Dispensing Grace: Where Faith Meets Reality

Disillusioned words like bullets bark as human gods aim for their mark
Make everything from toy guns that spark to flesh-colored Christs that glow in the dark
It's easy to see without looking too far that not much is really sacred
~Bob Dylan~

Moral Certainty

A long time ago in a century far, far away some things were just not acceptable. There were boundaries that were to be respected—a style of conduct that was to guide our actions and attitudes.

It had to do with a clear-eyed worldview rooted in a realistic and compelling comprehension of human nature. We used to understand that when restraints are removed there’s an ever-present danger for us to default to the lowest depths.

Call me crazy if that helps to dismiss difficult facts, but the evidence is overwhelming: Without restrictions put upon us, we humans have an enormous capacity to be deceived by innate selfishness and greed.

History is an endless source document: When civilizations give full rein to the darkness within individuals, then any commonsense expression of morality slip-slides into assorted levels of debauchery.

In the long-gone black and white world of Father Knows Best, moral certainty was dependable. That television show, along with others like Leave It To Beaver, was surely overly simplistic in their rosy portrayal of life, but at least right was right and wrong was wrong—there was a definite difference that everyone understood.

Remember Mayberry and the practical wisdom of Andy Taylor explaining the consequences of some troublesome issue to his son Opie? Right was good and wrong was evil. In the not so distant past that primitive sounding concept was drilled into us.

The expected response to any given dilemma was to do right, regardless of the cost. Doing right was encouraged in the home, in the schoolhouse, at church and even in the media. Every authority figure delivered a consistent message that doing wrong always had serious repercussions.

In those bygone days, people would actually convey disapproval and castigate those who violated propriety. The word shame had a meaning that carried some weight, but not anymore.

Nowadays the distance between right and wrong is a thin line. We’ve grown immune to the disintegrating culture crumbling all around us. Nothing is an outrage and obviously, the concept of sin has long since ceased to carry any stigma. What used to shock is immediately taken in stride—wrong has been dismantled and then systematically rebuilt and reconditioned as right.

Even a cursory perusal of the headlines reveals that we’ve arrived at the edge of a stinking abyss that is belching its stench in our faces.

It’s easy to see without looking too far that not much is really sacred. . .

Moral Ambiguity

Consider our descent: Elvis Presley’s swiveling hips were banned from the Ed Sullivan Show’s cameras in the nineteen fifties, but by the nineties we had become so desensitized that a singer could dry-hump his hand to entertain the masses.

At the Super Bowl halftime show in 1993 Michael Jackson did exactly that—he repeatedly groped his crotch while satellites sent the images across the globe. His crude fondling was referred to as artistic expression and announced as brilliant dance moves.

Now in the second decade of the 21st century simulated sex and sexual innuendo are staples of prime time schedules. We live in an age when promiscuity is the presumed pattern of behavior from adolescence through to the nursing home—it’s like the human race is out rutting in the streets.

Love, like so many other important words, has been dumbed down to the point that it is largely meaningless. It is routinely used with a flippancy that devalues its character, disparaging it until it’s unrecognizable.

Consider this timeless definition of love: “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.”

Lay that paradigm of love alongside the current self-obsessed usage of the word. Self-gratification and self-fulfillment have become the primary fixations that motivate us, leading to a compulsive pursuit of excess in the sexual arena. Our dismissal of time-honored mores has drastically altered the societal landscape.

According to the latest census information, nuclear families have been relegated to the fringe. The trend on the upswing is multi-dimensional families with optional mommies and daddies. Two-parent households are completely out of fashion.

Thanks to a rampart spirit of permissiveness, any imaginable number of mix or match alternatives are routinely glorified in pop-culture and hyped as benchmarks. Buoyed up by pseudo-scientific proclamations, the self-appointed guardians of the new moral order have elevated previously disgraceful lifestyle choices to celebrity status. Once upon a time, the word shame would have been applied to today’s value system. Oh, but I forgot; shame has no frame of reference for a society anesthetized by Hollywood’s moral ambiguity.

Woe to anyone who raises any protest; woe to anyone who suggests that normalcy has been given the heave-ho; woe to anyone who even thinks there is an objective standard of right and wrong; woe to anyone who speaks in defense of decency and personal responsibility.

When concerns are expressed or appeals are made to traditional Judeo-Christian virtues, campaigns are launched to silence those voices—they are pilloried as bigots, right-wing extremists, hatemongers, Neanderthals or much worse.

After all, we are no longer straitjacketed by rigid moral codes. We’re enlightened, don’t you know?

It’s easy to see without looking too far that not much is really sacred. . .

Moral Truth

Here ends the rant: Venting comes easy, however, cursing the darkness accomplishes nothing.

Instead we need to strike a zillion matches and boldly declare that there is something that actually is sacred—the ancient tenets of Scripture. There are instructions in those inspired words that were provided for the benefit of the human race. We trash moral truth at our peril.

Like it or not, these morally-challenged days are the times in which we live. This era, with its capricious and fluctuating shades of gray, is where believers in Jesus Christ are supposed to be shining brightly.

In my understandings, we are commanded and compelled to be beacons of hope because by Divine design, the church is to be an instrument of transformational change, but all too often it is an institution known only for its sanctimonious condemnation, which is tragic.

Jesus of Nazareth said: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.”

The task for Christ-followers has never been more necessary: Dispensing grace to a world whose morality is merely yesteryear’s immorality dressed up in glad-rags is one of those hard places where faith meets reality.

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Comments 16 comments

Dave Mathews profile image

Dave Mathews 4 years ago from NORTH YORK,ONTARIO,CANADA

Brother Ken: Thank you so much for the trip down Nostalgia Lane causing me to remember the simplicity of the past.

Thank you also for waking us up to the speedy moral decay that we live in now.

Sometimes we choose to walk through life with our eyes closed, so that we need not be a witness to the decay that surrounds our lives and this is sad.

It is time for all of us to take a real good look at whether or not we are living up to actually loving our neighbor as we love ourselves, as Jesus instructs us.


Ken R. Abell profile image

Ken R. Abell 4 years ago from ON THE ROAD Author

You're welcome, Dave. Thanks for stopping in & sharing thoughtful comments. You are right. Blessings.


GodTalk profile image

GodTalk 4 years ago from Kentwood, Michigan

Good job Ken! You're right. Our culture has decayed a lot since the Father Knows Best era. Although it wasn't perfect, at least we knew the meaning of right and wrong. In moving away from our Judeo-Christian roots, we have set the stage for our own self-destruction if there is no revival. Keep writing. We need your voice out there.


Charles Pedley 4 years ago

Say, where is the best place to buy one of those white 10 gallon hats like you are wearing? :-)

You have it right on, Ken. I have also noticed that lying is much more commonplace, especially in politics.

I do remember a time when instead of lying, parties would simply give their plan to improve things and tell why it was better than the other party's plan.

Now lying from the White House to the Dog House is common place. One day last week Mr. O claimed that enforcing that everyone had to buy medical insurance or pay a stiff "fine" was NOT a fine but a tax. [The government can make us pay taxes if you have not noticed, but fines?] On the same day his chief of staff I believe it was claimed to the press that it was NOT a tax. So who is right? Is one of them ignorant? Or is one of them lying?

I could go on, but you will either agree now or disagree and nothing else I can say would change anyone's mind. So God bless America! [including North of America!]


Ken R. Abell profile image

Ken R. Abell 4 years ago from ON THE ROAD Author

GodTalk - Thank you for your kind words of encouragement. Much appreciated. Blessings.


Ken R. Abell profile image

Ken R. Abell 4 years ago from ON THE ROAD Author

Charlie - Thanks for stopping in & leaving thoughtful comments. Politicians have a whole other definition of what constitutes a lie, which in no way, resembles what common sense regards as a lie. That is the nature of politics.


Jason Marovich profile image

Jason Marovich 4 years ago from United States

This is an article that should appeal to everyone, regardless of faith. I think you're right on the mark when you imply that moral decay and a desensitized population could lead to ignorance concerning right and wrong. Very well written, too.


Ken R. Abell profile image

Ken R. Abell 4 years ago from ON THE ROAD Author

Jason Marovich - Thanks for the affirmation. Much appreciated.


JamesPoppell profile image

JamesPoppell 4 years ago

I remember watching Andy Griffith and the lessons he dispensed to his son Opie. You have picked a great analogy for a moral compass by writing about this and another favorite show of mine, Leave It To Beaver. I grew up mesmerized by these shows because they reminded me of the way my father taught these life changing lessons. The best teacher of all, as you mentioned, is Jesus Christ. He came to this earth and gave us an example to live by. It is our charge to live by his true and correct principles. Your definition of love is beautiful. Furthermore, I visited your website via the link you provided and I am impressed. I will be visiting and linking to your site more often. Thank you for this much needed article for our current day and age.


Ken R. Abell profile image

Ken R. Abell 4 years ago from ON THE ROAD Author

You're welcome, James. Thank you for sharing your memories & good words. Blessings.


itakins profile image

itakins 4 years ago from Irl

This is an incredibly well written article.I agree with much or most of what you say - the baseline sinks lower and lower daily.It's mostly a case now of going with the flow and whatever you're having yourself - with little ,if any sense of morality.There are plenty of good decent people ,but theirs are not the voices that are being heard.

While much was good about the days when there was a stronger sense of morality ,and people knew boundaries - sadly ,it was also an era when so much covert immorality went on too.I don't think these things necessarily should be splashed over newspapers /TV, but ,the environment did allow for nasty things to happen to people ,who ,because of the times that were in it ,didn't speak about it.

Perhaps ,if we could take the positive from all eras ,and discard the negative ,we would almost achieve a perfect world.....maybe .

Fabulous hub I must say.


Ken R. Abell profile image

Ken R. Abell 4 years ago from ON THE ROAD Author

Thank you, itakins. Your words & perspective are much appreciated. I agree--taking the positive from all eras & discarding the negative would be a great way to proceed forward.


skye2day profile image

skye2day 3 years ago from Rocky Mountains

Ken Brother Well you are still an awesome writer and a voice crying in the wilderness. I have not seen you in a time and I am honored to be in your neighborhood. God Bless your works for our Lord brother. We keep pressing on in truth and Spirit, Amen.

Since this was written unfortunately the moral decline is moving rven closer to the edge. USA come back to God!

Ken keep your eyes on Jesus. I know you will. Phil 4 :13 Keep going bro shining the light in Jesus. God Bless you. May His favor smile on you each and every day. In Christ love you bro. Your sista Skye


Ken R. Abell profile image

Ken R. Abell 3 years ago from ON THE ROAD Author

Thank you, skye2day. Blessings & encouragement to you.


FSlovenec profile image

FSlovenec 3 years ago from San Francisco, CA

The changes in a generation are huge. When we took prayer out of the schools, when it was said to be ok to kill a baby, when living with a girl was ok, for men, rather than marrying all these things created the slippery slope. One is on the fringe of acceptability in one generation becomes a raving norm in the next. Elvis's hips off of TV...what a great concept. thank you


Ken R. Abell profile image

Ken R. Abell 3 years ago from ON THE ROAD Author

Thank you, FSlovenec. You are, of course, exactly right. Blessings.

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