The Wrong Turn

Once my husband and I rounded the wrong bend in the middle of Montana and, being as far from civilization as one can get in the lower 48, we drove a couple hundred miles before we knew for sure we were lost, and even longer before we finally found an opportunity to amend our trajectory. It was a spooky, Twilight Zone time for us; the Rockies kept getting closer and closer, and they shouldn’t have been doing that.

America is now living through such a lost period in our history, and it’s high time we thought about where things went wrong. In my Montana wanderings there were several factors involved; we’d neglected to bring the charger for the GPS, had consulted the wrong map, and had failed to pay attention when the road veered gradually to the left. The same is true for our national journey.

As with most errors this one started with bad thinking; we’ve made two huge philosophical mistakes, one an outgrowth of the other, and they may cost us everything: 1) we have been lazy and wimpy on the issue of truth and, as a result, 2) we have bought the lie that human nature is basically good.

Let’s look first at the issue of truth. I say we wimped out because it is much easier, at least for a while, to whitewash all controversies and claim that truth is so flexible that it can take any shape we want it to. If we assume that truth is merely a human construct, we can claim that it comes in thousands of differing colors and sizes, tailor made to fit any need. Thus we avoid having to discern differences, make moral judgments, or stand up for anything. We can act superior to those who still see vast chasms between belief systems and we claim “open-mindedness” utterly unaware of the meaninglessness of that term.

If nothing is really true, then there’s no reason to knuckle down and learn anything, no reason to think very hard, no reason to amass facts –- we suspect they’re not true anyway. I am dumbfounded by the ignorant assertion that Muslims and Christians worship the same god. A person doesn’t have to know, can’t know, anything much about either belief and make that statement. In an untruthful world ignorance is not only bliss, it is the inescapable condition.

If nothing is ever true, then differences don’t exist and moral issues fade into quaint historical oddities and we needn’t trouble ourselves about anything except a failure to accept this new credo. Contradictory as it may seem, that is the absolute.

You see, if one decides against absolute truth, one decides against logic; it is, after all, a self-refuting logical impossibility to say, “There is no such thing as absolute truth.” And what happens when a society decides to ignore the nonsense factor and base its “thinking” on such a floppy foundation? Insanity is what happens.

We have a society in which one can scream about a “war on women” but support passionately a group that excels at subordinating, torturing, mutilating, raping, and terrifying its women from their childhood. We have a society that has frozen in the face of an enemy so horrifying that we can’t even work up the courage to publicly condemn them, let alone commit to war. We have a society that has no moral boundaries, other than avoiding offending another person’s sensibilities. We have no problem with killing inconvenient babies in spite of its genocidal results, no problem with sexual promiscuity regardless of the physical disease and family turmoil that causes, and worst of all, we no longer expect our leadership to be truthful people of integrity.

As the Clinton campaign drags itself forward I am amazed at the number of her supporters – both public figures and private acquaintances of mine -- who are content to make excuses for her habitual, pathological duplicity. I recently asked a Facebook Clintonite how she dealt with the proven dishonesty of her hero. She replied that she “just didn’t look at it that way.” ??? Such a nonsensical response leaves me speechless.

If we decide that truth is what we want it to be, we can come to those conclusions. There is a problem with that, however. Sooner or later reality will come crashing through the door and it will have to be dealt with. That’s where we are right now. Grendel is splintering the gates and we can no longer just pass the joint, sing loudly and pretend he’s not out there. He is.

Because we have treated reality like a do-it-yourself kit, we’ve arrived at a second philosophical no-man’s land; we’ve decided that, despite all evidence to the contrary, humanity is basically good. We have rejected the biblical edict that “All men have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23) Original sin is no longer our national creed. I’m OK, you’re OK seems like a harmless dogma, but, since it’s essentially not true, it leads down a really murky trail.

If we are basically born good, then childrearing becomes nothing more than keeping the child alive until he can fend for himself, never mind the fact that such parental neglect has created at least two generations of self-centered, amoral monsters. We are not naturally good. We can be good, but we don’t start that way. What baby has ever given a rip that his mother hasn’t had a full night’s sleep since he was born? What two-year-old goes sweetly off to her nap because she knows mommy needs some quiet time? Children need to be taught, sternly and consistently, to put others first.

If our children aren’t trained out of their natural tendencies we end up with mobs of teenagers terrorizing mall shoppers, having sex at school (sometimes with the teacher, because that generation doesn’t know any better either), and destroying any learning that might be able to happen in a classroom.

When we assume that human beings are just hunky-dory we paint ourselves into a very uncomfortable corner. How then do we account for the hellish things that people do to each other? How can we process the knowledge that some of our fellow human beings are quite at ease with the idea of raping babies, beheading fellow countrymen, burning people alive? How do we explain that?

We try to blame such behavior on poverty, on racism (which also needs explaining), on society in general, which is a pretty rocky hypothesis since society is built of the crooked bricks of fallen, sinful individuals; it’s not a separate entity, but an outgrowth of all that is rotten in Denmark.

Human beings, unless trained to be decent, humble, and caring, have in our very DNA the capacity to think and commit evil –- absolute evil. Each generation comes face-to-face with that fact. All of human history has been a trail of tears –- not because the rich have too much, or because our parents didn’t love us enough, or because some stranger didn’t approve of us. We hurt each other because something in us pushes us to do so. This is why humanity needed a Savior. Only with His sacrifice and His influence has the world crept slowly out of the toil and horror of life on this earth.

But if we deny truth (i.e. God) and continue looking past all the evidence of our flawed nature, the prosperity and progress of the last 2,000 years will be lost, is being lost. I pray consistently that enough of us will wake up and realize that there is an absolute mountain of truth out in front of us, and we’re about to crash headlong into it. truth is immutable; it isn’t going to move out of our way.

Deana Chadwell blogs at and is an adjunct writing professor at Pacific Bible College in southwestern Oregon.