nearly impossible to discuss the topic of gender differences.  More than ever I am convinced of three bedrock propositions:  1.  God has revealed Himself as the Creator;  2. His values and virtues as a holy, righteous God are reflected in the moral law of the Bible (e.g., the 10 commandments); 3.  His ethical standards are the standards by which we are to live.  As humans, we have the freedom to ignore or even flaunt these propositions, but then we must accept the consequences.  Theologian Albert Mohler concludes that “the Bible reveals that any attempt to subvert creation ends in disaster, not in human liberation . . . [we] cannot justify a blatant attempt to undermine the very order of creation . . . Our society stands on the brink of that disaster. The great question remaining is whether there is enough sanity and courage left in our society to avoid the total abdication of truth. It is now plain to see that we face a demand to jump into the deep end of a pool of mass delusion. Whatever it takes, summon the courage to resist that dive.”

See Ross Douthat in the New York Times (10 June 2023); Kathleen Parker in the Washington Post (18 August 2023); William McGurn in the Wall Street Journal (14 August 2023); Alec MacGillis in The Atlantic (September 2023), pp. 14-16; The Economist (19 August 2023), pp. 13, 70; R. Albert Mohler Jr.  “The transgender revolution and the death of truth” in World (23 March 2022); and The Economist, (19 March 2022), pp. 12, 23.

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