A new study compiled by the Josephson Institute -- a California-based ethics organization -- highlights the problem of dishonesty among America's school-age children.
More than 29,000 students were randomly surveyed for the study -- and Dr. Bill Maier, clinical psychologist at Focus on the Family, says the results are troubling. The study reveals that 64 percent of those surveyed said they had cheated on a test, 36 percent claimed to have used the Internet to plagiarize their school work, 42 percent lied to save money, and overall 93 percent claimed they were satisfied with their personal ethics. On top of that, 30 percent admitted to shoplifting.
"I think this is very troubling, and it's just one more indication of how relativism has infected our society and negatively influenced the behavior of young people," Maier notes. "[W]e've seen over the last generation or so a move to question absolute truth and certainly to question biblical truth -- and it really doesn't surprise me that now we are starting to see the result in the behavior of our young people."
Another upsetting aspect Maier points to is that these students are the future of America. "These are our future leaders, our future business people, our future parents and spouses," he laments. "If they are willing to lie and to cheat and to steal, it doesn't bode well for the future of our society."
Maier also notes that the Christian realm is not impervious to this moral relativism-type of mindset. "Unfortunately we do see these problems in the Christian community, and I think a big reason for that is many Christian families are not living out their faith and don't really understand their own Christian worldview," he contends. "George Barna's research indicates very clearly that, unfortunately, [only] a very small percentage of born-again Christians...believe that there is a concept of absolute truth. That should be shocking to us." Barna is founder of The Barna Group, which monitors trends in the Christian community nationwide.
The fight against the mindset of moral relativism begins at home, according to Maier. He believes parents should start teaching their children at a very young age that money, power, and success are not the most important aspects of life, and that what really matters is a person's character. Maier points to the book of Galatians where the Apostle Paul talks about the fruits of the spirit that the true Christian should exhibit. The psychologist says parents should be teaching and showing, by example, things like love, joy, patience, gentleness, kindness, and self-control. He adds that they should also exhibit characteristics such as integrity, honesty, and service to others.
Another area that Maier says parents need to be diligent in is exposure to media. He contends the moral relativism mindset permeates music, television, Internet, and other such mediums, and that the only way to combat that attack is by becoming grounded in the scriptures and returning to a true biblical ethic.
Focus on the Family has launched an effort called The Truth Project, which is designed to equip individuals with an understanding of who God is and why humans exist. It also seeks to expose the truth behind many of society's vices such as sexual promiscuity and homosexuality. The Truth Project is set up for adult small-group study.