I don’t think I’ve blogged one single controversial topic in all the thousands of words I’ve written, but I am about to.
My goal isn’t to attack anyone; my goal is to point out how a small, seemingly benign comment can be swallowed whole without so much as a tiny clarifying cough if a person hears an assertion repeated enough. In other words, people seem to corroborate the old joke, “If I read it in a magazine or see it on Oprah, it must be true.” If talking heads parrot any opinion, the idea begins to sound like a widely-known and accepted fact. Words are powerful; they can shape a society, and that’s why I’m hitting the brakes on a comment I heard last Saturday.
A little background: In 2005, New York Times journalist Kurt Eichenwald published an award-winning expose about online child pornography. You may recognize Eichenwald’s name from his appearance on Oprah, where he educated parents about protecting their children from what he has called “the bowels of hell.”
With Eichenwald’s assistance, the Justice Department has identified nearly 1,500 adults guilty of perusing these illegal sites. Undoubtedly, Eichenwald’s work as a journalist and consequent actions a children’s advocate is to be highly commended.
On August 26, 2006, on the National Public Radio program entitled On the Media, Eichenwald spoke compellingly about how his own emotional health suffered during the research for this article due to the perversity of the subject.
However, Eichenwald made one contradictory statement that haunts me. The transcript hasn’t been posted yet, but when it is, you can read his exact words here: On the Media.
In effect, Eichenwald responded to a question about the adults who victimize children online by saying that he almost felt sorry for them. The interviewer, Bob Garfield, immediately asked Eichenwald to clarify, and Eichenwald then said that he was sure that most of the guilty adults would not have chosen this sordid life for themselves but somehow ended up in this precarious situation.
Talk about red flags going up—I had flares going off and sirens blaring.
Where have I heard this assertion before? Where have I heard it?
Within seconds I knew. I’m sure you’ve heard it, too.
The extended version goes something like this, “Who in his right mind would choose this way of life when he knows that to expose the truth will ostracize him from family, friends, and even the church? Who would want to make himself a target and enemy to much of the public? No one. No one would choose this. It is an inborn, natural tendency about which there is no equivocating, and no escaping.”
I have tried to share with my children the ways the world has changed from the time I was born, 1962, until now. Aside from advances in medicine and technology, societal norms have changed, as well, and behaviors that were taboo when I was a child are now considered acceptable to many—to those who adhere to the argument in the paragraph above.
“Keep your eye on the standard,” I tell them, “not on the talking heads, the lab coats and the movie stars.”
Several years ago, I predicted that once the first taboo becomes blasé and unglamorous, the next one will have to be breached. I believe the next will be pedophilia or bestiality—not that anyone would choose an aberrant lifestyle, of course; we all know it’s genetically irresistible.
When John Mark Karr was the hub of media attention last week, a reporter asked a man who knew Karr when Karr was married to a thirteen year old girl if he thought the marriage was odd. He replied, “It was their business.”
We are quickly descending to the place where all intimate activity will be private business; nothing will be illegal, nothing immoral. For years, people have been arguing, “You can’t legislate morality,” which may be the stupidest maxim ever uttered.
A few weeks ago, I came upon a late-night television comedy whose crass humor is geared toward men, although I do not believe all men would find this humor funny. Anyway, the sketch was about a man in bed with a chimpanzee. I could not believe what I was seeing; he was mimicking copulation with the animal. I thought I would be sick. The man seemed so perverse that I almost felt offended for the animal.
I can see the trend coming round again: first it’s the crass joke, then it’s a “scientific” study, then it’s a cause celebre, then it’s a matter of choosing sides, then it’s a matter of societal division, accusations of intolerance from both sides, and finally, disintegration.
We have been told—“Every kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and every city or household divided against itself will not stand.”
Yesterday, our foundation trembled; today it shakes; and tomorrow, it may sink. But . . . as long as there is a remnant of people who lift up the standard that hung on a cross to save us from ourselves, there is hope.