commentary: What's Happening to Deference?
John W. Ritenbaugh
Given 06-Sep-14; Sermon #1230c; 14 minutes
John Ritenbaugh, continuing the description of the pernicious fruit of secular humanism, pointing out the one-way nature of tolerance, such as respecting the perverse life-style of homosexuals and other aberrant behaviors and disrespecting the rights of those who attempt to faithfully serve God, turns his attention to another eroding virtue becoming almost non-existent in today's society. Deference, or common-sense respect, such as taking off one's hat when entering a room, opening a door for a lady, or showing respect for a senior citizen, has largely disappeared as the emerging generation has been taught by the mores of secular progressivism to "diss" their elders, showing contempt for them. Informality, not in itself a negative quality in the right circumstances, has nevertheless proved "a canary in the mine tunnel," giving an early warning of the impending collapse of our society. Former President Jimmy Carter dropped the ban on denim jeans in the Oval Office, and current President Barack Obama has dropped the requirement to wear a suit coat, inviting the citizenry to have increasing disrespect (and perhaps contempt) leveled toward the office of President. The obsession for 'equality' has led to critical erosion of standards of decency and decorum. Our people are beginning to reap the bitter fruit of disrespect and rebellion against all forms of manners and common-sense deference. In Fiddler on the Roof, Tevia lived through a series of social and cultural revolutions, continually threatening his equilibrium as if he were trying to play a violin walking across the gable of a high roof. We are witnessing a similar deterioration of American culture, but having nowhere to escape (except, thankfully, to God's watchful care). In the meantime, we cannot allow the world's lack of deference to erode our character.
Last week I spoke on a peculiar new aspect of tolerance ["Today's Brand of Tolerance"], and this is that the modern, humanist elite of this nation has changed its meaning from, "forbearance with another's differences" to, "a demand of acceptance of one, regardless of how one is." This is clearly seen in the attitudes of the LGBT group. If one is a business person who refuses to accept [another] one's business on the basis of his faith, one is likely to be sued, and very often the courts side with the offended LGBT person on the grounds that they are being treated in a discriminatory manner. And thus, the cultural reality is that the one suing receives tolerance for his belief, but the Christian business person receives no tolerance for his faith. Thus we find that tolerance has been twisted into a one way street.
Today, we are going to briefly examine a related attitude and what I believe is lacking at the base of those demanding this one way tolerance. Here is a question: What happened to deference in the character makeup of so many Americans? Did you ever notice that in Western movies, a cowpoke, upon being invited into a humble log cabin way out on the prairie somewhere, would invariably take off his hat upon entering the house? The removal of the hat was a token of respect, of deference, regardless of the station of the people living there.
For most of the entire history of the United States, it was required for one visiting or doing business with the President in the Oval Office to wear a suit with its jacket. This was required out of deference for the office of President, not necessarily the man. Interestingly, under the present President, that is no longer required. You might think this is but a small courtesy, but to me it's another indication that things are going downhill right from the very top. During Jimmy Carter's days as President, even denim jeans were acceptable there. Today, many people will not even remove their hats while eating at dinner as a guest in another person's home, and the hat is almost invariably turned backward as an additional sign of disrespect, a practice that has become a social custom intended to be an indication that "I am every bit as good as you."
Moses was commanded to remove his shoes at the burning bush incident out of deference to the holy dirt he was standing on. The dirt was holy only because God was also standing on the same area. What is interesting to me is that God demanded the deference. It is a reality in this world that all things are not equal. Moses had to learn his place before he was used in the job. It is a humbling thing for some to learn in a nation such as this that all things are not only not equal, some things in life cannot be made equal. Many people and customs must be deferred to, even at our God's, our Creator's, command:
Leviticus 19:32 You shall rise up before the hoary head and honor the face of the old man, and fear God.
That's right in the book. The rising up is deference given to a person who is simply older. That's a very clear command from our Creator that age is to be respected and deferred to. Incidentally, this appears in the book that is more concerned with specific holy acts than any other book in the Bible. That's Leviticus.
The American Heritage College Dictionary defines deference as, "Submission or courteous yielding to the opinion or wishes of another; courteous respect." Historically, we Americans have prided ourselves on our informality, in a nation where everybody thinks they are as good as anybody else. But what does the term good mean? No national standard exists, so in this humanistic culture, each person or group of persons is free to set his own standard.
Incidentally, I used the term informality a little minute ago. The same dictionary that I quoted before regarding deferring defines informal as "not in accord with prescribed regulations." Interesting. We love informality. Today's version of the one-way tolerance this nation is experiencing is abnormal, to say the least. Historically, this sort of conduct—listen carefully now to the end of this commentary—precedes, it indeed signals, major governmental and social upheaval. In plain words, we are witnessing the end of one culture and the beginning of another. In other words, I think you are well aware that we are experiencing the smaller disturbances of the passing of what I will call "the old United States of America" to the beginning of a new United States of America. The one-way tolerance is agenda-driven by groups that are manipulating the change. Historically, violent revolution follows what we are going through right now as a culture.
I am virtually sure that everybody hearing my voice has seen the movie, Fiddler on the Roof. That movie had a historical and locational backdrop to it. The time setting was in the early 1900s in Russia. You can remember that at the beginning of the movie, the song was "Tradition!" That song set the theme for the entire movie. Things were changing rapidly in Tevya's culture and impacting his family, his household, and he was having trouble adapting to what was going on. His whole world that seemed so solid for so long was shaking. The prelude to the Russian revolution was impacting his home life.
And so the oldest girl married a local boy who made clothing. Ha! So far, so good. But she did not marry the man the matchmaker chose for her. A change in the culture. The second oldest girl married a young revolutionary caught up in the pre-revolution activities. He was captured and sent to Siberia. She followed him. Tevya's family was now split up. The third daughter married a local Russian Orthodox boy, thus directly breaking the family's spiritual unity. At the end of the movie, the remainder of the family was emigrating to the United States in the midst of the chaos preceding the actual revolution. Imagine Tevya's is perplexity. They show that all through the movie, What's going on?, he was saying. That's what's happening here. Do you understand? What adjustments could be made to save the traditions that he held so dear?
This movie is a microcosm of the destruction of a culture, and we are in the midst of one here. In the 1930s, the same sort of social turmoil occurred in Germany and culminated in World War II. It appears there is no stopping what is happening here. And unlike Tevya's family, there is nowhere to emigrate to.
There are biblical examples of people who deferred to the wise counsel of others and survived. The first is Noah, who believed God and worked on the ark despite what his neighbors thought, and that ark became the means of his salvation. Hang on to that thought. Abraham deferred to God's wisdom to head off a war with Lot and his herdsmen by making a sacrifice. He gave Lot first choice. Isaac deferred to his father's advice in order to avert warfare with the people of the land, and instead he gave up the wells he had already dug and dug new wells for a water supply. Ruth deferred to the record of Naomi's love for her and decided that it was better to follow Naomi and leave her homeland. David deferred to Abigail regarding hardheaded, ill-tempered Nabal.
The humanist version of tolerance is a fruit of the combination of pride and ignorance of the knowledge of God. To them, getting their way is all-important and overpowers any sympathetic understanding required to walk in another person's shoes. So what can we expect? We can expect that it will grow worse