Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan may be best known for a seminal essay he wrote three decades ago. The Democratic Senator from New York said that the country back then was Defining Deviancy Down.
His concern was that deviant behavior had become so pervasive even in the 1980s and 1990s that commentators were beginning to redefine it to cope with it. He began by acknowledging that there was “always a certain amount of deviancy in society. But when you get too much, you begin to think that it’s not really that bad. Pretty soon you become accustomed to very destructive behavior.”
Anyone who has read the book of Isaiah will recognize this tendency. In Isaiah 5:20 we read, “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness.”
Scott Hogenson referred to the Moynihan description of deviancy as he listed the numerous examples of what “used to be defined as medical malpractice, criminal molestation, voyeurism, and rape.” He concludes that we have defined deviancy “so downward, it’s positively subterranean.”
He reminds us that our laws are written by humans, but they are also written on the human heart. You may disagree with your neighbor, but you don’t vandalize his home. You may not like the guy who stole your parking place, but you don’t key his car.
Jeremiah wrote that the Lord declared, “I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts.” The writer of Hebrews explains that God says, “I will put my laws on their hearts and write them on their minds.”
That is why Christians need to speak out against evil and not let a secular society call “evil good.” The deviancy today is even worse than in the 1980s and 1990s when Senator Moynihan lamented that we were defining deviancy down.