Friday, June 7, 2013

Have we lowered the bar?

Sunday Morning Sermon - June 9 2013

The term "Lowering the Bar" has its roots in athletic competition. Remember, the standard tests we used to have to pass to complete our  academics each year at College during those gloruous days at Royal?
​ I never was good at high jump and had to keep lowering that bar surreptitiously to score my marks.​
In academic pursuits, a similar process is used. No reasonable person would ask incoming first graders to work advanced algebra problems. For them, "the bar" is set much lower. 
In many school systems, the "old" standard had been that any grade lower than 70% was unacceptable. Some better schools had required 80%, and a few model schools had required 90% mastery. Under the new universal standard, 60% is acceptable.
It's great to encourage weak students to achieve all that they can, but surely we can agree - in many fields of endeavor, 60% mastery amounts to total failure. Would you be pleased to fly with an airline pilot who successfully lands the plane 60% of the time? Would you be happy to sit on the couch and be under the care of a brain surgeon whose record of "getting it right" hovers around 60%?
This process has invaded our moral and social standards, as well. The television industry is only some 60 years old. In the early days, primarily because of the influence of decent society, TV shows didn't portray married people sleeping in the same bed. The worst language that you'd ever hear from your TV was "Gosh", "Golly", "Gee-Whiz", or "Dang". Nudity or near nudity was unthinkable. Stations actually lost their licenses for "crossing the line" of what was accepted as "Decency".
The standard was high, and we should be honest - in some cases, it was a bit comical. It was right to lower the bar just a bit - for example, allowing people who were portraying married couples to "sleep" in double beds. It's a slippery slope, though, and today, we have slid far down that slope. We've become accustomed to "prime time" shows featuring profane and vulgar language, "jokes" that emphasize inappropriate innuendos, extreme / graphic violence, the portrayal of unmarried couples (both heterosexual and same-sex) engaged in illicit relationships. The soaps have dished out everything one can conjure up in his or her mind to all kinds of extreme permutations and combinations.
Today, there seems to be absolutely very little social influence. The argument to lower the standard has promoted the concept that television should reflect real life. From that lowered starting point, we've descended even further, so that the most depraved members of society seem to have higher standards of conduct than those depicted on TV's worst shows.
Humankind has a long history - extending all of the way back to the "Garden of Eden" - of "testing the limits". Today, whatever limit of decadence is portrayed on TV is soon tested and "surpassed" by those who reject authority.
People should be alarmed that recent studies find little or no difference between actual life choices made by good, bad and ugly humans. Have we lowered the bar so far that we've forgotten our ultimate goal in life on this planet?
In most societies across the globe, somebody has "lowered the bar". If our compassion towards living beings is valid, our true goal must always be to press on toward spreading this within our own families, neighbors, communities, and nations.
We can no more simply sit and watch humanity stepping over the lowered bar with ease and comfort under the belief that they are doing good and achieving something valuable for themselves. We must begin to realize  that we can can force all human competitors to reach their best jumps - but like star athletes, we must always strive to lift the bar to new heights, and to inspire ​and encourage each person to progress toward achieving lofty goals - goals which will bring us quality of life on earth.
Human society in the present era are also shifting through major changes in ​the ​prevailing ​personal ​moral standards compared to what was seen in previous times. People have clearly felt the impact, and many of us seem uncertain how we should react to "the new morality".

Probably the highest profile change has to do with our perception of ​personal ​sexual standards - and the highest profile of those may be the changing views regarding same sex relationships. Several well known community and religious leaders have publicly switched sides, and now say that two consenting adults, regardless of gender, should be allowed to marry if they wish to do so.
Although it has been clearly understood, by most cultural and religious standards that relationships between men and women are to be limited to those who are married to one another in monogamous heterosexual relationships, many of these social leaders are now encouraging couples to "try" marriage before actually "tying the knot", and many have seen it fit to "bless" non-traditional relationships too.
Even though divorce has been strongly discouraged by most ​people, today's failure rate for marriage hovers around 50%, and isn't noticeably different between "believers" and "unbelievers". Relationships outside of marriage reflect the evolving standards, with religious members behaving very much the same as their "unchurched" neighbors.
Recent reports from studies undertaken, indicate that the percentage of live births to single mothers in the western world is about 40%, and among certain ethnic and cultural groups was far above 50%. There seems to no longer be any discernible stigma attached to sexual activity or birth outside of marriage. In many cases, unwed pregnancy actually seems to be a matter of pride.

It shouldn't surprise us when people who profess no religious beliefs promote such choices, but since all religious scripture are very clear in rejecting sexual activity outside of traditional marriage, how will the ​Mullah's, Bullah's and Pullah's,​ justify the growing tendency to join the movement? Is sin less sinful when it is ​indulged in and ​enjoyed ​with​ the people whom we ​have access to and seek pleasure from​?

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