CULTURAL INSANITY VERSES
A STUDY BY
GARY RAY BRANSCOME
Although the children of darkness sometimes wax eloquent in their admiration for the present world system, those who have been enlightened by God's Word see this world, not as a place of culture and wisdom, but as a cesspool of ignorance, depravity, and barbarism. While our secular society places a great deal of importance on education, the education it offers brings to the campus all of the drunkenness and sexual depravity of skid row. While the world talks of civilization, highly educated barbarians butcher over one million babies a year. While the world talks of culture, over half of all marriages end in divorce and sex perverts march in our streets. While the world talks of government, law-abiding citizens are regulated and harassed, criminals are set free, and crime is rampant. While the world talks of freedom, Christian teachers are not free to express their beliefs, Christian parents are not free to teach their own children, and the victims of criminal attack are not allowed to protect themselves. In short, while our society is enamored with technological progress, it turns a blind eye to social and moral decay.
In the Bible God has given us His promise that if we train up our children in the way they should go, when they are old they will not depart from it (Proverbs 22:6). However are parents training their children up in the way they should go when they allow them to be pressured into early dating, or encourage them to pair off as couples long before they are even old enough to consider marriage? While the practice of "dating" is itself questionable, there would be far fewer problems if it was seen as a part of courtship, rather than a means of locating a prospective mate. It should be a time of private sharing and discussion between two people who are seriously considering marriage, not a form of entertainment. At the same time, early dating should be discouraged and young people ought to mix with the opposite sex only in supervised group activities.
As parents we need to be aware of the cultural pressures on our children, and help them to avoid pressures which are destructive of faith, subversive of moral conduct, and a threat to their souls. While our culture portrays male female relationships only in terms of physical attraction or sexual infatuation, we need to help them realize the importance of looking for Christian character in a life-mate. Is it any wonder that the divorce rate is so high, when our culture portrays immorality as normal, and even encourages sexual experimentation? Is it reasonable, or sane, to expect teenagers with all of their youthful passions to develop wholesome and lasting relationships by engaging in what amounts to sexual foreplay, in the form of hugging and kissing? Frankly there is no need whatsoever for young people to engage in hugging and kissing prior to marriage yet so far I have only seen one publication which has had the courage to say so (Romans 13:14, 2 Timothy 2:22, 1 Thessalonians 4:3).
Although a Christian home ought to be a place of peace and forgiveness, and a haven from all of the strife in the world, all too often the opposite is true. Many homes are little more than a battleground, in which husband is pitted against wife, and parents against children, all fussing and fighting for their own way. In fact, our society has become so hypocritical that we are quick to cover up all anger, frustration, and irritation when dealing with strangers while saving our very worst behavior for our family. It is so bad, that even when a man and woman are arguing and screaming hysterically, as if totally out of control, the room becomes silent the minute the phone rings. Then, the person who answers the phone raises the receiver and says "hello" in a very calm and well-modulated voice. In that situation, self-control comes easy, because our culture has trained us to hide our sins by concealing the truth about ourselves, the ugly side of our nature, from all except close family members. However, is such behavior sane or godly? Wouldn't it make more sense to be on our best behavior in the home? Try to picture what home life might be like in a society where people are culturally conditioned to be on their best behavior in the home. A culture in which the man comes home from a hard day’s work, angry, frustrated, and mad at the world yet becomes calm the moment he walks through the door. He may have spent his entire day dickering with unreasonable people, he may be having a hard time making end meet, yet a change comes over him when he is with his family. A change very similar to the one you would experience if the phone rang in the middle of a family argument. In a moment, all of his tension and anger is put aside, and in a calm, well-modulated voice he says "hello" to his family. Why? Because he has been culturally conditioned to be on his best behavior in the home, while you have been culturally conditioned to do the opposite (Ecclesiastes 10:12, Ephesians 4:31,32).
In every society individuals have a certain circle of influence or responsibility. They are expected to control, and are responsible for, things within their circle, but are not to control, and are not held responsible for, things outside of their circle. Therefore, this circle of influence is their own little domain. Moreover, just as national governments fight to extend their domain, individuals sometimes fight to extend their own domain (James 4:1). In fact, whenever there is a conflict between two individuals you will find that one is attempting to impose his/her will upon the other. One is the aggressor while the other is resisting aggression. However, because of the deceitfulness of our nature the aggressor usually blames the fight on the one who resists his/her tyranny, accusing them of being stubborn and unreasonable. (Jeremiah 17:9)
In order to understand how these areas of personal influence can become a battleground; try to visualize the following situation. A woman, who was able to save several thousand dollars prior to her wedding, marries a man who has always wanted a business of his own. While he sees self-employment as a means of attaining financial independence, success, and economic security his wife sees it as risky, a burden, and a potential source of problems. To begin with, they only have a difference of opinion. Nonetheless, conflict arises when the husband expresses a desire to use the money that his wife set aside, as a down payment on such a business. From the start, the wife makes it perfectly clear that she does not want her money invested in anything so risky. Yet her husband is equally determined to have a business of his own, with or without her help. However, even though he is not planning to use his wife’s money, she feels threatened by the fact that he is continuing to look for a business. As a result, she begins to fuss and nag him to give up the idea, and they have one fight after another. Nevertheless, he continues to look for a business, while resenting her interference. Then, when he finally does decide to purchase a business, his wife breaks down and tearfully says, "If that is what you really want I will go along with it to keep peace, you can use my money."
Now let us analyze what happened. The husband had every right to choose his place of employment. While he should be willing to listen to his wife’s point of view, and be considerate of her feelings, she should respect his decision. She has no business trying to impose her will on decisions that are within his circle of responsibility. However, she confused his desire for a business with his use of her money. She had every right to control her money, but she had no right to control her husband, and that was the point of conflict. Once she said that she did not want her money invested in a business, she did not need to say another word. The money was in her control and what she decided would be final. However, she not only wanted to control her money, she wanted to control her husband (by preventing him from looking for a business), and that was an invasion of his circle of responsibility. Because she felt threatened, she lost sight of the fact that looking for a business and using her money to buy the business are two different matters. Thus, when she gave up trying to control her husband she also gave up trying to control her money. In short, all of the fussing, resentment, anger, and sorrow that came into the home, resulted from a failure to distinguish between his circle of influence and hers. As a result, she essentially launched a verbal war of aggression to extend her circle of influence over his domain (Ecclesiastes 10:12, Ephesians 4:13,32).
In this situation, if the husband had fussed and yelled in order to compel his wife to let him use her money then he would have been the aggressor. However, the real lesson that we need to learn, is that peace will only come to our homes when we learn to respect each other's circle of responsibility.
Part of learning to respect each other’s personal domain has to do with realizing that no one has the right to simply force his or her will on another person. When we want someone to help us, that help must be freely given. We should never try to force someone to do us a favor. Instead, if we want their help we need to ask for it, wait patiently for it, and show our appreciation for it. Attempts to gain cooperation by being rude, argumentative, or demanding are wicked as well as foolish, yet because sin is so deeply engrained in our nature it happens all the time (Ecclesiastes 7:9).
In order to illustrate what I have just said; try to visualize the following situation. Three farmers Pete, Bill, and Henry have farms connected to the main highway by a private access road. Over the years, this access road deteriorates, and it is expensive to repair. For that reason, Pete and Bill decide that they want the highway department to take over the access road. However, before that can happen all three must sign the right of way over to the county, and that will require Henry’s cooperation. That being the case, Bill goes to see Henry. However, he begins by complaining about all of the problems the potholes cause for his equipment and ends by threatening to take Henry to court if he refuses to cooperate. Of course, Henry's reaction to such as infringement upon his domain is anger, because he resents being told what to do with his own property. As the discussion becomes heated, Bill leaves with Henry more determined than ever not to sign over his section of the access road. Then, after Henry has had some time to cool down, and can discuss the matter calmly, Pete goes to visit him. Unlike Bill, Pete begins his visit with a friendly chat and in time leads the conversation over to a discussion of the access road. Furthermore, instead of complaining about his own problems, he tries to learn if the access road has caused Henry any problems. Once Henry begins to talk about the problems, they then have common ground for a discussion of possible solutions. As a result, without trying in any way to tell Henry what to do, Pete is able to point out the advantages of deeding the property over to the highway department, and, in the end, an agreement is reached.
Let us now analyze the difference between Bill’s approach, and that taken by Pete. First of all, Bill looked only at his own problems and made no attempt at all to see Henry's point of view, or to establish common ground. In fact, Bill begins by assuming that Henry will not see things his way, and acting upon that assumption goes in swinging. As a result, Bill’s approach is an act of aggression, pure and simple. He not only shows no respect for Henry's domain, but also creates an attitude of rivalry, defensiveness, and hostility on the part of Henry. Then, if that is not bad enough, he uses threats in a vain attempt to manipulate Henry.
On the other hand, by respecting Henry’s domain, Pete took an entirely different approach. Because Pete conducted himself in a way that did not threaten that domain, Henry did not raise a psychological wall of defensiveness that would close the door to cooperation. Then, by his willingness to see Henry's point of view, Pete was able to establish a common ground for discussion. As a result, they were able to discuss their common problem as a team, rather than rivals.
The difference between the approach taken by Pete and that taken by Bill, illustrates the fact that, "The words of a wise man's mouth are gracious, but the lips of a fool will swallow him up" (Ecclesiastes 10:12).
HINDRANCES TO COOPERATION
One of the greatest hindrances to peaceful cooperation between individuals is the deceitfulness of the human heart (Jeremiah 17:9). Because of that deceitfulness self-justification, self-deception, and distortion of the facts is the norm, while honesty, humility, and objectivity tend to elude us. Although ugly behavior is always wrong (Galatians 5.15-21), it is common to hear people justify it by saying, "I was just letting off a little steam," or, "Since when is it wrong to express concern." However, People who gloss over the sinfulness of their own behavior in this way, blind themselves to the truth by confusing what is being done with how it is being done. There may be nothing wrong with expressing concern, if it is expressed in a gracious and loving way, but it is never right for one person to make others miserable with their fussing, and it is dishonest to call such fussing "concern."
One way in which People attempt to justify themselves, is by blaming the situation, for the carnal and immature way that they react to it. Then, when questioned about their anger and ranting, they lash out by saying, "You would be mad too if you had to deal with this mess," or, "How else am I supposed to react." While they do not really want to know how they are "supposed to react," the truth is that someone else might react in an entirely different manner when confronted by the same situation. One person might fuss about the problem, while another works calmly and logically toward a solution. Therefore, instead of blaming our bad behavior on the problem, we need to learn to deal with problems in a calm and mature way. If you find this difficult, ask God to help you to recognize contentiousness as sin, admit in your heart that such behavior is wrong, and see clearly how you might better react to any situation.
While we all need forgiveness, true repentance should make you feel ashamed when you make those around you miserable by bad behavior.
While good manners should be an expression of kindness and consideration, the behavior of certain social elitists have led many to associate good manners with snobbishness. In fact, I once heard of a young woman who broke off her engagement to a nice young man simply because he used his regular fork instead of his salad fork when eating his salad. Although that sort of behavior has distorted our society's concept of good manners, Christians need to maintain a middle road between the snobbishness just described, and a boorish disregard for other people. It is only kind and considerate to see that everything has been passed before starting to eat. It is only kind and considerate to ask if anyone else wants some before taking the last piece. It is only kind and considerate to see that the serving spoon does not touch your plate. And such kind behavior is not even to be compared to legalistic demand that others use a certain fork, or that bowls always be passed in a certain direction. In short, as Christians, our manners should stem from kindness, not self-righteousness.
One enduring hindrance to cooperation between people is impatience. All too often, we want a favor and we want it now! However, such impatience rarely brings us what we want, and often brings us the opposite of what we want. In fact, impatient badgering is one of the fastest ways to create a barrier to cooperation. If someone has said that they will do something, you can remind them without being a pest. In many cases, it takes time for the other person to adjust to a new idea, and if you try to rush them you will only get anger, and may even alienate them. Furthermore, because that applies to children as well as adults, we must be patient in training our children. In fact, parents who become impatient, rude, derogatory, and even abusive when the lessons are not learned quickly do more harm than good. Because children are not reflective concerning behavior you can expect to teach many of the same lessons over and over again for about twelve years. Therefore, resign yourself to dealing with them in love, not impatience. In fact, the widespread belief that you can only get your message across by being loud, rude, or profane is a satanic lie, as well as an exercise in social decadence.
Many times conflict has its origin in ideological intolerance, or in the desire of one person to impose his views on another. Common sense should tell us that if we want others to listen to what we say we must be willing to listen to what they say, and show a willingness to listen by the way we express ourselves. Simply contradicting what others say is not polite and can be insulting. When we question what someone says, it would be far wiser for us to ask questions, quote someone who takes a different view, or mention some facts that are being overlooked. There is no need to rudely contradict what was said, as if we are the authority and they are ignorant.
In exercising leadership, those who are involved in a voluntary organization need to realize that a good leader never simply imposes his will upon others. In such an organization, leaders who expect everyone else everyone to simply fall in with their plans have lost control. Since they cannot force anyone to go along with their plans, it is the people who will decide what they want to go along with, and what they do not want to go along with. On the other hand, a leader who asks those under him to tell him what they think should be done gains control, for he can guide, approve, or veto anything they suggest. Thus the key to gaining control lies in yielding it (Matthew 23:12, Luke 14:7-11).
Many of the problems in our society would disappear if more people would simply take to heart the words, "Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and evil speaking be put away from you along with all malice, And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you. (Ephesians 4:31,32)