The River of Culture

Whether you have cuddly little preschool girls who are toddling around your house or budding young adults about to leave the nest, it is very important to understand how the culture is influencing their developing hearts and minds. We should never underestimate its force, which is like a powerful river that carries everything downstream with it. You can and must help your youngsters avoid being swept by the current into unknown waters. Protecting them from its ravages is far easier when they are young, of course—it becomes increasingly more difficult with the passage of time. That is why a primary goal of parenting should be to introduce your children to moral and spiritual values during the early years. These underpinnings will help keep them afloat when the floodwaters come in the spring.

Let's talk about that challenge. In years gone by, the River of Culture was a gentle stream that carried children along toward adulthood. Most of my friends and I made the journey with hardly a ripple. Today, parents are aware that the quiet waters have become like the raging Colorado River crashing through the Grand Canyon. There are numerous places where the rapids threaten to drown those whose rafts are not piloted by an experienced oarsman.

Many of today's teens are experiencing a river that flooded its banks in the sixties and seventies, long before this generation was born. That's when a sexual and social revolution inundated the Western world. Overnight, a leftist ideology swept over the landscape and convinced the younger generation that if it felt good, they should certainly do it and that there were no unpleasant consequences for defying time-honored standards of right and wrong. God supposedly died in 1966,1 and a questionable psychologist named Timothy Leary (some comedians called him "Really Leery") told young people to "turn on, tune in, and drop out."2 I was there on a university campus, and I saw the impact of Leary's terrible advice firsthand. Though I was young, it alarmed and offended me.

Now, decades later, we're witnessing the effects of that revolution. Marriage as an institution has been devastated, more than 50 million babies have been aborted,3 violence has shot skyward, sexually transmitted diseases are rampant, and drug abuse still abounds. Yet few contemporary journalists have been willing to admit that something went terribly wrong in those days when caution, convention, and morality were thrown overboard. Do you think?

Those revolutionaries who set out to "change the world" so long ago were highly influential in their time, and in fact, they have had an enduring impact on the River. Most of their names have been forgotten, and some of their antics are laughable today. (Ask someone who lived in that era about the "bra burners" of the late 1960s.) But the passionate beliefs and convictions from the revolution have not only survived, they actually remain ensconced today within politically correct thought. Here's a version of these ideas that the River has carried down to today's adolescent society.

  • Early sexual experience is healthy, and for girls, leads to empowerment.
  • Virginity results from oppression and should be gotten rid of as soon as possible. It is an embarrassment to be an uninitiated girl. Some parents also feel the same way.
  • The white male power structure is a major source of injustice in the world and must be resisted whether it appears in a family or in the culture at large.
  • There are no innate differences between males and females, except for the ability to bear children. To be truly equal, men and women should act and think alike.
  • Women and girls should imitate the predatory behavior of men. Casual, "no-strings" sexual experience is as satisfying to females as males. It no longer implies or confirms a relationship. Therefore, girls today are much less likely to wonder, Will he call me in the morning? For a girl to actually ask that question of a sexual partner would be a breach of etiquette.
  • Modesty is old-fashioned and reflects the oppression of the past. Behavior that would have shocked previous generations doesn't raise an eyebrow today.
  • The source of true power for young girls depends on maximizing their sex appeal and then marketing it in the competition for boys.
  • For a girl to become what was once considered "easy" or "loose" is now deemed socially acceptable by peers. Therefore, dressing and acting tough or looking like a prostitute is evidence of confidence and strength. Janet Jackson allowed her bra to be torn off in front of 90 million television viewers during the 2004 Super Bowl halftime extravaganza.4 It was just a "wardrobe malfunction," said Justin Timberlake, who exposed Jackson's breast. Most of the other female performers in that spectacle resembled streetwalkers. Who can estimate how many girls saw the performance that night and decided to change their persona from wholesome to "bad"? The "raunch culture" was on parade.
  • Girls are more likely than ever before to be the aggressors in male-female relationships. The traditional understanding that males are the initiators and leaders has been turned upside down. Now girls do much of the calling. They pur- sue. They often pay. And they regularly take their male friends to bed.
  • Homosexuality, bisexuality, and heterosexuality are considered morally equivalent. They simply represent different lifestyles from which to choose.
  • Romance has faded in popularity. There is no reason for a man to court a woman if she will offer him sexual favors before the two of them have even developed a friendship. Fewer couples say, "I love you" with deep meaning. Dating has also largely gone out of style. The new relationship is called "the hookup," referring to repeated one-night stands.
  • What used to be called "shacking up" or "living in sin" in most Western countries was considered shockingly wicked for centuries. It is now referred to in morally neutral terms, such as "living together" or "cohabitation." It is a noncontroversial housing arrangement without moral implications. Parents may object until they get used to the idea, but peers will not blink an eye.

These are just a few of the concepts that engulfed the baby boomer generation more than four decades ago. Now, the grandchildren of these revolutionaries are growing up to accept and live by ideas that were once celebrated as "the new morality." Behavior that was shockingly racy then has become the pop culture of today. Teenagers are taught its philosophy with an evangelistic zeal. The radicals who set out long ago to "liberate" women and shape the values of their children have been amazingly successful. Most members of the younger generation have no other frame of reference. It is all they have known. I'm reminded of what Adolf Hitler said on November 6, 1933: "Your child belongs to us already . . . what are you? You will pass on. Your descendants, however, now stand in the new camp. In a short time they will know nothing but this new community."5 Nearly four years later he added, "This new Reich will give its youth to no one."6 Alas, the new revolutionaries now have our kids.

1."Is God Dead?" Time (April 8, 1966); see 0,16641,19660408,00.html.

2.Laura Mansnerus, "Timothy Leary, Pied Piper of Psychedelic 60's, Dies at 75," New York Times (June 1, 1996).

3.Based on numbers reported by the Alan Guttmacher Institute.

4."Court Tosses FCC 'Wardrobe Malfunction' Fine," Associated Press (July 21, 2008).

5.Michael Burleigh, The Third Reich: A New History (New York: Hill & Wang, 2001), 235

6.William Lawrence Shirer, The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich: A History of Nazi Germany

Book: Bringing Up Girls

By Dr. James Dobson

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