The Moral Collapse
TEN years ago a prominent news columnist in the United States wrote: “What is happening to us is essentially a moral collapse. The gap between what we pretend to believe and what we do in practice has constantly been widening. . . . I don’t know just when the moral code was substituted by the idea that wrongdoing is not profitable. If you listen to radio dramas nowadays, you learn that crime doesn’t pay—that it is not compatible with the profit motive. The G-men always get the gangster in the end. In the old days it used to be God and remorse that were the retribution. Nowadays God is J. Edgar Hoover, and he’s an inadequate substitute. . . . In the twentieth century moral sanctions began to give way to scientific explanations. ‘Science’ confirmed the laws of survival of the fittest, biological selection, historic relativism, psychological determinism. Religion became superstition and morals wholly relative. If we go on thinking that way, democracy is on the rocks.”—Los Angeles News, March 29, 1941.
Today’s news underscores this analysis of a decade ago. Recently leading educators, including General Eisenhower, said that if the United States is to survive as a democracy it must develop “intelligent and fervent loyalty to moral and spiritual values”. Numerous exposures of moral delinquency in governmental affairs caused Senator Fulbright to say: “Democracy is, I believe, more likely to be destroyed by the perversion of, or abandonment of, its true moral principles than by armed attack from Russia.” He suggested a Congressional investigation of “the general moral level” of the federal government’s executive branch.
President Truman had branded as “asinine” some of the investigations that later unearthed much political corruption, but stubbornly contended that his house was clean and that no “illegal influence” was at work. He did not comment on the charge of “improper influence”. But even he recognized the moral collapse, saying we must “try to mobilize the moral forces of the world against the unmoral forces”. In the wake of exposures of improper handling of government loans and the presidential endeavor to side-step matters by the claim that it was not “illegal”, the U.S. News & World Report of March 16 asked: “Often it is not illegal. Is it improper? Have morals gone out of style?”
For many, yes. Princess Elizabeth of England said: “We can hardly help admitting that we live in an age of growing self-indulgence, of hardening materialism and of falling moral standards. . . . I believe there is great fear in our generation of being labeled as priggish. In consequence, people are sometimes afraid to show disapproval of what they know to be wrong.” Prior to this Sir Stafford Cripps had told a conference that the “moral background of our community life has become very dim and is sometimes almost obscured”. Senator Robert Taft of the United States, in an article deploring the decline of political morality, recalled a statement that “the decline of integrity in public life has brought us into the twilight of honor”, and concluded: “Perhaps the people have lost their sense of moral integrity because their leaders have lost it, but I don’t believe so. I think it is a feeling of hopeless disgust rather than one of approval.”—Reader’s Digest, November, 1950.
As seems customary with the highly respected religious organizations of the world, only after public opinion became aroused did they find their conscience and cry out belated protests. One clergyman declared: “The slovenly and tawdry manner of conduct and conversation is an index of sloppy and shabby character. All this goes for the public press, the movies, the pictorial magazines, and the ham commentators, together with the literature of the time, all of which appear to take a satanic and moronic relish in splashing their vulgarities into the face of the public.”
Last November cleric R. J. McCracken said: “The greatest danger that faces this country is the danger of moral lassitude—liberty turned to license, rights demanded and duties shirked, the moral sense deteriorating, the traditions and standards of the nation weakened, the spiritual forces within it losing ground.” A week later in similar vein he said: “Americans often speak of Russia as atheistic. It is openly and frankly atheistic. Ought we not to ask, however, in what significant or realistic sense can we apply the name ‘Christian’ to ourselves or to our national life? . . . Is the moral tone of the nation—its politics, its business life, its literature, its theatre, its movies, its radio networks, its television stations—Christian?”
Last March a New York city rabbi said church and synagogue should be a “sting of conscience” to rulers and governments. Worldly religions are always willing to be a “sting of conscience” for others, but seldom are their consciences lively toward stinging themselves. The straws in the eyes of others stir them more than do the rafters in their own. (Matt. 7:3-5, NW) Note the Catholic reaction to the sordid corruption from gambling, recently exposed. After noting these “shocking” corruptions of public life and sports due to gambling, the American Catholic Philosophers Association whitewashed church gambling by stating: “Be it resolved that this association, while convinced that gambling is not in itself immoral, does hereby condemn gambling carried on in ways and conditions that are immoral.”
Dr. Reinhold Niebuhr, of Union Theological Seminary, recently commented in puzzlement on the moral collapse: “It is not quite clear why everything seems to have gone wrong in man’s actual history.” The Bible is clear on it, showing it to be a part of the sign of the last days of Satan’s world. (2 Cor. 4:4; 2 Tim. 3:1-5) The Bible counsel to resist temptation and shun wrongdoing at the start is practical, and one person wrote this in substance to the New York Times, then added: “There will be many who will say this is too naïve, too simple, that the matter is more complicated than that. But if it is so simple, how many of us do it? The truth is always simple; it is we who complicate it.”
Not politicians nor social workers nor clergymen will stem the moral collapse. The Bible’s remedy is the practical remedy, and practical persons will apply its simple remedies, for relief now and for permanent relief for all mankind in a new world of righteousness. Those who sigh and cry because of these immoral conditions, who recognize their spiritual need, who hunger and thirst for righteousness, will be filled and made joyful.—Ezek. 9:4; Matt. 5:3-7, NW.