You might attribute my sentiments to the cynicism of an aging man, but the country I find myself in today is not the country in which I grew up in the 1950s and 60s. It has not changed for the better. There is such evil in our land that, without faith in God and knowledge of what Scripture prophesies, I would despair for my grandchildren’s future. I know I must not be anxious, but I am still very concerned for them and what they will face in their lifetime.
Like never before in the United States of America, and likely in the history of God’s creation world-wide, sin overwhelms us. It seems that all restraints, inward and outward, have been lifted and the world is rushing on to utter ruin from its depravity. My own country takes the lead. In a kind of national suicide, the USA seems to be terminating her own life, spiritually, emotionally, even physically.
Although I would be mistaken, I am tempted to liken what is happening to our country to the disaster that overtook Japan in 2011 when a tsunami of unprecedented magnitude overwhelmed a large part of her coastline. Who can forget the video images of that calamity, the absolute ruin brought about by unstoppable colossal waves? But to make that comparison would be wrong, because Japan was overwhelmed by a force outside of her, which did not originate from her, and over which she had absolutely no control. An earthquake lifted the Pacific to engulf her. But the ruin of our country is self-inflicted. To make the analogy valid, the United States is willfully plunging herself into the ocean, bringing upon herself obliteration not only of both coasts but of the entire land.
The other countries of the world, in their own way, are following suit.
I said “like never before” because it becomes evident to all (except to those who will not see) that the speed with which we are rushing toward ruin is greater than ever. The extent and the depth of our nationally sanctioned depravity appear now in ways even one generation past could not have envisioned.
Sex, violence, and lies
Let me illustrate with the sex, violence, and lies that at one time were suppressed, at least outwardly, but are increasingly rampant because the United States approves, sanctions, promotes, and defends them.
One is out of touch with American society if he cannot recognize the common denominator in these names: Harvey Weinstein, Matt Lauer, Roy Moore, Al Franken, John Conyers Jr., Bill O’Reilly, Charlie Rose, Chris Matthews, Dustin Hoffman, Matt Damon, Bill Cosby, Garrison Keillor, Carter Oosterhouse, Jerry Richardson, and more. And being on Twitter is not necessary to know that the hashtag #MeToo represents throngs of women who claim to have been sexually abused by powerful men such as these. The list of men who have been ousted or resigned their positions and lost their wealth because of the sex accusations includes politicians, sports doctors, media moguls, product endorsers, celebrity chefs, sports stars, professional sports team owners, movie stars, orchestra directors, radio personalities, and news anchors from the highest echelons of their fields of work. The details of their wickedness, what may be known of them, indicate vilest behavior. And how recently has this all come to light? The tsunami comes ashore. Our country is going under in sexual filth.
Some may not listen much to news and thus be ignorant of these sex-abuse scandals, but they cannot be unaware of the sudden increase of mass murders. If I did not live here and know where safe is (usually), the news of our country’s violence might scare me from even vacationing in the USA. The mass killings at Mandalay Bay, Las Vegas, the Pulse night club in Florida, Sutherland Springs Baptist Church, to name just a few so recent, are mind-numbing. They are drastic enough to make a person almost forget Aurora in Colorado, Fort Hood, Dylan Roof, Virginia Tech, San Bernardino/Redlands, Sandy Hook Elementary, Columbine, and others, if it were not for the media’s reminder of these older tragedies on the anniversaries of the blood shed there. One group that watches such things reports that mass shootings (shooting of four or more persons, whether wounded or dead) numbered 483 in the United States in 2016 alone. An average of nine mass shootings every week! (How can one resist putting exclamation marks after every sentence in reports like this?) In addition to the mass shootings, everyone living in or near an urban area hears news of shooting deaths daily. What is horrifying is that the frequency of these atrocities not only makes me forget the last one, but almost makes the news of the next one unsurprising. Is this what is happening to us? Another fifty people gunned down and we forget it in a couple of days? No wonder the outrage against guns and the pro-gun lobby increases. Our country is going under in violence. The tsunami rises.
One does have to partake of news, however, to be aware of big lies flooding the land. Fake news, a horrible euphemism, is ubiquitous and very powerful, as the lie has always been. Websites designed solely for the purpose of spreading lies, for political or financial gain, or both, are common. Governments, news organizations, and individuals are unembarrassed to lie. All the social media tools make the lies spread like a California wildfire. And to compound the evil, a lie is no longer a lie but ‘fake news.’
If one would add a fourth wave of evil, it might be pleasure-madness, the love of money, the ‘bread and circuses’ mentality that speeds ahead (to change the analogy again) like a soon-out-of-control Amtrak train. Our land loves, really worships, pleasure, sports, leisure, luxury, every kind of extravagance and indulgence. The motto on our currency could well be changed to “In Gold We Trust.” Also ‘filthy lucre’ becomes worse and worse.
I emphasize the first three, though, because our country does not seem to have a gag-reflex for overabundant possessions, but does in response to these other three evils. So a storm of criticism rains down against the powerful men who abuse vulnerable women, against the pro-gun lobbies and conservative politicians who will not stop gun violence by outlawing guns; it even rains down in some outrage against dishonesty. One group denounces another for complicity in an evil; this political party rails against that for its contribution to or promotion of the evil, however now they may define ‘evil.’
Christians must see this anger for what it is, a self-righteous rampage that censures one form of an evil while refusing to recognize all the other forms. By the grace and light of God, we understand that our country’s criticism is hypocritical. Shouting angrily about one type of sexual evil or violence, it ignores or justifies a dozen other sorts which, in God’s eyes, may be much worse.
For a few generations already, our society has approved, then defended, and finally promoted aggressively all three forms of these evils. No American should be surprised at their dramatic increase because we have been sowing their seeds for decades.
First, for at least two generations now we have glorified almost every form of sexual sin. Hugh Hefner’s recent death and the accolades given him remind us of the era when outward restraints on sexual sins were removed. It did not take very long for the sexual revolution to permeate every realm of society. Hardly fifty years ago on television, to show a pregnant woman was deemed improper; now sex of every sort—heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual, and who knows how many other forms—is the subject of prime-time television, even game shows. Only one generation ago it was still difficult, even socially unacceptable, for a man to dabble in pornography. Now pornography brings the majority of Internet profits. While approving and defending these forms of sexual sin, society is hypocritical when it complains about the others. Where is media’s outrage at pornography’s destruction of marriages and relationships, to say nothing of the psyche of our country’s youth?
Second, for how many years has not violence been a part of our society? Increasingly, and boldly, violence emerges (or, better: our society aggressively drags violence out) from the dark alleys where she had once hidden it, bringing it into the light of mainstream entertainment. The country spends billions and billions on her sponsorship of bloody gore and murder. The video games and movies that often are most profitable are filled with both sex and violence. The brutal mixed martial arts, where even women beat their opponent’s face to a pulp, for entertainment, is the source of massive profits for promotional companies. Men and women alike pay hundreds of dollars to entertain themselves with the violence. So there is no consistency when Americans spend their energy to enact gun laws when they are mute about the violence that a large part of society sanctifies for their own pleasure. And it certainly will not do for the media to rail against killing by guns when our elite and coddled university professors defend zealously the right to destroy unborn children. What are a dozen or even hundreds killed by deranged gun-carrying men, compared with the millions and millions of children killed by state-licensed doctors? The violence and bloodshed of abortion make the violence of Mandalay Bay look like child’s play. But of course, it is not.
And the lie? Probably long ago it could be said that truth had fallen in the streets (Is. 59:14) and perished in our land (Jer. 7:28). For when a people reject Truth with a capital T it cannot be that there will be any truth in it. The deadly plague of the Lie now reaches epidemic proportions.
C.S. Lewis was thinking of such a society, foolishly pondering why such evils exist, when he famously said, “We remove the organ and demand the function. We make men without chests and expect of them virtue and enterprise. We laugh at honor and are shocked to find traitors in our midst.” A man without a chest, Lewis meant, was a man without the ‘organ’ of a heart, strong and filled with God’s truth. Removing the organ (the heart) but demanding its function (virtue) is foolish. Men without chests will not be virtuous. To mock honor and then to be shocked to find murderers, liars, and sexual predators everywhere is foolishness.
And then there is the church
Our calling as we observe the condition of our land includes asking about the church’s place in this wicked world. Some churches may well be filled with similar corruptions covered by a veneer of Christianity. But what of my church? Your church?
We live in very wicked lands. Of course, we must not partake of their evils or we will perish with them. But how do we respond to these evils? Are we aware of the danger of a self-righteous anger very similar to the one we criticize in others? How should I, as a Christian, respond?
I will begin by expressing to God sorrow for the sins of the nation of which I am a part. I am a citizen of this country of which I formerly was proud but now am much ashamed. And it would be unbecoming of me to ignore the fact that I am a citizen of this land and thus guilty of her sins by corporate responsibility. We start there, humbling ourselves before God and confessing our nation’s sins. If righteous Daniel in Babylonian captivity could confess as his own the sins of Israel, of which he had no active and conscious part (Dan. 9 is one of the most moving confessions in all Scripture), citizens of a country do well to confess their guilt for the country’s sin.
Then, we will ask what active part we have played in the sins of the nation. In what do we participate? In its sexual sin? On television, in video games, on the Internet, in books? In what way do we approve of or find pleasure in its violence? What part of the lie do we willingly partake in by judging rashly, or believing every word we hear in the politically conservative news? Does our use of social media always comport with the call to speak the truth in love? Or may it be said of us what is said of the country: In a self-righteous rampage they criticize one form of wickedness while ignoring a dozen others?
And what of our own sinful nature? Full of corruption of every sort, with the potential of sin of every kind, burning with lusts no different than those of any unbeliever, we confess that we are evil, born in sin. We are, in our nature, so corrupt that we are wholly incapable of performing any good and inclined to all wickedness. We confess this with sincerity, and deepest humility and shame.
We see the flood ready to overwhelm us.
By faith, though, we do not despair. Certainly, we do not look with self-righteous pride at everyone else, but with shame at our own sins and sinfulness. And then we flee from this destructive flood to Jesus Christ and to His church, the ‘ark’ where is safety.
But since God does not promise to destroy the world by a watery flood again but by fire, we fly to Christ who was willingly consumed by the fire that came from heaven against my sins that He bore.
(Next time: So what happened to America? What happened to the churches that are becoming like the false church? Could it happen to my true church? God’s judgments come upon our land. Might they also come upon our churches? What hope is there for us and our grandchildren?)