Why Not Choose Decency?[1]

Robert L. Waggoner

Over the past fifty years Biblical values have sharply declined in our society while humanistic values have increased dramatically. Since the early 1950s there has been a proliferation of pornography, an increase of explicit sexual vulgarity in musical lyrics, an acceleration of profanity in speech, and a dramatic rise in all sorts of indecencies. Many Americans now seem unable to blush.

This shift in moral values caught most Christians by surprise. Moreover, the typical Christian reaction seems to be that since these humanistic values are promoted by such powerful mediums as the press, radio, television, the recording industry, movies, public schools, VCRs, etc. there’s not much an individual Christian can do. In despair, many seem to have passively thrown up their hands and resigned themselves to observation of these despicable indecencies as they pass by.

In fact, many who call themselves Christians often live no more decently than many who live by worldly standards. Such Christians need to repent. Paul told the Colossians to set their minds on things above (Colossians 3:1). He told the Philippians to think about those things which are true, noble, just, pure, lovely, and of good report (Philippians 4:8). To the Ephesians he wrote that those who are in Christ “should no longer walk as the rest of the Gentiles walk, in the futility of their mind, having their understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardening of their heart; who, being past feeling, have given themselves over to licentiousness, to work all uncleanness with greediness. But you have not so learned Christ, if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught by Him, as truth is in Jesus; that you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in righteousness and true holiness” (Ephesians 4:17-24, N-KJV).

Living decently, Christians must “have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them” (Ephesians 5:11). Jesus expects his disciples to be the light of the world and the salt of the earth (Matthew 5:13). Those who are in the kingdom of heaven must be a leavening influence upon others for good. When Christians refuse to let their light shine, God is not glorified, the world becomes rotten, and Christians themselves may be likened to counterfeit salt - good for nothing but to be walked all over. The only acceptable course of action for soldiers of Christ is to stand together and fight for righteousness and decency.

Whenever Christians oppose pornography and its corrupting influences, there are those who charge us with censorship, while others claim we are denying their freedom of speech. Moreover, Christians will often be ridiculed as narrow-minded, oppressive, incompetent, and even backward and intolerant.

To those who charge us with censorship, we reply that we have no authority to censor. We do have the right and the responsibility to persuade people against filthy pictures and obscene language, and we have the right to appeal to the goodness of our fellow citizens, that we may band ourselves together to make and enforce laws against obscenities and indecencies for the good welfare of our community. That’s not censorship, that’s good citizenship.

To those who charge us with denying freedom of speech to whomever would express themselves with obscene words and pictures, we reply that while the First Amendment does grant freedom of speech, it does not grant freedom to speak or act indecently. Obscenity is no more protected under the First Amendment than is libel or slander. Whatever ideas and concepts one desires to speak are freely permitted in a democratic society, but such should be expressed in decency and wholesomeness.

To those who ridicule Christians as narrow-minded oppressive, incompetent, backward, or intolerant, if they will listen to us we appeal to Christian history. We firmly believe that the best, most noble, virtuous, and most productive and beneficial people in the history of humanity can be shown to have been those who have followed Biblical teachings.

Because Christians want good government and decent communities in which to live, then Christians can not allow profanity, pornography, and other indecencies to continue unchecked. These things provide nothing noble, beneficial, or endearing to society. Rather, they produce evil. They corrupt manners and morals. They cause crime and vice. Where pornography and obscenity is allowed to flourish there is an increase of sexual immorality and violence. Crimes of rape, incest, prostitution, sexual abuse and molestation of children accelerate while personal safety declines.

Whenever only one person devours pornography and thereby distorts sexual reality for himself, he cannot escape the personal consequences to his own purity of character. Yet, as long as he harms no one else, his neighbors may be content to let him do as he pleases. However, whenever a large number of people in the community are consumed by pornography, they hurt not only themselves but their entire community. For its own preservation and safety, a righteous community must object to obscenities in its midst.

Our founding fathers established this republic upon the premise that a nation’s strength for self-government comes from the virtuous character of its citizens. When a community becomes more interested in protecting citizens’ rights to indulge in vice than in promoting citizenship responsibilities and virtues, then that community (or nation) is doomed to moral decay and death. Should we not seek decency therefore not only for personal purity, but also for the good of our nation?

[1]© Copyright by Robert L. Waggoner, 1991, Revised, 2000. Permission is granted to reproduce and distribute this document for non-commercial educational purposes when unaltered provided that copyright data and author’s name are given.