Raising the Common Denominator

     We all know the expression, “the lowest common denominator.” It is depressing to say but crudeness does seem to be popular these days. People act harshly wherever they are. It is not unusual to hear folks raging at each other in traffic, in the store, at school and even within their homes. Violence and mean spiritedness seem to have become acceptable forms of self-expression. The cultural common denominator seems to be getting lower and lower.

     Note the use of the word “seem” in the previous paragraph. I used that word because I am certain that many if not most people are not rude and crude and do not like such behavior. Most folks are nice. I really think that the people who write and produce material for consumption in the media emphasize meanness and violence because they think it will make their work more popular. An entertainment culture takes the line of least resistance. It must be easier to make a crass movie or television program than a thoughtful and informative one. Those who prepare material for the media evidently believe the societal denominator with regard to human interaction is very low.

Just recently we have seen a number of examples of sin and harshness in the world of personal human sexuality. Men who force themselves on other people are criticized and rightly so. But the culture has so far avoided facing the facts about why the situation exists.

     People seem or wish to be seen as surprised when a powerful person is revealed as a rude and crude sexual predator. No one should be surprised. The reason the cultural common denominator is so low is that it has been pushed down by thought leaders in the society.
I use the term “thought leaders” as a way to represent the men and women in some institutions that take it upon themselves to give form and substance to our culture. This includes places of higher education as well as print and electronic media. Many of these institutions decided a long time ago that the idea of God presented in the Bible was passé and in many cases, objectionable. They then did their best to eradicate Biblical concepts of right and wrong from society.

     When I was at Georgia State I was a student in a seminar with a fellow who was the local leader of the American Civil Liberties Union. He was as nice a fellow as you would ever want to meet. He was also an effective partisan for the idea of keeping the idea of God out of public life. As you might imagine we had a few interesting conversations.

     I still remember a statement this fellow made in the midst of a class discussion. He said, “Well, you just have to decide what kind of society you want to have and then make it come about.” The more I’ve thought about what he said then the more chilling those words have become. His “side,” the Non-God side, has been really good at getting God out of the picture of daily life in America.

     So now we are reaping what we have sown (Galatians 6:7). They had to get God out of the way so there could be a sexual revolution. They did just that and now we pay the price. Marriage is weak, sexual predators are emboldened, and there is no end in sight to what will be considered acceptable. Thought leaders may realize they have let things go too far but will they recognize that they have seriously weakened the means to stop the slide into an oblivion of crudity?

     People of faith may wonder if things will ever get better. They can, but not if we remain set on making a society based on human desires alone. We need God back in the equation. We need the golden rule: “And just as you want men to do to you, you also do to them likewise” (Luke 6:31). We need to treat each other as the creation of God (Genesis 1:27). If we do this with our own lives, we may well raise that cultural common denominator not just for us but for everyone.