October 21, 1997
Nearly 18 years ago (now nearly 40 years ago), shocking statistics in southern California said one in four women would be sexually assaulted. More recent statistics quoted in an Ann Landers column report the result of a poll asking teenagers about their opinion of rape.
This poll says that when eleven to fourteen year-olds were asked about forced sex, 41% of the girls said it is acceptable “if the boy spent a lot of money” on the girls. Asked if it is okay for a man to rape a woman if she had past sexual experience, 32% of the girls said yes, rape is okay in that situation. Forty-seven per cent said rape is okay if the couple has been dating for more than six months. In all three questions, the percentages were higher from the boy’s answers.
Ann’s comment was: “We must do a better job of sex education at home. We must teach our children to respect each other.”
Behind this appalling lack of respect is a slippage from traditional value systems. Virtues like honesty, loyalty or self-control are no longer as important as making money (even if it means cheating or lying). Many modern youth are more concerned with being “personally fulfilled” than they are with taking responsibility for how they treat other people.
Beginning with the industrial revolution and mass production, our society was introduced to a throw-away materialism. Consumers can easily “buy another one” so why bother taking care of whatever can easily be replaced? Disrespect for material things seems to cross over to relationships. Why stay married? Or tolerate anyone? Simply replace them with a newer model.
During WWII, women had to join the work force, inadvertently bringing another value change. Children were raising themselves or left with paid care givers. After the need ended, the trend continued. Many youngsters grow up taking for granted that making a good living is more important than sacrificing material things to raise your own children.
Another added pressure on respect came when someone decided “God is dead.” Human pride easily picks up the idea that virtue depends on us, not a Superior Being. By accepting this no-God theory, we are discovering that human virtue is not as strong as we think. In fact, the Bible clearly states than anyone who abandons trust in God, even if they are wearing a clerical collar or singing in the choir, will eventually give in to selfishness and disrespect for others.
We need God to care about people. The Bible tells us, “His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desire.”
In other words, in Christ, God gives us all we need to love and respect one another. No one has to give in to power-hungry violence, nor agree that it is okay. Instead, we can care for each other.
But this is not automatic. Although God offers these virtues, we need to believe and trust Him. We also need to “add to our faith” goodness, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness and love. While the word “respect” is not in the list, it is certainly implied as part of these other virtues.
We cannot go back to pre-industrial days nor abandon current technologies. We likely will not return to a one bread-winner family structure. However, we can return to God. We can humble ourselves before Him and admit we are in grave danger. We need His power to live lives of virtue and respect. Without it, those dreadful statistics will continue to hurt us and our children.