OMDAHL: 2018 will generate new fights over moral values
With 81 percent rating moral values in the U. S. as only fair or poor, we have consensus in the country that should foster some sort of response.
The folks who have an abiding concern over the moral state of society now have a number of supporters in the national administration, giving them hope for braking the endless spiral downward.
They have endured criticism for supporting Donald Trump who, according to Pope Francis, is not a Christian but who has deferred to the wishes of social conservatives whose primary goal is to get judges willing to stop and roll back liberal interpretations of the Constitution.
While a large majority of society is lamenting the decline of moral values, they do not share a common definition. Conservatives will focus on specific evils while liberals will point to broader issues of social and economic justice.
A 2017 Gallup poll may lend some insight even though it does not cover all of the hot button issues in 2018. In the poll, Americans found the following as morally acceptable:
Over 90 percent found birth control acceptable. Divorce was found acceptable by 73 percent, sex between unmarried adults (69 percent), gambling (65 percent), gay and lesbian relations (63 percent), baby outside of marriage (62 percent), stem cell research (61 percent), the death penalty (58 percent), doctor-assisted suicide (57 percent), animal fur clothing (57 percent) and medical testing of animals (51 percent).
Found to be unacceptable were abortion (57 percent), sex between teenagers (64 percent), pornography (64 percent), cloning animals (68 percent), suicide (82 percent), polygamy (83 percent), cloning humans (86 percent) and extramarital affairs (91 percent).
While some of these may be hot button issues, additions for 2018 would include evolution, earth warming, public education, homosexuality, transgender and bathrooms, immigration, Moslem immigrants, crime, Israel, Ten Commandments, prayer in schools and deterioration of movies and television.
Even though we have had a conservative court for a number of years, advocates of stronger moral values have made little headway. However, it has never had the kind of support in the executive branch it needed to curb the undesirable attributes of modern society. The President gives them new hope.
Even so, we have found that changing morals is quite complicated.
First of all, there is the Bill of Rights which has stood in the way of reforms. Many of the efforts of social conservatives have been hung up on the Constitutional rights of others. A Supreme Court justice once said that rights end where the other person’s nose begins.
Second, the judicial system, whether staffed by conservatives or liberals, is limited by precedents. For example, judges would find it difficult to overturn the Roe v. Wade abortion decision because it constitutes a precedent that has stood for 47 years.
Third, opinion in the public square will not support significant alteration of moral practices. They like the freedom of individual lifestyles and would not tolerate a more disciplined life.
Fourth, social values carry a lot of controversy so politicians are not willing to get out front to suggest or support more discipline in social values.
Fifth, the Christian community and Christians individuals, softened by a permissive culture, do not carry their share of the load in teaching and practicing moral values. Instead of another lecture on Noah or Jonah, a workshop in the origin and significance of sanctity of life would better serve parishioners.
Simply passing new laws will not be sufficient. Each issue deemed immoral must be addressed with its own solution.
All of this being said, improving moral values is not hopeless. It is true that there are major obstacles but what the national government can’t do, the states can do. What the states can’t do, the churches can do. What the churches can’t do, individual Christians should do.