Miss America isn't the Problem, America is


This last week the press was abuzz with the news that the Miss America pageant was no longer going to be a beauty contest. The pageant announced it was doing away with both the swimsuit and evening gown portions of the competition.  Gretchen Carlson, the Chairman of the Board of Directors made it clear that women who wished to compete for the title of Miss America would no longer be scored on their appearance. “We’re not going to judge you on your appearance because we are interested in what makes you you," Carlson said.

The move was hailed as part of the positive cultural change brought about by the #metoo movement, the widespread uprising against the harassment and abuse of women. Ms. Carlson referenced this when she said, “Miss America is proud to evolve as an organization and join this empowerment movement.” Commentators called the changes long overdue, with the Dallas News going so far as to say, “As long as Miss America requires contestants to look good in an evening gown while strutting in high-heeled dress shoes, it’s unlikely women in the United States will achieve gender equity.”

The reports were characterized by a sense of celebration, recognition of a positive societal evolution. There was a sense that the days of women being objectified were numbered, that women were now going to define for themselves feminine ideals. Miss America was showing the way, first by getting rid of misogynistic leaders and filling the organization's board with female leaders, and now by making sure that contestants would not be subjected to body shaming or leering audiences.

The changes in Miss America dominated the news this week were significant, but were not the most important story impacting the rights of women in America. The biggest news came from a minimally reported public opinion poll. The Gallup organization this week announced survey results that should give pause to all who think our nation is making progress in its attitudes about women.

Gallup asked respondents a simple question, “Is pornography morally acceptable?” The findings were devastating. 67% of men between the ages of 18-49 and 43% of all respondents said, “Yes.” This was not “yes” to bikinis or “yes” to nudity of the type seen in Game of Thrones. This was not “Yes” to the Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition or airbrushed poses for Playboy. This is “yes” to explicit sex acts, the most degrading material possible.

It is important to note that the question was not about legality, Gallup did not ask about what should be allowable or tolerated in a free society. They specifically used the word "moral." Morality refers to the rightness of a thing, or to put it another way, to the absence of wrongness in a thing. We have reached the point where two-thirds of young to middle-aged men believe there is nothing at all wrong with them gaining pleasure by watching women perform sexual acts with other men.

What does it say about a nation that celebrates banning modest swimwear on television while at  the same time finds it acceptable to broadcast graphic sexual acts over the internet for everyone to see?

It says that America has no sense of morality at all. 


Pizza, Porn and Making a Stand

It was supposed to be a pizza party. It soon became a porn party. The members of the high school basketball team went to the local pizza parlor to hang out after a game. After a while the conversation took an unexpected turn. Several players took out their smart phones and brought up pornographic images. They laughed and joked and thought it was funny. For the one Christian member of the team it was anything but. It was awkward, and it was wrong. He called his parents and got an early ride home

When I heard this story I was heartbroken. I felt terrible for the young man who had been placed in such a difficult circumstance and I grieved over the lack of shame displayed by his team members. One thought repeated in my mind, “How did our society end up like this?”

There was a time when right and wrong were clearly defined. Not everyone chose to do the right thing but just about everybody knew what the right thing was. Wrong things included lying, cheating, foul language, underage drinking and alcohol use, and sex before marriage. Good things included respecting your elders, politeness, honesty and morality. Somewhere along the line these definitions were abandoned. Wrongness now only applies to such things as violent crime and political incorrectness and goodness is defined as whatever one wants as long as it does not directly hurt someone else.

How did this happen? It is the natural consequence of moral relativism. When right and wrong are no longer universal absolutes but are instead based on individual perceptions, moral decline is inevitable. Human nature leads people to think highly of themselves, so it is natural that people will define good as “what I do” and bad as “what someone else does” when given the opportunity. When good is determined solely by our personal desires there will be no need to rein our desires in.

When our nation embraced the moral relativism of humanism and  turned from its Judeo-Christian roots it also turned away from the well-defined moral code that guided our nation since its inception. Absent the boundaries of a clear moral code, immorality is boundless. Pizza parties become porn parties.

In such a world not only will immorality increase, morality will be attacked. Those who declare immoral behavior to be wrong will face accusations of intolerance, bigotry and of being judgmental. In such a context people of faith will endure difficult times.

When I deal with individuals who are caught up in an immorality I have learned that a simple question can bring clarity. My favorite question when I talk to someone caught in a moral failing is- "Is that the best you can do?" I challenge people to set goals of excellence for themselves, to strive to do their best, not to the minimum, in every area of their lives. I tell people that my goal in life is to be the best man, husband and father I can be, and that when confronted with a choice about a behavior I have trained myself to ask how the activity in question can help me be the best. 

I could go out and get drunk, but I want to do better than that, to have a clear mind and to remain in control.

I could look at pornography but I want to be better than that, to value my wife and allow her to be confident and secure in the knowledge that she is my ideal.

I could lie, I could cheat, but I want to be better, I want to be someone who is trustworthy, respected and believed.

The reason I want to give me best? Because God gave His Best for me.

-          Bart

Thanks for reading, take the time to be your best today. If you know anyone who may be encouraged by this post, consider clicking the share button and letting them know. Comments and questions are welcome. You can subscribe to the blog (click the button) to have future posts delivered to your inbox, or you can follow me on twitter @bartbarrettmd.