Rod Dreher heads his discussion of these Gallup survey results “America’s Socially Liberal Future”
Gallup asks American’s their views on the moral acceptability of a variety of actions. Dreher focuses on the change since the last survey in 2001, which are stark across a variety of areas. Same-sex marriage was barely conceivable in 2001, but the sharp jump in the moral approval of same-sex relationships is telling enough. 63 per cent of Americans regard such relationships as acceptable, almost as many as the 68 per cent who regard sex between unmarried men and women as acceptable.
I fear that a country like New Zealand is, in fact, the socially liberal future for the United States. If the same survey were to be done in New Zealand, it is difficult to think of a single item in which public opinion would be more aligned to traditional morality than it is the United States. In many cases – eg abortion or teenage sex – I suspect New Zealanders would be much less disapproving. Perhaps even married people having affairs might score higher in New Zealand.
It is a reminder to orthodox Christians how far our society has drifted from what were once it moorings. I wonder if any society have ever so dramatically and deliberately upended their moral foundations as the West has done in the last 50 years?
More than ever, New Zealand needs to be a mission field – not just New Zealand of course, but New Zealand is now one of the most secular of the former tradition Christian lands.
But how much does the church, and church leaders, really care? How much do those of us in the pews? How much do I? I do fear for what it means for my own children growing up – a 10 year old who thinks that doctor-assisted suicide (in a contested case described in the radio news) just makes sense is a field for mission and catechism. Her reaction surprised me, but it probably shouldn’t have done. We can no longer take any traditional stances for granted anywhere, even in actively churchgoing families.
But in any case, what, if anything, will children hear from pulpits and in youth groups? I’ve been in evangelical churches almost all my life, and I’m not sure I’ve ever heard a sermon on abortion (even, or perhaps especially, when our congregation was ripped apart by a couple in the congregation’s choice to abort). How much are church leaders, even in evangelical churches, willing to stand against the tide, and help our young to do so? Perhaps in some areas, but I suspect mostly those society still disapproves of. So you disapprove of extra-marital affairs? Good, even the pagans do that. We are called to live as resident aliens – and that means knowing the city from which we come, and to which we owe our allegiance and hope.
Perhaps I should recall that when I talked the other day of churches supporting eugenics or slavery that they no longer do. Society did recoil, eventually. But perhaps Hitler did more than the church for making eugenics unacceptable again. Times like this can lead to despair. Despair isn’t what we are called to, but rather lament, repentance, prayer, and faithful obedience and formation starting in our own families. We can’t change the world overnight, but we can put the effort into shaping our own families, as difficult as that is in a hostile environment.