Real Stuff My Dad Says 72: “Culture’s Ever-Changing Standards”

Real Stuff My Dad Says 72: “Culture’s Ever-Changing Standards” February 14, 2015


Between my baseball teams, my brother’s teams, and my dad’s softball teams, my family spent countless hours around the baseball diamond as I grew up. After all those innings, my dad instilled in me an undying love for the game. I even love the most ridiculous minutiae of baseball such as situational defenses, pitch selections, rarely instituted rules and even field dimensions.

For instance, on any regulation field (Little League withstanding), exactly 90 feet spans from one base to the next and precisely 60 feet, 6 inches between the pitcher’s rubber and the edge of home plate. Speaking of home plate, it’s always an exact pentagon, 17 inches wide. Without these exact dimensions, the bare necessities of the game (balls, strikes, out versus safe) fall apart.

Interestingly enough, there are allowances made when it comes to the outfield. The distance from home to the right and left field corners, as well as between the corners spanning from deep center field are all subject to “house rules” and can vary from field to field.

One might say that baseball is full of “Relative Standard”, or standardized dimensions that may change from time to time or place to place.

What my dad has taught me is that this same principle exists in our everyday lives and in our relationships. I mean, who’s to say that twelve inches is a foot, three items are a few, or that Motivational Posters are inspiring?

In fact, most people go from day to day without considering the plethora of rules, standards, or values that we all adhere to – without even thinking about them.

Some examples: It’s a standard rule that we don’t drive through a red light. The consequences of breaking this rule could be devastating. So we all agree, without even consciously thinking about it, to follow this rule.

There’s actually a National Office of Weights and Measures that sets uniform regulations regarding exactly how long a foot, yard, mile, ounce and pound are.

Likewise, there is a standard that explicitly lays out how to measure wrongdoings between individuals, between groups of people, and between people and God.

It’s called the Bible.

The Bible – God’s word – lays out what sin is.

What’s increasingly tough is that the word around us keeps telling us that the Bible is an outdated and irrelevant standard.

But, we can see that just like the red light rule, without a standard that we all agree on, there is chaos.

Getting back to baseball, if one team decided that instead of using a 90-foot basepath, they changed it to 95 feet between bases, then the dynamics of how each game is played would be changed dramatically. Again, there would be chaos… in a baseball sense, at least.

Globally, there are certain standards that we all have decided that we live by in order to avoid chaos. Everyone agrees that red lights mean stop and green lights mean go. Everyone agrees that it’s wrong to murder someone else, steal someone else’s stuff or lie about someone in order to selfishly satisfy your own desires.

But, where do most of these standards come from? Even my dad thought, for many years, that these rules were just always there. Most people don’t even give any thought to the origins of these standards ever in their lives. We just live by them.

But the truth is that they are rooted in the Bible. Specifically, the Ten Commandments. These ten basic rules to life start out with the fact that there is one God and everything from truth to morals to our very existence stems from Him. Then they get more specific, “meddling” into our lives, saying that we need to honor our parents and ancestors, we are not allowed to murder one another, we can’t have sex with other people’s spouses, we can’t steal stuff that doesn’t belong to us, we can’t lie about each other, nor can we want something to the point of seeking to take away an down something that belongs to another person without regard for the rights of others.

Without these – chaos.

Back to baseball again: if a runner runs “safely” 95 feet from first base and gets tagged, he is – by rule of the game – OUT. If he had only run 90 feet, he would be standing safely on second base. However, just because he independently decided to vary the length of the basepath does not entitle him the ability to overrun the base and still be safe. The dude is out. That’s the rule – the standard agreed upon by everyone who plays baseball around the world.

The problems come when we translate this situation to life off the ballfield. When it comes to the red light rule, everyone is agreed that red means stop. But what if they are making a right turn? What if the light is a blinking red? Is there wiggle room that might vary the hard-and-fast rule of coming to a full and complete stop at a red light?

And, if there is wiggle room in regards to something as simple and universal as a stoplight, then it should be no surprise that people all around the world are looking for negotiating room in regards to even the most basic of tenants of murder, adultery, theft, perjury, or coveting.

You see, when the standards that used to be very universal within our culture – the do’s and don’ts of day-to-day life – are constantly challenged or even compromised, then we are eventually left with chaos.

Now, of course, there’s another side to this coin.

Back to baseball: once upon a time, only whites were allowed to play major league baseball. It may have been an “unwritten rule”, but the truth was, no minorities were allowed in the bigs. Then, in 1947, Jackie Robinson and the Brooklyn Dodgers changed all that. There were some who screamed in protest, “You’re changing the entire game as we know it!!” And there were other brave individuals who replied, “You’re darn right we’re changing it! We’re making it the way it should have been all along.” And here we are, nearly 70 years later and there’s not a single person who wouldn’t agree that integration was the right decision to be made. This, along with the adoption of the World Series, even inter-league play or the infield-fly-rule have all been changes to the game over the years that have made baseball better. So, we’re not saying that all change is bad. There is almost always room for improvement.

Likewise, when it comes to our society, there have been changes made (civil rights, women’s rights, the ADA, or even dating back to the basic freedoms of speech, free assembly, religion and right to keep and bear arms – good things have happened when good change was put in place.

But, is there a point where we move from making things better to completely “throwing out the rulebook”?

This all ties into a story that was recently in the papers regarding the former Atlanta Fire Chief Kelvin Cochran who lost his job because of what he wrote in his book, “Who Told You That You Were Naked”. After self-publishing the book, the Georgia Voice cited two passages from the book, which refers to homosexuality as unclean, inappropriate, vile and vulgar. Cochran was ultimately fired because Cochran’s comments eroded Mayor Kasim Reed’s confidence in the chief. “Every single employee under the fire chief’s command deserves the certainty that he or she is a valued member of the team and that fairness and respect guide employment decisions,” Reed said.

Yet, Cochran, and many of his supporters look at the situation through a somewhat different lens, as opposed to simply arguing the legitimacy of homosexuality. Cochran recently was quoted saying, “One thing we should not have to sacrifice are the freedoms inherit in our great nation: free speech and freedom of religion.”

To my dad, this resembles the old Hans Christian Anderson tale, “The Emperor’s New Clothes”. In the story, there was something universally wrong occurring, but everyone (except one brave boy) was so afraid of offending the Emperor, no one said a thing. Then the silence transformed into outright endorsements, culminating to the point of nearly everyone adopting the mindset that anyone who saw the situation for what it was, was actually wrong.

Dad views Cochran’s situation as nearly identical. Here was a guy who expressed his own beliefs, on his own time, in a self-published book. He then lost his livelihood because his beliefs go against the changing values of society. And, while the culture is waving the banner of tolerance, what really happened was Cochran was notified that if he was not tolerant of society’s change, then society would not tolerate Cochran – or his beliefs.

Whatever happened to the age-old idiom, “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it”?

And secondly, how are we supposed to live by society’s standards if the rules are constantly and swiftly changing?

According to my dad, if we absolutely remove society’s standards of the Ten Commandments, then chaos will inevitably take hold. So, if we take it to less of an extreme and simply say that society adjusts these standards to fit within modern sensibilities, then, in actuality, we are still heading toward chaos. The standards are set there for a reason, and have been set there for thousands of years amongst all successful societies. The cultures that failed have historically been the ones who abandoned or perverted these standards.

You see, God included certain standards in His Word for us to live by. When someone stand against these standards and says that they are wrong, then what they have effectively done is elevate themselves to a level above (or at the very least equal to) God. On an ironic note, this is exactly what happened to Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, just before God asked them, “Who told you that you were naked?”

Dad’s bottom line is that if we, as a society, lose our grip on our standards and continually slide the scales in order to adjust to people’s ever-changing opinions and sensibilities, then our society will lose more than its moral compass, but its sustainability altogether.

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