What is Deviancy?

In a society, people live together undergirded by established social contract. However, sometime society may face behavior that departs from morals and norms that undergird its social contract- the phenomenon is known as deviance. Anderson (2017) defines deviance as behaviors, characteristics, or thought patterns that violate the norm beyond society’s tolerance. It is worth noting that deviancy is subject to societal definition and, as such, can vary from society to society. In the modern-day, some traditional norms underpinning American society are facing moral erosion. For instance, drug abuse and addiction deviance are rampant in contemporary America. Traditionally, drug abuse was viewed under the lens of society’s definition of morality and sin; however, it is being viewed from the vantage point of emotional disturbance and mental health definitions in the modern-day.

            Since deviancy is subject to societal or group definition, a society can redefine norms around deviant behavior. According to Anderson (2017), this can happen in two ways. Firstly, ‘defining deviancy down,’ which refers to a shift towards more permissive attitudes regarding behaviors and thought patterns that were once considered deviant. Thus, it entails normalizing actions that used to be deemed punishable or stigmatized. Secondly, ‘defining deviancy up’ means deterring, discouraging, outlawing, and forbidding behaviors that used to be tolerated or overlooked (Smith, 2017). The increasing drug abuse deviancy in the US hints to a pattern of ‘defining deviancy down.’

Read also Differences Between Normative And Relativistic Approaches To Deviant Drinking

            Drug abuse and addiction is a well-documented issue in the US. According to Smith (2017), historically, substance-related literature dealt with straightforward terminology. This entailed categorizing drug-related problems, including addiction, dependence, abuse, and more generally, deviance. Notably, in this regard, they function as accepted priori conjectures; thus, they do not need to be discussed. Arguably, such reification of concepts implies that contemporary reality is decontextualized due to ‘defining deviancy down.’ Da Agra (2017) elucidates that this is an epistemological stance of naïve realism that contrasts with longstanding traditional norms established to ensure America always maintains an objective ‘true north.’ As a nation, the US recognizes the danger posed by drug abuse, which is evident in the amounts of money the government invests in fighting illegal drugs. However, the public’s attitude towards drug use facilitates the downward deviance definition (Whitmore, 2020). As per Whitmore, the existence of a drug problem in the US is a purely objective condition, primarily shaped by the public’s attitude towards the topic.

 The US, as a country, is founded on robust spiritual infrastructure. It is this infrastructure that defines what entails good and evil (Dees, 2014). The Bible advises that people must avoid substances that threaten their soberness since evil is always lurking. 1 Peter 5:8 (KJV) states, “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” Comparing to the case of the US, periods when the nation has experienced an upward surge in drug abuse have been accompanied by increased rates of crime. For instance, the crack epidemic (the early 1980s to the early 1990s) contributed to increased urban crime (Da Agra, 2017). In fact, Da Agra illuminates that the epidemic promoted inner-city neighborhood decay, whereby it fueled economic and social chaos. This demonstrated how drug abuse and dependence could threaten the natural order of things, leading to societies’ destabilization.

            The adverse impacts of drug abuse extend beyond destabilizing a society’s social and economic conditions. Drug abuse and dependence have been shown to cause mental illnesses by harming the brain and the nervous system. This goes against the biblical teachings regarding taking care of one’s body as postulated in 1 Corinthians 3:16-17 (KJV), which states that “Do you not know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in your midst? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy that person. For God’s temple is sacred, and you together are that temple.” Therefore, Biblical teachings can help contemporary America maintain an objective ‘true north’ and, as such, conquer the deviancy that has caused the drug abuse and dependence problem.            

In conclusion, if a society fails to emphasize morals and values, it risks erosion that can destabilize it, consequently harming its wellbeing. This mainly results from defining deviance down by shifting attitude towards more permissive attitudes regarding behaviors and thought patterns that were once considered deviant. Traditionally, Americans have viewed drug abuse as irresponsible behavior, however public attitude towards the subject has alarmingly shifted. However, it is worth noting that by defining deviancy up informed by Biblical concepts, America can successfully restore sanity; thus, heal vices such as drug abuse, among other deviant behaviors.

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