The Rev. William O. Webster Jr., pastor at Grace Presbyterian Church in Martins Ferry, believes that the United States is not alone in its loss of a moral compass.
Webster related how years ago, the gospel was preached to a number of tribes in Central Africa. Many people responded to the message of hope and received new life in Jesus Christ. Since they had no church building where they could gather for a time of prayer, they cleared a central spot deep in the heart of the jungle just for that purpose. Soon, individual trails from many different directions converged at that spot as Christians regularly trudged through the brush.
Whenever a convert seemed to be losing his first love and enthusiasm, other believers would admonish him by saying, "Brother, the grass is growing on your path."
Webster said, "I think this is what has been happening in our valley, throughout the states and even around the world. The grass has grown on our path. We have allowed our lives to get busy, filling them with work, sporting events and practices while not making time to worship God.
"We live weeks with filled schedules and chaotic lives. Then when Sunday comes, we feel exhausted and too tired to worship God. And the path becomes overgrown from lack of use."
Webster believes that while we are experiencing a period of wandering away from God, as individuals and as a nation, we are not the first, nor will we be the last.
"The Bible is filled with stories of people worshipping God and then drifting away from Him. We see it time and time again," Webster commented.
He said people may drift away from their moral compass because they are busy or bored. There are many examples of that in the Bible.
"For each time either a person or a nation drifted away from God and his teachings, God called them back. And they returned. Maybe now it is our time to turn back to God," Webster added.
Rabbi Beth Jacowitz Chottiner from Temple Shalom in Wheeling said she believes that with faith, the good outweighs the bad.
"Our nation is made up of individuals. As such, I don't feel comfortable painting all Americans with one wide brush. There certainly are those - like the deranged man from Alabama who shot a bus driver and then held a young boy hostage in an underground bunker - who have lost their sense of what is right and wrong," she said.
"However, I still believe that the majority of our citizens are decent people. I am inspired by the words of Anne Frank, a young girl who, together with her family, hid from the Nazis in an Amsterdam loft from 1942-44 before being captured and sent to a concentration camp, 'In spite of everything I still believe that people are really good at heart.'"
Jim Hyest, an elder at the Church of Christ on National Road in Wheeling, said he believes there is nothing new about the moral missteps in today's world, including the mass shootings and other violent acts.
He said Jesse Walker at www.reason.com reports that we have experienced 62 mass killings in the last three decades and 24 in the last seven years.
"Some argue that we have always had mass killings from time to time, suggesting that there is nothing new about these recent tragedies. I submit that modern mass murders may produce the same mass tragedy, but are significantly different by reason of their motivation," Hyest said.
The recent murder of 20 grade school children, along with six adults, at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., testifies to that change. The motivation for these mass killings is so bizarre that they defy explanation, Hyest said.
"Perhaps mass killings in the past were not any less frequent, but they were more likely traceable to an event or set of events that provided a framework, however extreme, to understand them," Hyest said. "Today the killings are more and more frequently focused on innocent people unrelated to the killer, the latest example consisting mostly of elementary-aged children.
"We are at a loss to find a rationale, however twisted it may be, that can explain atrocities committed against such innocent victims. In spite of all the attention that is being given to human rights in today's culture, human value seems to be on the decline. Does America have a moral crisis? Perhaps it does.
"Do we have a moral problem? Yes! We have a moral problem because we have a sin problem; and we have a sin problem because we have a God problem. We have a God problem because either we do not believe He exists or, if we do, live as if He did not. As a nation we either return to the principles of God as our moral, legal and educational cornerstones or we will go the way of all great empires and collapse. Indeed, America has a moral crisis which, if left unresolved, will destroy us."