Redefining normal…

My 2004 Chevy Venture van’s speedometer just days ago–
when I was parked.

A few days  ago I was positively fretting because my Chevy Venture’s speedometer had gone haywire again. (See Freaky Friday for details from the first episode). But I soon decided that my speedometer was just a reflection of our culture. So why fix it?

We were in St. Augustine (which, ironically, was where I was traveling from the first time my van lost its mind), and I had gone out to run an errand. I glanced down at my speedometer and was surprised to notice I was traveling at 65 mph in a 45 mph zone. Horrified (and glancing in my rear view mirror to see if a police officer was in pursuit), I hit the brakes–and watched my speedometer increase to 75 mph as I slowed. When I stopped at the traffic light, I hit 90 mph, and by the time I parked at the grocery store, it was above 110 mph, which is when I shot the photo you see here. (It reached what I estimate to be 140 mph by the time I parked at home.)

It was positively maddening.

The last time my speedometer lost it, I had hit a rabbit miles before the problem began. This time, I had hit nothing–and yet my husband still managed to place the blame on me. Thankfully, I went online and found that this bizarre situation is an unfortunate occurrence in some Chevy vehicles. Bummer. But misery does love company, and it is always comforting to hear how others have solved the problem.

Mine included making sure my car was not in cruise control mode and turning the ignition on and off. It incrementally lowered itself by five or ten mph each time. I got it lowered to 55 before my husband drove it, and he mathematically added 55 to the speed limit to know what the speedometer should read. When I got in next, it was 45 mph in park and I thus added 45 to the speed limit. And so began our redefining of normal. Despite the inflated zero, we were able to gauge our speed, but the standard changed every time we restarted the vehicle.

But why we found this so disconcerting, I do not know. Culturally, my car is right in line with everything else. We are redefining normal all the time.

When I was in high school I wrote a paper for my Advanced Humanities class titled, “Standards: The Unmeasurable Measure.” In it I discussed the authors of the humanities and how their writings reflected “the standards of morality, religion, physical appearances, fashions of clothing, homes, and the spiritual state of family life” (Souders, 1983). I wrote, “Although many different styles and ideas make up the classics of the humanities, each work and its author offer a challenge to society by either setting higher standards or rebuking those already held” (Souders, 1983).

I would say today’s communicators–via writings, broadcasts, music, media, and even commercials–make it clear that this society is rebuking the higher standards once held in high esteem by the Judeo-Christian culture that still prevailed when I was a teen.

Though mainstream America still considers those standards as standard, we are like the proverbial frog being slowly boiled within a culture foreign to God’s truths. Too often we fail to recognize we are in the cultural stew, seasoning it with our Christian saltiness instead of leaping out of the pot. By our very inaction, we are redefining normal.

A couple of years ago, one of my juniors wrote a research paper in which he proved that each comic book reflected the culture of the time in which it was created. He traced the cultural reflection by various comic books since the 1930s, demonstrating how the characters within the comic books remain on the cutting edge of cultural change. A case in point would be the Archie comics, which introduced its first gay character in 2010, and featured a same-sex marriage and its own Occupy Riverdale this year (Cavna, 2012).

“We work in a bubble here while feeding off the climate,” says Jon Goldwater, co-chief executive editor at Archie comics. “We are not immune to what’s going on in the world and the rhetoric and the attacks that political parties are throwing at each other. … Readers deserve that we reflect some of what’s going on in society, and part of that is the political process. At Archie, we have a very strong point of view” (Cavna, 2012).

Just this past week, Chick -fil-A restaurants came under fire when its president said he supports traditional marriages. Traditional marriage between one man and one woman. The old normal. God’s standard normal as defined in the Bible. His statement has led to a series of mayors declaring vengeance on the “close-minded” chicken commerce with threats of disallowing the restaurant to set up shop within their districts. Numerous  supporters of alternate lifestyles took offense and intend to take action with their pocketbooks. (Numerous supporters of free speech took offense at those supporters and intend to take action with their pocketbooks as well.) But really? All this attention because a person took a stand for what God intended for marriage? How has our society gotten so far from God’s standards that those who cling to them are at risk of a public lashing?

Of course, the sanctity of marriage is just one of God’s tenants being encroached on by today’s society. we celebrate fornication as the new norm for heterosexual dating relationships or even casual dating encounters. We put Planned Parenthood offices inside our public schools and offer condoms on lollipop sticks. We barely blink when couples bear children outside of the marriage commitment. We murder and get off on technicalities. We lie, we cheat, we drink, we overeat, we disrespect our parents, we ignore our children, we litter…

In short, we place ourselves at the center of our lives–do what feels right to us–rather than fearing the God who made us and putting Him at the center of all we do.

Interestingly, on Friday night, I watched a broadcast on Fox in which John Stossel explored the “Science of Cheating” with author Dan Ariely, who wrote The Honest Truth About Dishonesty. In the broadcast Ariely discussed various experiments he completed in which he explored the conditions and extent to which people would cheat, given the opportunity. Most people willingly skewed the truth a little bit; some skewed it a lot. But toward the end of the segment, Ariely said they found one circumstance in which no one cheated: Prior to giving the test, the participants were asked to recall the Ten Commandments. Even though few could recall them correctly, it seemed that just thinking about the moral standard expelled the desire to cheat. Not a single participant cheated. (Click here to view the video; the segment about the Ten Commandments begins at 7:45.) It was an amazing result. Amazing that just thinking of God’s standards affected behavior positively. (Cheating is still negative, isn’t it?) Why is this idea that putting God’s unchanging standards in our hearts and minds to direct our behavior so novel? So offensive?

We live in a society that is constantly redefining normal farther and farther from God’s truth.

A speedometer that causes me to redefine normal every time I restart the car causes me great consternation (although it sharpens the math side of my brain).

But living in a society that not only fails to uphold God’s standards but attacks those who try to do so causes me great grief.

I don’t like it. And I don’t think I’m alone.

What are we going to do about it?

P.S. I took the liberty of treating some parts of my own copy as quotations just to break up the lengthy text and make this post more visually appealing. (Plus, I’m sure I’m quotable at those points, don’t you?)  🙂

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References:

Associated Press. “Chick-fil-A sandwiches become a political symbol | Fox News.” Fox News – Breaking News Updates | Latest News Headlines | Photos & News Videos. Fox News, 12 July 1927. Web. 28 July 2012. <http://www.foxnews.com/us/2012/07/27/chick-fil-sandwiches-become-political-symbol/&gt;.

“BibleGateway.com: A searchable online Bible in over 100 versions and 50 languages..” BibleGateway.com: A searchable online Bible in over 100 versions and 50 languages.. N.p., n.d. Web. 29 July 2012. <http://www.biblegateway.com&gt;.

Cavna, Michael. “Comics introducing gay characters – Chicago Tribune.” Featured Articles From The Chicago Tribune. Chicago Tribune, 12 May 1929. Web. 28 July 2012. <http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2012-05-29/site/ct-ent-0530-comics-gay-20120529_1_archie-comics-jon-goldwater-comic-convention&gt;.

Fox News. “Stossel Show with John Stossel.” Fox News. N.p., 27 July 2012. Web. 28 July 2012. <www.foxbusiness.com/on-air/stossel/index.html#/v/1756843822001/the-science-of-cheating/?playlist_id=87530>.

Souders, Sara J. “Standards: The Immeasurable Measure.” Sarasota High School. Advanced Humanities. Period 4. Mrs. Repulski.  1983/03/16 (Yes, I still have all 22 pages of it, complete with footnotes, typed on my Underwood manual typewriter.)

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