The following is the second in a three part series on the topic of, what I've called, "Progressive Depravity".
Speculative Dialogue on Progressive Depravity
Level Three- Passive Disobedience
Person’s at this level also commit acts of disobedience (against a perceived cultural expectation), only in this case it is without the nagging hassle of guilt. This type of person doesn’t seek out evil, but at the same time, "You've got to do what you've got to do." If you’re late to work, speed. If you’re in a bind, lie. If you’re short on money, steal.
These type of people generally go under the radar. Commonality, by definition, doesn‘t make any headlines. In this stage, a vague sense of guilt acts in a restraining sense. In other words, no new sin is sought out, but current sin isn’t eradicated, because, we think, “I‘m no worse than the next guy”. This level is deceptively perpetrated as harmless. Lies are now labeled with adjectives like, ‘little’, and ‘white’, and soon, what was once forbidden is expected. Boredom with universality of experience brings the longing for something new.
Level Four- Rebellion without a Cause
Unlike the previous level, persons in this level seek out sin. The objectivity of the wrong pursued is not as relevant as the pursuit itself of perceived misconduct. On February 20, 2007, an article was posted on CNN.com with the headline, Teen 'sport killings' of homeless on the rise. The article tells of Nathan Moore and two of his teenage friends who beat a homeless man, Rex Baum, to death. This type of senseless evil is baffling. It at least makes sense that someone might ‘rob from the rich to give to the poor’, but this is more like murder the poor to, well, murder the poor.
Guilt in this level is beginning to fade rapidly. The necessary presence of guilt, in order to facilitate morality, cannot be stressed enough. Condemnation by others from without, pales in comparison to the prick of one’s own conscience from within. When the component of guilt begins to fade, morality begins to rapidly fade with it.
Level Five- Vigilante Rebellion
Rebellion in this stage comes in the form of those who claim to be championing the 'rights' of mankind. (e.g. Abortion rights movements) Unlike the previous level of rebellion, which is characterized negatively by the "mainstream", the charismatic zeal displayed by these activists is usually viewed by outsiders with a certain level of respect. It is for this reason that these type of movers and shakers of society are often viewed by the masses with quasi sympathy. Those who would dare to challenge the “rights” of mankind are viewed as exclusive elitists, therefore, society just lets it slide.
This level, though largely tolerated, is inherently dangerous for two reasons. First, it is contagious, thus it is, almost by default, a larger movement. Secondly, those at this level honestly think that they are doing what is best for society. It could be argued that since those in this level think that they are right, it isn't very evil (at least not on a scale of 1-10). On a subjective level, I would be forced to agree (and in all honesty, for most of the previous levels, I have argued from a strictly subjective standpoint). However in this case, the objective depravity of the issue, coupled with the complete absence of guilt forces me to categorize this type of behavior as worse than the previous levels.
Level Six- Apathetic Morality
This level can be summarized in three words, “I don’t care.” Every possible challenge presented before an apathetic mind receives the same rehearsed, “I don’t care.” The ironic thing is that the person in this level might be willing to admit that they are wrong, but the problem is, (surprise, surprise), they don’t care. Apathy saps the energy and feelings necessary to motivate, and activate the conscience.
The sudden switch from zeal and passion (in the previous level), to apathy and passivity seems to be a bit out of place. It must be understood that this level could have been happened upon one of three different ways. First, this level could have simply been chosen by an individual, thus skipping the previous levels (as I mentioned before, these levels are not necessarily chronological).
Secondly, this level could indeed have been the logical outcome of level five. Those who indulge themselves in something that brings ultimately no satisfaction plunge themselves into despair. When something you thought would fulfill you leaves you feeling empty, despair quickly sets in. Chasing after satisfaction in a world devoid of God's design is tiresome. Thus apathy comes as a result.
Thirdly, this level could have come as a reaction to the ‘champions’ of human rights in the level prior. If you scream at a crowd of people, some will listen, others however will cover their ears. This level could be then those who are covering their ears from the noise of liberals and conservatives both yelling at the top of their lungs. Laziness takes over, and, rather than seeking out the truth, individuals who are tired of being oppressed by the standards of others take on an apathetic, “I don’t care.” approach. The danger of this level is that guilt after sin, or knowledge of sin, hold no sway upon an apathetic mind. Apathy is intensely difficult to overcome, from within or without.
The third and final part of this series will cover levels seven through ten.