Tuesday, April 08, 2008

What will society tolerate?

Last night's book club selection was Steve Turner's "Amazing grace; the story of America's most beloved song," with a lively discussion led by Marcy and hosted by Adrienne, follwed up with tape and CD recordings of the hymn by Judy Collins, Aretha Franklin, Mahalia Jackson, the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards, and B. J. Thomas and others. The first half of the book is about the life of John Newton, and the second about the life of the hymn as it made its way through, hymnals, camp meetings, revivals, recording studios and parodies. The book dispells myths about both. John Newton didn't come to Christ and then recognize that slavery was nasty. He became a part in the lucrative slave trade after his conversion. And the most familiar tune setting doesn't have African roots--it's mostly likely Scottish, but no one really knows. Newton would have his morning devotions and Bible reading on board the slave ship with the stench and cries of helpless people wafting from below. So the question in our "enlightened" generation is always, How could he not know what he was doing was wrong? Turner replies to the reader on p. 61
    "Slavery was as acceptable as abortion is today--it was legal, it had immediate and tangible benefits, and people predicted wide spread calamity should it ever be banned. There was no social pressure for him to feel shame."
Or, what about the millions of Africans who have died from malaria with the banning of DDT the last 30 years? More deaths than the transatlantic slave trade ever caused. Why wasn't it left on the market until another product could be developed to destroy mosquitoes? In the economy of environmentalism, birds were more important than children. Or closer to home. Thousands of lives could be saved each year if the legal driving age were raised just a year or two. Who or what has a vested interest in this? Who decided 16 year olds could be trusted with the family car? It's a mystery for Christians and non-Christians both, isn't it?

There are some things that just cause no societal shame in every era.

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