‘The terrible downward spiral of our nation’s moral standards’

‘The terrible downward spiral of our nation’s moral standards’ August 6, 2012

Christian Piatt quotes from another of the recent statements purportedly from Billy Graham, a fundraising letter that included this paragraph:

Some years ago, my wife, Ruth, was reading the draft of a book I was writing. When she finished a section describing the terrible downward spiral of our nation’s moral standards and the idolatry of worshiping false gods such as technology and sex, she startled me by exclaiming, “If God doesn’t punish America, He’ll have to apologize to Sodom and Gomorrah.”

Piatt notes that the evidence for this “terrible downward spiral of our nation’s moral standards” is quite selective, considering, to pick just one of many examples:

A couple of generations ago, African-Americans and other people of color were oppressed, segregated and violence against them was largely tolerated, if not sanctioned.

The illusion of a “terrible downward spiral of our nation’s moral standards” isn’t easy to sustain unless one is so immensely privileged as not to have benefited from (or participated in the struggle for) the vast improvements in civil rights and material well-being that have come just in my own lifetime.

I think what ventriloquist Franklin Graham is saying there about a downward spiral reflects the anxiety that Dave Policar described here the other day in an insightful response to the Fred Phelps post below:

Increasingly, saying hateful things about queers is becoming socially unacceptable, which is removing our ability to say such things with impunity.

Those of us who want fewer hateful things to be said about queers correctly recognize this as an increase in options that we value. Those who want more hateful things to be said about queers correctly recognize this as the loss of options that they value.

… They want to say (and do) hateful things about (and to) me and people like me, and they want to do so with impunity and social support. Increasingly, their ability to do that is being constrained, and they resent it. Again, that isn’t a constitutional issue, and those who claim it is are mistaken/confused/lying, but there really is a loss of privileges there. They’re not wrong about that.

Whether they are privileges that any decent human being would want to have, is admittedly a whole different issue.

That helps to clarify, I think, why the pampered and privileged spend so much time fretting about their supposedly endangered rights. Their rights are secure, but their privilege is being constrained — or at least they’re losing the aspect of that privilege that has heretofore allowed them to mistreat others who have not enjoyed the same rights.

That helps me understand how it is that someone could look at the immense moral progress of the last half a century and see instead a “terrible downward spiral.”

I’d have understood that sooner if they’d have just been clearer and had explicitly said what it is they’re really upset about — all these uppity women, black folks, gays and infidels walking around as though they were equal citizens.

But then, they can no longer blithely assume social support for such views — and therefore can no longer just openly say such things explicitly. And that — the inability to talk like that with impunity — is a big part of what they mean by a downward spiral.

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