We know well the cycles of day and night, but did we notice the darkening of another kind as it gradually began to build around the world? Were we too caught up in our own things to see when the shadows began to deepen? Is that why many are shocked at how dark it has become now and wondering how it could come to this? Have we forgotten that long before the thunderclaps above our heads and lightning hits the tree beside our house that at a distance you can see the small clouds of the storm forming?
Did we lose sight of evil or deny it exists because things were going along decently enough in our lives or did we see and ignore what was happening and think it would never affect us? These are not unusual in our current world. Lines of good and evil, right, and wrong have blurred in recent decades. That didn’t happen all at once either. Looking at what we watched on TV 50 years ago or less shows how things began to shift and we accepted the shift without realizing how far the rabbit hole might take us.
Popular TV shows of the 60’s in the United States included The Andy Griffith Show, The Man from U.N.C.L.E., The Dick VanDyke Show, The Real McCoys, Leave it to Beaver, and Hogan’s Heroes to name a few. Language was clean enough for children to watch and what was good, and right was highlighted and what was not was shown to be bad. By the time we entered the 70’s The Walton’s were playing on many TV sets and we all can still recall the way each show ended with family members saying goodnight to one another. Other popular shows were things like Happy Days, The Brady Bunch, The Partridge Family, and The Carol Burnett Show, but we were also beginning to explore deeper things with the series entitled Roots. Language was still decent, but here and there things began to creep in.
By the 80’s some sultry things began to be more popular like The Thorn Birds series, Dynasty, Hill Street Blues, Mama’s Family, Three’s Company, Dallas, Fantasy Island, and The Golden Girls to name a few. We loved most of them but there were bedroom scenes, colorful jokes, and crude comments we would not have heard a decade or two before. We didn’t think much of it at the time, and we began to see it as normal without much thought of whether it would affect us or our children.
By the 2000’s we were watching things like The Sopranos, Desperate Housewives, Sex in the City, Psych, Gossip Girl, Law and Order, and ER. Not all of us watched these, but the family fare of the 60’s and 70’s was disappearing, sex was no longer taboo as a theme or topic, costuming included a shift toward less modesty and language was shifting as well.
A decade later in the 2010’s we were seeing Parenthood, The Good Wife, Orange is the New Black, Hannibal, Breaking Bad, and Game of Thrones as examples. By then some of us were tuning out, but still hooked on the TV to unwind at the end of the day and it nudged us to tune in here and there.
But at the same time, we were accommodating to the shift in themes and formats on TV. Other shifts in music, movies, books, and entertainment of all types were shifting as well. Little by little what was good versus evil, dark versus light was less the theme or value presented. Culture and all of us were changing, being led along a path without much thought.
Then I read something in Matthew Kelly’s new book, Life is Messy, that put it all in perspective:
“What is evil? Evil is defined as profoundly immoral. The definition itself holds the reason for the escalating evil in our world, though it may not be obvious at first. It all hinges on the word immoral.
The word immoral presents an intricate problem for our culture. Morality is almost never mentioned. I cannot recall the last time I heard the mainstream media describe something as immoral. Every type of perversion and depravity has become someone’s personal preference or right.
When we pretend that there is no such thing as right and wrong, good and bad, this will inevitably lead to the proliferation of evil. And it has.”Matthew Kelly in Life is Messy
Not unlike the story of the frog in the kettle who jumped in when the water was cool and didn’t notice the increasing temperature of the fire under the kettle until it was too late, we have been desensitized to evil and become increasingly ambivalent while we have moved to more and more value-free living and choices. As we have done so, the storm clouds have darkened and begun to influence more and more aspects of our world without us paying much heed to it or whether we contributed to it with our own messy lives and choices along the way. It wasn’t our plan, and it didn’t happen with the same influences in every culture or society around the globe and yet it happened nonetheless, and we now see the world reeling from one thing or another.
It could be easy to despair, but we may also have forgotten that scripture told us to be aware of and pay attention to the signs of the times and what they would tell us about the path we were on. Those words should cause us to take heed, repent and deal with our own messiness, and hope for the only One who can bring light and freedom from evil. But Matthew Kelly’s words remind us that evil is much closer than any of us suspect. That is why it can seem to sneak up on us.
“Every age has new storytellers, but one truth endures: We become the stories we read, hear, and watch. Today’s storytellers appear to be committed to normalization of evil, and by extension the annihilation of human dignity. Not the dignity of some anonymous people, but the annihilation of your dignity, my dignity, and the dignity of our spouses, children, grandchildren, friends, colleagues, and neighbors. Evil is much closer than we suspect.”Matthew Kelly in Life is Messy
Let each of us choose to be a different kind of storyteller so that those who listen, read, watch, and hear us will not accept a normalization of evil and immorality while that is still possible in the midst of the deepening storm clouds.