Goodbye absolutes, hello new morality

By Michael F. Haverluck

A major nationwide study has revealed that biblical morality in America is being escorted out of all facets of society, while a new moral code has been ushered in to take its place.

Research recently conducted by the Barna Group surveying 1,000 participants across the nation shows that the broader culture in the United States is confused between the difference of right and wrong, with many Americans showing an increasing concern over the declining moral condition witnessed in most demographic groups. Secularism and religious skepticism are on the rise as the divide between Bible-believing Christians and mainstream society continues to grow further apart.

Survey says …

Regardless of what demographic one looks at — Millennials (born between 1984 and 2002), Gen-Xers (born from 1965 to 1983), Boomers (born from 1946 to 1964) and Elders (born in 1945 or before) — Americans 18 years of age and older are worried that moral behavior is becoming a thing of the past.

“A majority of American adults across age group, ethnicity, gender, socioeconomic status and political ideology expresses concern about the nation’s moral condition — eight in 10 overall (80 percent),” Barna reports. “The proportion is closer to nine in 10 among Elders (89 percent) and Boomers (87 percent), while about three-quarters of Gen-Xers (75 percent) and Millennials (74 percent) report concern.”

This concern naturally rises with those whose moral code derives from the Bible.

“Similarly, practicing Christians (90 percent) are more likely than adults of no faith (67 percent) or those who identify with a religious faith other than Christianity (72 percent) to say they are concerned about the moral condition of the nation,” the report continues. “Though measurable differences exist between population segments, moral concern is widespread across the demographic board.”

However, when it comes to the agreeing on what determines right and wrong, Americans are far from standing in unison.

“According to a majority of American adults (57 percent), knowing what is right or wrong is a matter of personal experience,” Barna researchers assert. “This view is much more prevalent among younger generations than among older adults, [as] three-quarters of Millennials (74 percent) agree strongly or somewhat with the statement, ‘Whatever is right for your life or works best for you is the only truth you can know,’ compared to only 38 percent of Elders. And Millennials (31 percent) are three times more likely than Elders (10 percent) and twice as likely as Boomers (16 percent) and Gen-Xers (16 percent) to strongly agree with the statement.”

Practicing Christians are much less likely to agree with the moral relativist statement.

“The proportions of practicing Christians who disagree (59 percent) and agree (41 percent) that the only truth one can know is whatever is right for one’s own life are the inverse of the general population (44 percent disagree, 57 percent agree),” the study found. “The difference is even more pronounced when practicing Christians (41 percent) are compared with adults of no faith, two-thirds of whom agree (67 percent) that the only truth one can know is whatever is right for one’s own life.”

With multiculturalism being taught in schools, many Americans are led to believe that morals are determined by one’s cultural upbringing.

“About two-thirds of all American adults (65 percent) agree either strongly or somewhat (18 percent and 47 percent respectively) that ‘every culture must determine what is acceptable morality for its people,’” those conducting the study informed. “Again, Millennials (25 percent) are more likely than Elders (16 percent), Boomers (14 percent) or Gen-Xers (16 percent) to strongly agree with this view.”

Biblical foundation

Even though one’s culture is viewed by a large majority of Americans to be the basis of one’s moral code, most also give credit to the Bible for establishing right and wrong behavior.

“[A] majority also agrees ‘the Bible provides us with absolute moral truths which are the same for all people in all situations, without exception’ (59 percent),” Barna maintains. “There is broad agreement across age groups, which is surprising when one considers the notable generational differences on other questions related to morality. When it comes to faith groups, practicing Christians (83 percent), as one might expect, are much more likely to agree with the statement than others, especially those with no faith (28 percent). In fact, more than half of practicing Christians strongly agree (56 percent).”

However, most Americans rely on their own reasoning power — above God’s wisdom — to determine right from wrong.

“Two-thirds of American adults either believe moral truth is relative to circumstances (44 percent) or have not given it much thought (21 percent),” the survey divulged. “About one-third, on the other hand, believes moral truth is absolute (35 percent). Millennials are more likely than other age cohorts to say moral truth is relative — in fact, half of them say so (51 percent), compared to 44 percent of Gen-Xers, 41 percent of Boomers and 39 percent of Elders. Among the generations, Boomers are most likely to say moral truth is absolute (42 percent), while Elders are more likely than other age groups to admit they have never thought about it (28 percent).”

Those whose moral compass is grounded in the Bible view morality in a much different light.

“Practicing Christians (59 percent) are nearly four times more likely than adults with no faith (15 percent) to believe moral truth is absolute,” the statistics show. “Those with no faith (61 percent), meanwhile, are twice as likely as practicing Christians (28 percent) to say it is relative to circumstances. Americans who adhere to a faith other than Christianity are roughly on par with the national average on this question.”

Writing a new moral code

Barna President David Kinnaman contends that research indicates a new brand of morality has evolved in America. He insists that Christianity has for the most part been removed as the cultures’ moral norm and replaced with a new moral code, which he says consists of six tenets:

  1. The best way of finding yourself is by looking within yourself
  2. People should not criticize someone else’s life choices
  3. To be fulfilled in life, you should pursue the things you desire most
  4. The highest goal of life is to enjoy it as much as possible
  5. People can believe whatever they want, as long as those beliefs don’t affect society
  6. Any kind of sexual expression between two consenting adults is acceptable

Kinnaman asserts in Good Faith: Being a Christian When Society Thinks You’re Irrelevant and Extreme that more and more Americans — both inside and outside the Church —are pledging allegiance to the “morality of self-fulfillment.”

“The highest good, according to our society, is ‘finding yourself’ and then living by ‘what’s right for you,'” the polling expert declares. “There is a tremendous amount of individualism in today’s society, and that’s reflected in the Church, too.”

He credits the religion of godless secular humanism as a major influence that has diverted Americans from using the Bible as their spiritual and moral guide.

“Millions of Christians have grafted New Age dogma onto their spiritual person,” Kinnaman continued. “When we peel back the layers, we find that many Christians are using the way of Jesus to pursue the way of self … While we wring our hands about secularism spreading through culture, a majority of churchgoing Christians have embraced corrupt, me-centered theology.”

Even though the Bible is black and white in regards to laying out the moral path for man to take, it is argued that those who proclaim themselves to be Christians in the U.S. are as lost — when it comes to morality — as those outside the Church.

“So, there appears to be a dichotomy at work among practicing Christians in America,” Kinnaman contends. “Most believe that the Bible is the source of moral norms that transcend a person’s culture, and that those moral truths are absolute rather than relative to circumstances. Yet, at the same time, solid majorities ascribe to five of the six tenets of the new moral code.”

He says that this “new” morality is not really new and should not come as a surprise to Americans, yet he insists that the door is open for Christians in positions of influence to change this tide for the better.

“Such widespread cognitive dissonance — among both practicing Christians and Americans more generally — is another indicator of the cultural flux Barna has identified through the past two decades,” Kinnaman concludes. “But it also represents an opportunity for leaders and mentors who are prepared to coach people — especially young people — toward deeper wisdom and greater discernment.”