Friday, April 08, 2011

Minding Our Manners

Here's a subject that I've been thinking about often. How is it that we can restore civility to our society? Those who know me well know that I'm not a prude. However, this is getting ridiculous. Everywhere I go I find my senses assaulted with a steady stream of vulgarity and downright rudeness.

I remember as a teenager that every once in a while you might run into someone who wasn't quite up to speed on the social graces, and of course you had some using profanity to act cool. Now it's everywhere, all the time. Does anyone else have a problem with this, or is it just me? I'm really trying to understand.

This subject reminds me of something I read a long time ago about William Wilberforce. If you recall, Wilberforce spent his life fighting the slave trade in Great Britain. It was abolished the year he died. But here's the part that struck me. Read this: “God Almighty has set before me two great objects, the suppression of the slave trade and the reformation of manners.” At first reading I have to admit, I found it somewhat amusing. But now I think I get it.

He lived in a horrible time in British history. Not only was the slave trade going strong, but in parts of London, every other house was a tavern, and prostitution was rampant. Many, if not most, of society's elite lived lives of debauchery and gloried in it. When Wilberforce became a Christian, he became convicted that his life needed to amount to something - that was when he declared his two-pointed vision. Many have had ideas and made bold declarations. What was impressive about Wilberforce was the way he set about changing things.

He gave away one-quarter of his annual income to the poor. He fought on behalf of chimney sweeps, single mothers, Sunday schools, orphans, and juvenile delinquents. He helped found parachurch groups like the Society for Bettering the Cause of the Poor, the Church Missionary Society, the British and Foreign Bible Society, and the Antislavery Society. He wrote books to appeal to the upper class to help them realize they had a responsibility as leaders to model responsible behaviour in a civilized society. He also helped to found the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA).

He understood that society is not changed overnight and that what people need are role models. I think the same is true today. As a Christian leader, one of the things that frustrates me the most is watching people of influence, especially parents, setting horrible examples for their kids. Do we really want everyone dropping 'f' bombs in everyday conversation?

And while I'm ranting, why do they have to put that same kind of language in every movie? - and then in Canada, rate it at PG? I don't know how many times I've brought home a movie rated PG or PG-13 for a night, only to find when it starts that the U.S. rating is 'R.' Five minutes in, and 10 'f' bombs later, I've had enough. I don't think that makes us more enlightened, I think it means we couldn't care less about the junk our kids are putting in their minds.

And then there's the music, dare I start on the music - all aimed at the kids. Topping the charts on i-tunes right now is E.T. by Katie Perry and Kanye West featuring sexual dialogue and profanity. Next in line is "S&M" by Rihanna, which is a song about... S&M - aimed at your 13 year old daughter. Here's a line: "Sticks and stones may break my bones But chains and whips excite me." Charming. The rest of the top ten are more of the same, including Jeremih and Fifty Cent and Britney Spears, et al, almost all with the same theme: "I want your body, whoa, whoa, whoa..."

In my line of work, I talk to a lot of people battling low self-esteem issues. Teenage girls are especially prone to this. We're not helping them at all, as a culture, by glorifying artists who are treating women as sex objects. Have you watched MTV lately? I couldn't take much more than a couple of minutes as some singer, dressed as a pimp, surrounded by scantily clad women he calls his b*****s, raps about what he wants to do with them. Wow! Isn't that what you want your daughter to grow up and do - star in a music video with a misogynist rapper? Then we've got the idiocy happening with Charlie Sheen. I think it's a little crazy that everyone's criticizing him for living his life in real life the way he was playing it on his show.

I know I'm ranting, but it bothers me. I was always taught the old computer principle GIGO - "Garbage in, garbage out." What's true about computers is also true about the mind. You fill it with junk, junk is what you get. Here's a challenge: try to live your life in such a way that, if your children knew everything about you, they'd still be proud. And for you Christians out there, live your life in such a way that you enhance God's reputation in the world. Finally, here's a verse from the Bible that I think is very appropriate for today:"Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter." (Isaiah 5:20) That verse was written some 2,800 years ago. It could describe a lot of what's going on around us. I'm going to try to do a little better in my corner of the world in making it a safe place for everyone. Anyone in favour?

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