Elvis: Pushing the Envelope

The new Elvis Presley biopic made me think.  Early in the movie, Colonel Tom Parker, played by Tom Hanks, says that the acts that made the most money were ones “that gave the audience feelings they weren’t sure they should enjoy, but they do.”  Then the film focuses on the controversial gyrations that drove the girls crazy and made many people upset and uncomfortable as “The King” began his rise to stardom.  Now we laugh because those dance moves that seemed so edgy in the 1950s seem so tame by today’s standards.  This is not a new phenomenon.

Every generation, you hear the older people complaining that the younger generation is worse than theirs was.  “Kids today,” they often grumble.  The popular culture explains this by saying that old people are stuck in their ways and overly critical of the younger generation.  The media may say that the younger generations are not really that rebellious or bad, because the older generation was also seen as rebellious and bad by the generation before them.  Have you ever considered that maybe, instead of each generation being old, stodgy, and self-absorbed, that actually they are right?  Each generation really is worse than the last, because they have to one-up the previous generation by pushing the envelope further than their parents.  Yes, no generation is perfect and they all have a rebellious streak, but that does not mean that younger generations are morally equivalent to older ones.  Just because Elvis shaking his hips on stage was rebellious and controversial in the 50s, that does not mean that it is morally equivalent to Cardi B singing “Wet Ass Pussy” today.  Can we please bring back the innocence of generations past?

The worrisome part about this is that the envelope has already been pushed so far that it is hard to imagine what somebody can do next that will actually shock anybody.  The Beatles’ long hair is certainly not controversial anymore.  Drug references in lyrics that shocked people in the 60s and 70s are old news.  Maybe it would take it to a higher level if someone bit the head off of a bat onstage?  Nope.  Ozzy Osbourne already did that in 1982.  Remember when Justin Timberlake exposed Janet Jackson’s breast in front of over 100 million viewers on live television at Super Bowl XXXVIII?  That was way back in 2004.  I fear that celebrities will become so desperate for attention in the coming years that we will see some disgusting acts being done to gain notoriety.

Will we soon see live sex acts on stage?  Will our entertainment revert back to feeding Christians to lions in front of cheering audiences?  Are we going to see The Hunger Games play out in real life?  We seem to be heading in that direction.  The good news is that there is now another way to cause controversy and gain attention.  Simply do and say good things that were once considered normal and mainstream.  As the Bible says, when people rebel from God, they begin to call evil good, and good evil.  It is definitely happening.  Think about the things that actually are considered shocking and controversial today: 

  • In June, five Tampa Bay Rays pitchers were attacked by the mainstream press and “woke” social media pundits for opting not to wear rainbow “Pride Night” logos on their uniforms.  You do not even have to go back to my parents’ generation for when this stance would have been applauded.  Now it is counter-culture. 
  • Harry Potter author, J.K. Rowling started a firestorm of controversy when she criticized the use of the term “people who menstruate” instead of women.  She also committed the unforgivable sin of tweeting her support for a woman who had been fired for saying that “men cannot change into women.”  I am pretty sure that Elvis could have said that without causing a stir.
  • Actor Chris Pratt (Jurassic World, The Terminal List) has been disparaged as “the worst Chris in Hollywood” for his public professions of Christian faith.  What a Hollywood bad boy, huh?  Personally, I think being a Christian is the best way to be a rebel because it also gets you into Heaven.
  • If you really want to be an outcast, choose not to get what is called a Covid-19 vaccine, even though it does not prevent you from getting or spreading Covid-19.  This is the most discriminated against group in America for the past couple of years (with one possible exception).  They have been banned from many places, and some have even lost their jobs.  They are controversial not for anything they did, but instead for not subjugating themselves to their overlords.
  • When it comes to controversial athletes, former baseball star Curt Schilling is near the top of the list.  He was fired from ESPN in 2015 for tweeting “A man is a man regardless of what they name themselves.  Male bathrooms were created with the penis in mind; female bathrooms were not.  Is it now necessary to have laws to teach us otherwise?  Pathetic.”  To any previous generation, that comment would not only be acceptable, but obvious.  Now it is a fireable offense and has even been used to keep Schilling out of the Baseball Hall of Fame.
  • Actress Gina Carano was famously fired from Disney’s, The Mandalorian, for taking the provocative position that she should not have to ask to be called “she,” since she is obviously a woman.  Apparently, calling a boy “he,” or a girl “she,” is now edgy.  Charlie Sheen had to work a lot harder than that to get fired from a hit show.
  • The one possible exception mentioned above as the most discriminated group in America are supporters of President Trump.  The backlash that Elvis got for dancing is nothing compared to what you can expect if you say you agree with President Trump.  If you support his policies that brought us a booming economy, less government interference in our lives, and four years of peace (including unprecedented peace agreements in the Middle East), you can expect to be attacked more viciously than an opposing sports star in Philadelphia. 

It is terrible that these things are now controversial, but there is one positive thing about it.  Entertainers want attention.  In the past, they had to come up with more and more outlandish and crazy gimmicks than we had previously seen to get that attention.  Now, all they have to do is espouse solid, traditional values, and wait for the media firestorm.

Again, this is not new.  When reading the Bible straight through, the Old Testament prophets were the hardest parts to get through because they were so repetitive that it got boring.  They were all the same thing.  Israel would turn from God and pull further and further away from Him.  He would warn them through prophets, and most of the time they would ignore the warnings and push His patience even more.  Eventually, God said that enough was enough and allowed Israel to be defeated and the people to be scattered into exile.  We are in that same spiral of self-destruction that the Israelites were in.  Each generation seems to push their rebellion a little further than the last.  We have had our modern-day prophets warning us to turn back to our morals and values of the past.  Dennis Prager, Rush Limbaugh, William F. Buckley, and others have warned us about the decay of our values and societal norms of earlier generations.  If America does not heed these warnings and keeps pushing the boundaries, we will soon run out of room to push and we will end up as Israel did. 

There is one last thing I should do before I close out.  To all the old people out there, I apologize for my generation.  You were right.

Why Abortion is Hard to Talk About

With the overturning of Roe v. Wade, abortion is on everybody’s minds.  While those on the left fret that there will now be a plague of babies across the land, many on the right celebrate that our nation’s greatest evil has ended.  Neither, of course, is what the Supreme Court decided.  The decision simply says that the Constitution does not guarantee the right to an abortion, which is obviously correct.  That does not, however, outlaw abortion.  What it does is allows the states to decide their own rules on abortion.  This means that open discussion and persuading people actually matters again.  The question now is, how do we do that?

To many pro-life people, it seems so simple and obviously wrong that they forget to look at the discussion from a pro-abortion person’s worldview.  It is very difficult not to be disgusted and angry with people who think it is alright to murder a baby, but pro-lifers have to remind themselves that without God, murder is not wrong.  People who are pro-abortion do not share biblical values, and without God, those people are logical to think the way that they do.  Trying to convince them is futile because they do not believe there is a God to tell them that murder is wrong.  They do not believe there is a God who will judge them for their murders in the future.  Murder is a perfectly logical thing for them to do if they think it will make their lives better.  If a baby seems like it would be inconvenient, killing the baby makes perfect sense.  In fact, if a neighbor plays their stereo too loud at night, murdering that neighbor makes perfect sense.  If someone is competing for a job you want, murdering that person is logical.  If you find yourself in a love triangle, murdering your romantic competition is rational. 

Without God, people are just animals.  Many on the left will openly push this idea.  You see PETA equating animals with people all the time.  They have equated KFC cooking chickens to the Nazis murdering Jews in the Holocaust.  With that in mind, is it wrong if a lion kills an antelope?  Of course not.  That is just a lion trying to improve its life.  If there is no God, a human killing to improve their life is no different from a lion killing to improve theirs.  Without the shared viewpoint that human life is intrinsically more valuable than an animal’s, attempts to persuade non-believers that abortion is wrong will likely be futile.

Does this mean that we should give up on persuading people that abortion is wrong?  Not at all!  It just means that we must start with the deeper issue of what makes something right or wrong in the first place.  The first chapter of my book, The God Bet, goes into this very issue in depth.  It makes the point that if we do not start from the same foundation of morality, it is very unlikely that we will ever agree on much more than that ice cream is delicious.  There is little chance of convincing someone that abortion is wrong because it is murder if that person has no basis for believing that murder is wrong.  For this reason, the most important and effective way to convince people that abortion is wrong is if we first convince them that God is real and that He created people in His image, with a purpose higher than their own personal pleasure.

Our top priority should be showing God’s love to people so that they want to follow Him, too.  If we successfully do that, we could alleviate most of the problems in our country.  It is obvious to anybody who is honest.  I would wager that weekly church attendees are underrepresented in our criminal population.  When we hear about a string of 7-11 robberies and murders like those that happened here in Southern California last month, a deacon from the local church is probably not the most likely suspect.

This does not, of course, mean that people who believe in God are perfect.  They certainly still do bad things, because by nature everyone wants to do what they feel like doing.  The difference is that people who believe in God have a reason to try to not give in to those urges.  Without God, there is not even a reason to hold back.

This is why when the topic of abortion comes up, we should not automatically jump into the immorality of the practice.  They will see it as pushing our religion on them.  They do not realize that laws against rape, theft, perjury, slander, and murder outside the womb, among others, are also pushing religious values on them.  In fact, this is why we see all these things increasing.  Without the base of our values, God, people have started to decide their own right and wrong.  For example, the rise in violence across the country is not because of guns.  It is due to the weakening of religious values in America.

We need to persuade two groups that abortion is wrong.  The first is the general public, which is necessary to get laws changed to protect the unborn.  For that, I honestly believe that religious revival is the only way to do it.  Arguing that something is wrong with people who decide their own right from wrong is a waste of time. 

Since abortion will still be legal in many places, like where I live, in California, the other group that we need to persuade is women who are pregnant and considering abortion.  This is more immediate because it can directly save lives in the moment, even if it is only one at a time.  Obviously, the best way is again to point that woman to God, but because of the urgency in the situation, where a life is on the line right then, we may have to persuade someone who does not yet believe in God.  Without that belief in God, there is only one other possible way to convince people of something.  You have to appeal to their own self-interest.  I truly believe that God tells us right from wrong not to control us, but because He loves us and doing what He says is ultimately in our own self-interest.  It will make our lives better whether we can see how or not.  Therefore, to convince somebody, we must figure out how making the correct moral decision will also be better for them intrinsically.  When looking at pregnancy, this is easy to see.  I asked on social media if any woman out there regretted their decision not to have an abortion.  Of the over 500 comments, not a single woman regretted having their baby.  So, leaving out the morality issue, we can pretty much guarantee that a woman who has a baby will be glad she did, even on a selfish level.

Remember that we Christians are not of this world.  We do have to live in it.  When we live in a pagan society, we have to keep in mind that other people do not share our values.  When the apostle Paul lived, the society was worse than it is now.  He did not conform to it, but he also did not give up on it.  He did not simply address the symptoms of sin, although he did not shy away from those topics.  He focused on sharing Jesus, because that is how the other problems can be fixed. We should try not to get overly upset with pro-abortion people, because they don’t know any better.  They decide their own right and wrong.  We are on a higher level than them, so expecting them to live at our level is unrealistic.  By all means, keep trying to change the laws, because lives are at stake.  The way to do it is by showing that we have a God who loves us.  Once more people realize that, the rest can be more easily remedied.

We cannot bring people to God by fixing our nation’s problems.  We must fix our nation’s problems by bringing people to God.