As recently as 50 years ago, couples depicted by sitcoms as being married slept in separate beds. In prime time television today, however, the viewers are exposed to bedroom scenes, shower scenes, vulgar acts, and obscene language. Whenever Hollywood pushes the limit to another level of liberality, the conservative audience is initially shocked; yet it soon becomes the norm and we learn to ignore it without protest.
In 1969-1970, Janis Joplin, considered by many as the 'queen of rock and roll,' was arrested once and fined twice within a four-month period for using vulgar and obscene language onstage in Tampa, Florida. The language that landed her in jail is the same verbiage now seen on television and in movie theaters with regularity. Even many of the products being advertised on television today are of such personal nature that they would have been precluded from the air waves 25 years ago.
In Chaucer's Tale of Melibee (1386), an expression was used that has become a common idiom in our culture: "familiarity breeds contempt." The idea is that close association leads to dislike; the more exposed I am to a person's culpabilities, the less I respect him or her.
I can recall sitcoms whose series gradually took certain liberties that made them edgier than their "pilot" episodes. In my mind, their idea was to hook the viewer with the pilot and initial episodes, and then begin to push the limits of acceptability. The question becomes, "Are my convictions and preferences stronger than the allurement of the program that first won the battle for 30 minutes of my time?"
Can you recall something in your house that needs repair? It is not a crucial fix, but something you mean to deal with soon. If not done promptly, we tend to forget about it - at least until we are preparing for company to visit us! What occurs is that we learn to live with it rather than deal with it. It may even be a visible mar, but we grow to ignore it until it is convenient for us to repair it.
It seems that in way too much of life we are willing to abandon our principles, values, and convictions because it is easier than standing up in the face of them. It may even be that we rationalize a way to fudge on our convictions so that we will not have to sacrifice something that we had grown to enjoy, even though it is not in our best interest.
How long will you allow an unhealthy or negative influence in your life push the limits of liberality before you are moved to contempt? When one's values are forsaken, what is left? Our values are the soul of who we are. Fight the temptation to allow familiarity to deteriorate the walls of conviction and destroy values, for in the end that is all we have.
Steven Callis is the minister at First Church of the Nazarene in Douglasville.