If you can tell a lot about a culture by the entertainment it consumes, then we are a schizophrenic culture indeed.
Look no further than the movies we are seeing.
Since 2011 there have been at least 14 major motion pictures depicting some sort of apocalypse, and AMC's The Walking Dead about a Zombie apocalypse was second only to Sunday Night Football in last season's Nielsen ratings. Sometimes these apocalypses are averted, but sometimes they're not and the story becomes a nihilistic tale of merely existing with little hope in sight.
Then there is the flurry of raunchy comedies that have made actors like Seth Rogen, Jonah Hill, and Vince Vaughn household names. But while the moral depravity of these films is often what generates headlines, and the laughs, there is often a redemptive element in the story's culmination. For example, a loser stoner decides that he now needs to get a job, become a man, and take care of his out-of-wedlock child. Or a former wedding crasher decides it's time to stop playing the field, get married himself, and become a one-woman man. In several of these films the family, no matter how dysfunctional, ends up being celebrated as necessary and uplifting.
So, on one hand, we appear to be a people begging to be put out of our misery, and then we want the assurance the redemption and tradition of grandparents' era is still accessible once we're done with prolonged adolescence on the other. We seem to simultaneously see no hope for ourselves, while also yearning for hope to still be there once we've exhausted our lust and immaturity.
This moral confusion plays itself out across the cultural landscape as well.
In just the past decade we have given total control in Washington, D.C. to Republicans, then voted for split government, then voted for total Democrat control, and then voted for split government again. It appears we want a welfare state we don't have to pay for, and a return to traditional moral values we don't want to be held accountable to ourselves.
The media that promotes a president who was just re-elected tanks in the ratings, while the media that takes him on is crushing the competition.
Only 15% of Americans believe in random, natural Evolution as the origin of humanity while 46% believe in Creationism, but you couldn't get a job teaching Creationism in any publicly-funded university in the country.
A majority of Americans believe the government has too much power, but candidates that agree with that assessment struggle to gain enough votes to win national office.We have laws that say if a drunk driver kills a pregnant woman one block from a Planned Parenthood he's guilty of two homicides. However, if that same woman successfully parks her car at that same Planned Parenthood, and kills her child while she's there, it's a choice and not a crime.
Maybe the reason for this moral confusion is we're looking inward for hope and not outward?
If you spend the majority of your time simply reacting to the human condition, especially in today's social media world of instant opinions, you'll become a cadre of mixed emotions. The other morning I watched 10 minutes of a morning news show with my wife. In that 10 minutes I saw moral depravity celebrated as normal, followed by a story about why it sends your daughters the wrong moral message to allow them to wear high heels at too young an age. They went from celebrating sluts to warning us about becoming one in the span of just a few minutes! If I was tweeting the messages conveyed by this program during that time, people would think me bi-polar.
And bi-polar we are.
We are the double-minded person, unstable in all our ways. There is legitimate data that says we're still a right-of-center country and a country that wants to abandon many of those right-of-center principles. Words that held the same meaning for generations have either lost their meanings or taken on totally different ones. We decide what's right or what's wrong based on public opinion polls - but, at the same time, we don't want other people's opinions imposed on us.
As long as we refuse to look outside ourselves for our salvation, this will not only continue, but become much worse. Without accountability to something more powerful than ourselves, and consistent agreed-upon standards, we will continue to descend into cultural chaos.
The one antidote to what ails us seems to be what we're the least interested in trying.
So I guess we'll just keep circling the drain instead.