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Is American morality being redefined?

Bonnie Willis's picture

I never really understood the power of the culture to change and redefine morality until I watched the film, “The Bridges of Madison County,” with two of my girlfriends.

The movie was basically about the plight of a desperately “unloved” wife who discovered a passionate “love” with a drifter, but ultimately stayed in her marriage for the sake of her family.

At the end of the movie, I sat there thinking, yes, the characters are sympathetic, and it was a powerful performance, but the ultimate message was wrong, because it empathizes with a woman having an adulterous affair.

I expressed my displeasure to my girlfriends, and was utterly shocked when they proceeded to defend the woman’s affair because of her desperate circumstances. After all, they said, her husband did not love her, and the drifter was her “true” love.

I was stunned because both of these friends served together with me in church, and here they were, after watching a two-hour movie, extolling the virtues of having an adulterous affair in certain situations.

This incident with my girlfriends happened years ago, but it serves as a very powerful reminder to me that it is not simply young people who are susceptible to the moral influences of our culture — everyone is.

All of this came back to mind as I watched the latest political convention. As ones who care about the future of our country and culture, my husband and I watched many of the speeches over the three-day event. The speakers gave emotional and passionate pleas, and the audience responded with great enthusiasm.

But as I listened to some of the words, I started to feel like I did that evening when I was watching “The Bridges of Madison County.” I felt like I was witnessing a deliberate attempt to redefine, not simply my values and morals, but the values and morals of our nation.

This attempt to redefine America’s morality, was evident, for example, as speakers talked about a woman’s “right” to proposed health services like contraception and abortions — while ignoring the rights, or even existence of an unborn child.

We heard it as speakers talked about the “right” to love and marry whomever one loves — referring to homosexual couples — while ignoring the fact that every state which has voted on the issue overwhelmingly voted to keep marriage defined as it has always been — a union between a man and a woman.

We heard it when enthusiasts spoke about the “right” to everyone having healthcare and implying that the federal government should regulate and control the costs and services provided in the healthcare system, and when advocates stated that, rather than the individual, it was the responsibility of government to be “my brother’s keeper.”

Ironically, none of these so called “rights,” are written in our constitution. Rather, they are utopian ideals promoted by many who believe they should be the moral and cultural goals of our society.

These ideals are an attempt to redefine America’s morality, and in essence, change who we are. However, I am grateful that Americans recognize this and fight, not just for the physical safety of this country, but our moral compass as well.

Perhaps the greatest example of attempting to redefine our country’s morality, however, came when all references to God — and Jerusalem as Israel’s capital — were removed from the convention’s platform.

After receiving public scrutiny for a day or so, leaders quickly moved to amend this position and reinstate references to God and Jerusalem.

But the spectacle resulting from the amendment process, again, brought back memories of when I was shocked by my girlfriends’ reaction to “The Bridges of Madison County.” It also made it clear that there are definitely elements of our society who/which explicitly want to re-define America’s morality.

While it is true that America is a nation that is constantly changing, I thank God for the wisdom of our Founding Fathers, who sought to make us a noble nation, and when there were questions of whether America’s laws or rights should change, these changes were guided by adherence to our constitution and the votes of the American people.

In the future, I know that America will change — she always has, and everything that is alive and well does. But I pray that the portions of our society that would seek to redefine America’s morality will not succeed.

[Bonnie B. Willis is co-founder of The Willis Group, LLC, a Learning, Development, and Life Coaching company here in Fayette County and lives in Fayetteville along with her husband and their five children.]


because my reaction to the movie and book "The Bridges of Madison County" was the same. I never understood Meryl Streep's character and why she was considered a heroine. I kept reading this column and found I agree with everything she says. I worry about our nation's morality too. And I mourn that the influences of Hollywood and people whose lifestyle I denounce seem to be the norm, rather than what's crazy and weird. I hope Ms. Willis can make people wake up and fight with the rest of us to keep our families, churches and communities on moral highground.

"And I mourn that the influences of Hollywood and people whose lifestyle I denounce seem to be the norm, rather than what's crazy and weird."

And we're supposed to care who you denounce, why?

I read the book and saw the movie years ago (talk about a dated column). Not sure the character is supposed to be considered a heroine in the traditional sense of the word anyway. She is just a person who made choices. You agree with them or you don't, but they belong to that person - in this case, a fictional one.

Keep on clucking, littleoleme, your fellow hens will cluck right alongside you until you make a choice they don't agree with and then they'll just cluck about you behind your back. But you know what - those people aren't you and they don't live your life or walk in your shoes.

Judge not lest...ah, what's the point. Here I am judging you for being a judgy prig. Enjoy your life. Just remember love is better than hate and understanding and compassion are never wrong.

In fact, it sounds like the draft of a DNC speech they rejected because it was a tad too literary for the lowest common denominator.

filled with hate? Wow. I'd hate to run across you when you're feeling angry. Go back to California, we'll never be "progressive" enough for you here. I have no use for a Billy Madison wannabe bully.

Robert W. Morgan's picture

Don't care about specific issues, that is. Gay marriage, right to choose (abortion on demand), taking God out of everything, global warming, anti-capitalism, on and on and on. The Dems don't actually care about any of these things - all they care about is getting the deviants or even the sincere people who have strong feelings about these issues to vote for them and even donate money to the party. It is the big tent theory. Best to view it as a circus tent where all the freaks of our society come to show off their affliction on the national stage and get the attention they could not get at home. The Dems are simply in a numbers game to get the most votes from as many groups of people that they can. Of course this year many of the union embers, blacks and Jews, 3 of the largest support groups for Dems in the past will be departing the reservation, so they have to be replaced by aethiests, gays, environmental whackjobs and of course this year's favorite - all those poor oppressed women who have been under the thumb of the evil Republicans all these years.

No Bonnie, they are not trying to change your morality, they are simply playing to the fringes of our society in order to garner votes. Of course if they have control of all 3 branches of government and a divided supreme court, they will actually make laws to force things on you like gay marriage that should be a non-issue left to the states, who by the way have all rejected the concept, but that is in the future - maybe next year if the dumb voters act as expected.

Live free or die!

Not 1 in Jerusalem.

Once, not too very long ago I was walking in the grocery store. There was an attractive white woman walking with an attractive black man just ahead of me, clearly a happy couple. When they turned the corner, an older (elderly) white man walked up the other direction and said to me "don't that just make you sick?". When I was a teenager in my youth group at church they gave us a handout that was titled "I've fallen in love with a Roman Catholic, what should I do?" When my father was a kid, from Scotland, he was absolutely appalled at the thought of a Scottish Protestant marrying or having a relationship with an Irish Catholic. It was so bad that my grandmother was banned from wearing green. Stupid huh? Sometimes old morality is wrong, no matter who you are and I for one am glad they are changing, becoming more accepting. You as a black woman should be the first to understand that. What do you think older white people think when they see you, a black woman walk in a store with 5 children in tow? I am sure that you carry yourself well, but what happens if you have been working in the yard on a Saturday and realize that your kid needs something for school and it can't wait. Do you want people judging you, shaking their head and wagging their finger at you, even if it's behind your back? I suggest that you, as a life coach not judge others based on your narrow-minded views, and not fall back on your religion to justify them. You want God to be included in these speeches, but you balk at a healthcare system run by the government, guaranteeing that everyone receive the same care as anyone else, regardless of their financial status. Clearly you have insurance, but I'll let you in on a little secret...everybody doesn't. Have you ever not taken your sick baby to the doctor because you had no insurance and couldn't pay? Have you ever had to say you couldn't have a procedure because you couldn't afford it? I hope you never have to. I of course, as a long time married woman think adultry is appalling and there is no good excuse for it ever. But to compare that to saying that insurance should not continue covering contraceptives is ridiculous. Most of us a. don't want 5 kids and b. couldn't afford the co-pays for the insurance we are happy to have to have 5 kids. Besides, it's a heck of alot cheaper to cover contraceptives than to cover the birth of yet another kid. I won't touch the abortion issue because I think it is a personal choice, one obviously you would never make. But walk a mile in someone elses shoes before you judge will make you a much more valid life coach. And I'm so glad that the name of your company is listed because I would never send anyone to you...heaven forbid your clients had ever in their life "sinned".

[quote]At the end of the movie, I sat there thinking, yes, the characters are sympathetic, and it was a powerful performance, but the ultimate message was wrong, because it empathizes with a woman having an adulterous affair.[/quote]

Jesus, the Christ, forgave Mary Magdalene. In the movie, the 'heroine' made a correct life decision in the end. Saul, David, and many other characters found in the Bible, made mistakes in their life decisions. The words, Go and sin no more, was a healing direction. I've enjoyed your column - but I don't think I would recommend anyone to The Willis Group. <cite>Judge not lest ye be judged.</cite> Sorry, I'm judging you. Maybe you wouldn't 'judge' one of your clients.

a noble nation, had among them adulterers and fornicators among many other 'faults'.

Whatyou say may be true but I don't see the relevance to what Bonnie is espousing--I think she's right on target! And I think attempts to "boycott" her business are ill conceived and believe that the majority of readers in FC will agree with her conclusions.

I did not say I did not agree with her. I was merely pointing out that sin has been here way before this generation and that those venerated men she mentioned were among the sinners. I saw no value to that movie or even the book when I saw and read them--in fact an additional sin was that they were so poorly done. All of his books were of the same ilk--poorly written and no redeeming value, as far as I am concerned. Again, I never espoused boycotting her or her business---I would never do that. Everyone is entitled to their opinion and if you would think back to many of my posts I have said pretty much the same thing she has said--maybe in a different way. I have long said I abhor what is happening to this country as far as morals are concerned. We venerate the Hollywood crowd, who in most instances now view marriage as unnecessary. It is accepted that people cheat, be it on their taxes, to get welfare or other benefits. Our politicians lie and cheat and only are sorry when they are caught and yet we vote them back into office at the next election. A perfect example is the welcome Bill Clinton got at the convention. He was the fair haired boy---amazing what a few years can do to the memory. No, I do not agree with what is happening in our country and everywhere--just pointing out that much of it has been around for a long time---we just have the media to put it all out there for everyone to see these days.



Thanks for being the new voice of common sense in our local paper. Your analysis of the emotional reaction of so many viewers to the Bridges soap-opera was right on target. In a similarly emotional way, Americans are now in the process of tossing out time-honored social basics like the two-parent family in the hope that nobody, anywhere will ever have to feel bad about what they want to do. As a result, our young people, born and about-to-be-born, will continue to pay a horrific price for their elders' refusal to inconvenience themselves for the good of others.

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