Going It Alone

A prominent Virginia physician went into a deep coma awhile back as a result of a life-threatening bout with meningitis. In 2012 his book about the experience was published. It detailed what he considers his brush with the afterlife, which involved being led about by a beautiful woman in an atmosphere exuding love and filled with butterflies.

The message the doctor claims to have received was this: “You are not here to stay. We will teach you many things. But you’ll be going back.” He never defined the personage issuing the communication, but his awakened understanding apparently was enough to verify the intensity of that “divine spark” said to reside in each and every one of us.

The popularity of the doctor’s book is yet another evidence of the rapidly changing religious trends in America. We have abandoned traditional Judeo-Christian beliefs and values in favor of anyone and everyone’s personally crafted faith (or lack thereof), regardless of what it may be.

According to a Pew Research Center poll taken in 2009 and somewhat revised in 2011, Americans change their religious affiliations early and often. Reasons are varied:

Two-thirds of former Catholics who have become unaffiliated and half of former Protestants who have become unaffiliated say they left their childhood faith because they stopped believing in its teachings, and roughly four-in-ten say they became unaffiliated because they do not believe in God or the teachings of most religions. Additionally, many people who left a religion to become unaffiliated say they did so in part because they think of religious people as hypocritical or judgmental, because religious organizations focus too much on rules or because religious leaders are too focused on power and money.

A Pew survey taken in October 2012 reveals one-fifth of the U.S. public and one-third of adults under 30 are religiously unattached, the highest percentage ever in Pew Research Center polling. An interesting twist is that many among the 46 million unaffiliated Americans claim to be spiritual in some way: “More than half say they often feel a deep connection with nature and the earth (58%), while more than a third classify themselves as ‘spiritual’ but not ‘religious’ (37%), and one-in-five (21%) say they pray every day.” To whom they pray was not stated.

In some respects, the “I’ll do it my way” religion is the fruit of situation ethics, the self-aggrandizing heresy of the 1960s that cast off the moral restraints of biblical injunctions and societal mores. Its devotees, even today, ignore absolutes in the interest of what seems good to them in any given situation, supposedly regulated by a standard of self-generated love. Situation ethics makes every individual the ultimate arbiter of his own decisions and actions. Consequently, if a lie told in love works for you better than the truth does, it’s okay to lie.

In the heat of the 2012 American presidential campaign, we were treated to lavish doses of out-and-out lies. Not that prevarication is a phenomenon reserved exclusively for the political scene. But it is most troubling that people accept in politics what they would consider libelous and slanderous under different circumstances. Sadly, the practice of lying without consequence is rapidly becoming an ugly staple of life in our country.

Sacrificing truth for self or group advantage is unacceptable if a society is to survive. Those who cynically endorse the concept that, if a big lie is told often enough, it will sooner or later be believed, look only at the short run. In the end, such folly leads to catastrophe.

There’s a biblical lesson we would be well-advised to heed. It is contained in the final words of the book of Judges: “In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes” (21:25). Read the record. By and large, people had turned their backs on God. Every person was doing what he chose to interpret as “right,” and the result was chaos. Could it happen here? The movement has already begun.

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