The developing scandal at the Los Angeles School District’s Miramonte Elementary School is troubling news on many fronts, but the most troubling aspect of the news is evidently accelerating decay of public trust.
Last week the school district as blindsided by what is now a triple scandal. Everyone is aghast at the crimes themselves. Teachers and parents are angry at the administration’s desperate attempt to restore parental trust by displacing every teacher and staffer at the school. Taxpayers will be billed for the immense costs associated with both the problem and the proposed solution. Some point to the administration’s failure to deal with prior complaints against the teachers. Others place a large portion of blame on the unions that have fought so one-sidedly for teacher protections that
“Current union rules make it nearly impossible to fire bad teachers. Both of the accused men have been racking up complaints of sexual misconduct against their own students for decades, but each one was brushed under the rug and students were transferred rather than fire the teacher.
But the root of the problem goes deeper, far deeper.
The underlying challenge is that, while we are forced to trust people from time to time, people are inherently corruptible. We trust our government to men and women who cannot be completely trusted. We live amongst neighbors without being able to absolutely trust them. People evidence their limited trust when they make pre-nuptial agreements. Now, it is true that we do not completely distrust everyone, but we often cannot fully trust even our closest relations. Incest, domestic violence, abortion, theft from elderly parents, and patricide demonstrate this lack of trustworthiness in the nearest of kin, who really ought to be most trustable. Still, we find ways to cope with the reality that no one on earth is perfectly trustworthy so that we can live and function in this fallen world without become utterly isolated.
One of our ways of coping is that we discourage temptations. We hide our valuables. We lock our doors. We use signatures, passwords, PINs, locks, hiding places, oaths, threats of legal action, and secrecy to protect our interests against injury from—anybody. Mother and father don’t give unlimited financial access to their children. We ask about the character and family of each of our children’s friends. We make our children tell us where they are going and make sure they come back by an hour we deem proper. With a proper jealousy, we would tell our spouse, “No you may not spend all your free time with your new best friend ‘who just happens to be’ a person of the opposite sex.” Our approach to this aspect of life can be summed up in the proverb “Fences make good neighbors.” We establish boundaries and hold ourselves and others on the proper side of each of those boundaries.
So much for our private lives; our public lives are frequently the opposite. We take a libertine approach to public life. It’s not merely that we think law should not “impose morality”, we think public discourse should also not “impose morality”. In the main, society grants that a family can live morally if it chooses to; but too many think that such a family should be very careful to avoid speaking in a way that might make someone feel like we were judging them. Families, if they try to influence others to rise to a higher standard of morality, are condemned by those who insist that morality, like religion, has no place in the public square.
For some, the enmity to “traditional” ethical norms is even stronger. They turn things upside down. They “call evil good, and good evil; [they] put darkness for light, and light for darkness; [they] put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!” (Isaiah 5:20). Some tell us that homosexuality is good because it does not produce children—they see having children as a bad thing. Sex within marriage (except perhaps homosexual unions) is called slavery or prostitution; sex outside of marriage is advocated, for children, as a healthy part of growing up and, for grownups, a sensible way of getting to know if a couple is compatible well before either person should complicate things with the M word. Often, these people consider prostitution to be a perfectly reasonable commercial arrangement. I distinctly remember being scolded on one occasion, “Leave your wife alone!” when I shared what I thought was good news that we were expecting another child. He called good evil. The scolder was one who would have high-fived an unmarried man in the office that had “scored” over the weekend, thus calling evil good. This sort of people turns morality upside down. The Bible warns us “that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts” (2 Peter 3:3), so none of this should shock us. Sadness us? Yes. Shock us? No.
But these grievous problems develop into a rapidly spreading, deadly cancer when Christians buy into the premises of these wicked ethical systems. When Christians think that it is OK for Christian teens to dress lewdly, for them to use and listen to filthy language, and for them to watch movies with “steamy” scenes; when we think it’s OK for them to act the part of a homosexual in a high school musical filled with sexual innuendo; when we sow the fallen world’s amoral premise, then society reaps a bounteous harvest of immorality. It is not the world’s anti-proselytizing that by itself causes such massive, rapid decay; it is the church’s apostatizing that provides the dreadful efficiency.
Churches hastened this generation’s astonishing slide to Sodom when churches told the world that the Bible does not really mean that homosexuality is wrong. Church leaders said that anti-homosexual remarks in the Bible were conditioned to the culture from which they were made and that they are no longer relevant because our culture views these things differently. Christians told the world that it does not matter what the bible says; the bible is not relevant; the bible is not even true. It was Pilate who first famously retorted “What is truth?” A chorus continues that hellish refrain—accompanied by the church choir.
I am told endlessly, not just by non-Christians but also by Christians (or at least those who profess to be Christians), that we need to face reality: “Our kids are going to do it [drunkenness, drugs, sex, or some other vice], so we may as well face the facts.” Then we (some of us, anyway) give our children advice merely on how to avoid pregnancy. We are pleased when schools give children condoms so that they can have “safe sex”. When Christians deny that parents ought to teach their children right from wrong, much less to expect righteous behavior, we have a serious problem. The worldly are always “progressive” with morality, always pushing the limits of public decency; the world’s desire for a upside view of moral progress is not the worst of the matter. What is far more devastating is Christians legitimizing these corrosive new moralities by saying that it is OK.
Moral decay never stops with the next step. If you permit public broadcasters to take the Lord’s name in vain, they will soon treat you to Howard Sterns’ gutter-mouth (he was potty-mouthed on the public airwaves long before he moved to satellite radio) and Janet Jackson’s so-called wardrobe malfunction (the FCC fined her heavily, but somehow she anticipated that the stunt would either be overlooked or would be more profitable than any fine). If you let them legalize abortion, they will soon force you to pay for it. If you let them legalize homosexual unions, they will condemn a student for bullying who writes an editorial for the school paper opposing adoption by homosexual couples. And barring God’s intervention, things will get worse. But do not blame the world for this. Who were the most effective early cheerleaders for the homosexual agenda? Churches. We must blame ourselves. We stopped reading the Bible; we stopped believing the Bible; we stopped living our lives according to the Bible. We stopped being salt and light to a wicked and perverse generation. “For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God” (1 Peter 4:17a).
American society on the whole (and West Coast society in particular) embrace all manner of immorality saying that it is OK. Some Californians seem to think that sex can be safely used in almost any manner between consenting adults. They are dead wrong. Sexual activity beyond its proper bounds has a powerful tendency to corrupt. And this scandal is just one more example of the powerfully destructive nature of illicit sex. We need to prosecute these accused perpetrators in the L.A. school system to the full extent that justice demands. But if all we do is prosecute perps, we will soon be overwhelmed with more and worse. We need to also repair the breach in our society that generates—and will continue to generate—more and more violators and that at an alarmingly increasing rate.
We cannot expect the nation to be more righteous than the church. The people of God need to follow our Shepherd. And we need to stop following the wolves.