When I came to the States as a naïve European student in the 60s, I thought I had died and gone to heaven. The proof? Not only did ministers play golf for free on Mondays, but many shoppers I saw at the local market check-out counter returned extra change. Nobody did that in Europe! At that time, so much of American society seemed deeply influenced by Christian morals—even Hollywood in its television shows and “family-values” advertising. In forty years a revolution has taken place.
I have stopped counting the cases of teachers (often female) accused of engaging in sexual relations with their teenage students. A general news site recently reported on the same day, three incidents, of couples copulating in public, in plain view of children! Though our politicians promise hope, change and better days to come, any moral basis for those better days appears severely compromised. Such a sorry state of affairs is no better seen than in the issue of truth-telling.
Some weeks ago, news of the Atlanta public school scandal hit the presses. One hundred seventy-eight Atlanta public school teachers and principals, from more than seventy-five percent of schools in the city were found guilty of cheating on state standardized tests from 2001 to 2009. They even held cheating “parties” to collectively alter their students’ test scores. The fraud was so pervasive and effective that between 2002 and 2009 the district’s eighth graders appeared to have the greatest overall improvement in reading in the entire nation! The Superintendent, Beverly Hall, a shining light of educational success, has been accused of destroying documents evidencing widespread, systematic cheating on standardized tests in the Atlanta Public School. To make their own resumes look good, such educators callously deceived the public, parents and, ultimately, the students themselves, denying the kids a real education.
Last week a national poll of high school students found that ninety-five percent openly admitted to cheating on school work. Many considered it no big deal.
Obviously this is not a new problem. Three thousand years ago David cried: “Help, LORD, for the godly are no more;…Everyone lies to his neighbor; their flattering lips speak with deception” (Psalm 12:1-2). Most of us have cheated on something, small or large, yet the problem is of epidemic proportions now because our culture has deliberately unshackled itself from biblical norms of morality and has swallowed the lie that truth is power and that we can choose our truth for our own personal advantage.
Cheating is a practical sign of how deeply pagan One-ism has penetrated mainstream culture in just a generation or two. If there is no ultimate Two-ist reality that distinguishes between honesty and deceit, between the truth and the lie, then the pagan solution for life, the so-called “joining of the opposites,” becomes normal. As a culture, we are comfortable mixing good and evil for our own advantage.
The ancient pagan accounts of creation perceive the cosmos as emerging from an original chaos of warring gods, both good and evil. In the Babylonian “Enuma Elish” myth (18th century BC) it is the storm-god Marduk’s victory over the sea dragon Tiamat that establishes creation. In fact, these myths are a One-ist projection onto reality, for always and everywhere in pagan spirituality, the goal of One-ism is to eliminate distinctions by the joining good and evil, in the mystical experience of the conjunctio oppositorum (joining the opposites). The human race shares the divine essence expressed in the founding myths. Since joining evil and good brought reality into existence, human manipulation of good and evil will produce the final earthly utopia. Alas, this relativizing of good and evil turns the real chaos of an objectively troubled conscience into a virtual state of One-ist “guiltless bliss.”
Not so in Genesis. Creation is the result of God speaking forth His own good will, unforced by any external power, with things carefully distinguished, each after its kind, and then calling the results of His work “good.” Evil has no part in His creating activity. The good is not the blending of good and evil and there is no “spiritual” integration of good and evil to eliminate all cultural, sexual and theological distinctions. Satan’s lie is precisely to suggest that evil is an integral part of reality to be manipulated for one’s own good. In Scripture evil is a mysterious interloper that must be and is defeated. The new creation’s utopia preserves “difference in unity,” as the result of a genuine divine dealing with evil at the cross of Christ, producing a real, objective reconciliation between God and creatures, each still after its own kind. God remains God and we human beings remain creatures, but can now be forgiven and transformed, in whose mouths, by grace, “no lie is found, for they are blameless” (Revelation 14:5).