Seven Signs of a Sick Society

They dress the wound of my people as though it were not serious.  'Peace, peace,' they say, when there is no peace. Are they ashamed of their loathsome conduct?  No, they have no shame at all; they do not even know how to blush.
So they will fall among the fallen;  they will be brought down when I punish them," says the Lord.
Jeremiah 6:14-15

The most difficult patients in my medical practice are those who are very sick, but cannot or will not acknowledge they are sick.  For whatever reasons, the would rather be covered than cured.  They refuse both diagnosis and treatment and ignore the signs, even if those signs point to something potentially deadly. 
Everyday, I listen to the politicians, the preachers, the pontificators, and the professionals speak about American society in various ways.  Yet, I find that most often, very few are talking about the diseases at the core of our identity, but focus on blaming our symptoms on the entities that we hid behind: government, corporations, cities, even democracy.  Afterall, government is what we make it, corporations are made up of "us", cities are dense collections of people like you, and democracy is the expression of the collective will of a society.  In other words, these entities are not "other", but "us". 
Now, I do love America and am not trying to suggest that I do not enjoy or deeply invest in the welfare of America.  I am saying, that "we", the people who make up America have developed a very sick society and we will not take the medicine because in our arrogance, we can never recognize our sickness.  Here are seven signs that we are a sick society:
1. Segregation of the Sacred:  A sick society no longer understands anything as sacred.  There is nothing considered Holy.  It is held accountable to nothing and no one because because those things that are sacred are segregated to "private" and "personal" areas of life.  Morality in pubic life is self-determined, often by those in power and legitimized by might, not rights.
2. Legitimization of lovelessness: A sick society legitimizes the careless and inhumane treatment of others.  The recent applause of the audience at a poltical debate where one of the politicians suggested that a sick person be allowed to die rather than have the government pay for health insurance shows the legitimization of being loveless.  A sick society does not care for neighbor, but objectifies and blames the neighbor for being in need.
3. Normalization of Nasty: (Phrase taken from a sermon series of Pastor Jeff Harrold in Ann Arbor MI).  A sick society legitimizes and normalizes immoral practices.  Practices that should cause shame and embarassment are now considered normal.  The lewdness and crudeness of what constitutes as entertainment should shock us, but instead numbs us to the cruelty and perversity that is real and all around us.  We have no idea of modesty and no convictions of decency.  Our children have seen over 1000 pages of pornography by the time they are 16.  Nasty is the new normal.
4. Violence as a Vice: Violence is the preferred manner of activity in a sick society.  It is the way of solving problems.  It objectifies its enemies and wipes out the problem by annihilating its opposition.  This is seen in our penchant to go to war, the incredible amounts of violence in our streets, and the bullying violence on our playgrounds.  Peace is considered naive and unrealistic, so we amp up our violence as a response to violence.  Its like thinking we can cure our bacterial infection by fighting it with another infection.
5. Competition as a Core Characteristic: A sick society continually understands itself at odds with itself.  It sees a zero-sum game, where some elements must win and other must lose.  Competition is cherished, while cooperation is shuned and seen as weak.  Poltical philosphies are framed based upon who wins and loses, but rarely in terms of win-win. 
6. Refusal of racism as continued reality: A sick society not only refuses to understand its own history of sytematically exploiting others who are racially and culturally different, but often expresses the same racism in different ways.  These ways are often systemic barriers that keep minorities from having the same opportunities for economic, educational, civic, and relational success.  Its not a coincidence that African-Americans, as an example, are over represented in poverty, incarcerations, chronic disease, under-education, unemployment, etc.  Our society refuses to see that we have developed systems that many are benefiting from, yet create barriers for others.
7. Success is not civic:  A sick society does not understand that it prospers when the entire society prospers.  Success in a sick society is based upon individual achievements and accumulation of wealth, as opposed to the flourishing of the entire community.  We allow CEO's to make over 250 times what the average worker receives (by the way, it was only 17 times greater in 1950) in times of incredible unemployment.  A sick society cannot make the connection that its overall health involves the entirety of its body. 
My goal is not to make us feel badly, but to get us to reflect on our role in making our society, our communities, and our families well again.  It begins by first understanding our sicknesses and then willingling taking our medicine.
I would love to hear your thoughts on this.  Feel free to comment.  I am specifically interested in your thoughts regarding a cure.
I pray that today, we would all do our part to bring health and peace to those around us and in our sphere of influence,
God bless you all,
Pastor M Traylor
Dr. M Traylor1 Comment