Cultures in Crisis | Tomorrow's World

Cultures in Crisis

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Abortion, homosexual rights and other "hot button" cultural issues are stirring emotions throughout America and the western world. Today's society is facing a war between good and evil. The good news is that the Kingdom of God will end this war, restoring true values.

What is happening to America and the West? Where will it lead?

The last half of the 20th century has seen an almost unbelievable shift in the cultural values of the Western World. Today, television and movies screen themes of sex, violence and vulgarity that were unthinkable and impermissible only 35 years ago. News reports routinely discuss incredibly brutal and senseless crimes and topics that have been historically taboo—homosexual marriage, "gays" parading openly, and radical feminists shouting that traditional marriage is a tool for male oppression of women and abuse of children. Educators now describe to children as normal, behaviors that have been traditionally regarded (and still are by many) as perversions. Today lying is socially acceptable if it serves a purpose. For some, rape has become a form of recreation. Angry youth feel that murder is something to do if you are bored, upset or just want to make a statement!

People who lived a century ago would be shocked to see what is accepted today without comment! Yet many are deeply troubled by modern trends. Perhaps this includes you! Nearly 75 percent of Americans see "cultural decline" as the major problem facing our nation today—and they are not alone! This disturbing wave of social change is surging around the globe. Many wonder just what is happening to America and the West? What is driving this incredible transformation of our moral values? Where will this cultural sea change take us? Is there a solution?

Surprising as it may seem, the Bible predicted our modern dilemma! The Scriptures not only foretold our cultural crisis, but the inspired word of God explains why this moral transformation is occurring, its true significance, and where it will take us. You need to understand what lies ahead!

The Real Issue!

Unfortunately, the issues that generate controversy, inflame emotions and make news headlines—abortion, gay rights, liberal feminism, the rejection of traditional sex roles, the redefinition of the family, skyrocketing divorce, sex education—are only the surface issues. They generate a smokescreen that obscures the real issue at the heart of all these problems. The real issue centers on the questions of what is right, and what is wrong—what is ultimately good, and what is evil and ultimately intolerable? How we answer these questions will determine whether America and the West will continue to follow right and wrong as traditionally defined in the Bible, or whether we will embrace the "progressive ideas" promoted by secular, liberal, New Age propagandists. They say that all values are relative, that absolute truth does not exist, and that people can decide what is appropriate and right for themselves. Will our guide be divine revelation or human opinion and human reason? This is the bottom line, the "cultural war" that is tearing at the fabric of Western society.

Sobering Significance

But there is much more to this battle than just an argument over religion and philosophy. What is at stake is the future of Western civilization.We are in the process of tossing overboard the fundamental principles upon which America and the West were built. We are abandoning the central role of religion in our culture. We seem intent on discarding biblical-based morality and the belief that a transcendent God inspired immutable laws to govern human relationships. We are at a crucial "pivotal point" in the history of Western civilization.

George Washington advised in his farewell address: "Let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion… reason and experience forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in the exclusion of religious principle" (A Nation without a Conscience, LaHaye, p. 22). Thomas Jefferson asserted, "no nation has ever yet existed or been governed without religion. Nor can be" (One Nation, Two Cultures, Himmelfarb, p. 86). John Adams stated: "Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other" (LaHaye, p. 55). U.S. Senator Dan Coats has commented, "No culture can survive without a moral consensus, shared beliefs about right and wrong, a common standard of truth" (Ibid. p. 5). Dwight Eisenhower believed: "Recognition of the Supreme Being is the first, and most basic, expression of Americanism. Without God, there could be no American form of government, nor American way of life" (Ibid. p. 70). These are powerful warnings that echo across the centuries!

The fundamental issue in the culture war that has enveloped America and the West is the jettisoning of our religious heritage and traditions. By embracing relativism (the idea that there is no absolute truth and individuals determine values for themselves) we undermine traditional values, we destroy our sense of right and wrong, and we damage our ability to make crucial decisions (see The Age of Consent, Knight, p. 14). The rejection of biblical-based values of morality does not bode well for the future of America. Although America has played an exceptional role in the 20th century, America "is not exempt from the rules that sustain civilization" (LaHaye, p. 8). Speaking of Western Europe, where religion has even less influence than in America, President Vaclav Havel of the Czech Republic lamented, "the first global civilization in the history of mankind is also the first atheistic civilization in the history of mankind" (Himmelfarb, p. 94). The culture wars raging in Western society have moved us into dangerous territory. As journalist/historian Otto Scott has observed, "no great civilization… has ever outlasted the loss of its religion" (LaHaye, p. 22). This is sobering to contemplate!

Principled Path to Greatness

A century of expanding secular influences and increasing hostility to traditional religion in the media and academic circles has led many to assume that Christian values are useless, outdated artifacts of a bygone era. This view, however, reflects a dangerous ignorance of our own history! America and Britain did not become world powers by accident. Many nations have envied our rise to prominence, our wealth, stability, power and influence, and not a few have sought to discover the "secret" of our success. Yet nearly all investigations arrive at the same surprising conclusion!

Veteran Italian journalist Luigi Barzini lists the rigorous Protestant ethical code of "prudence, diligence, discipline, perseverance, honesty… tenacity, self-control, fair play" as a crucial element in Britain's rise to prominence (The Europeans, p. 37). Distinguished Professor of History, Gertrude Himmelfarb, writes that the [biblically-based] Victorian values of "work, thrift, temperance, fidelity, self-reliance, self-discipline, cleanliness, godliness" were preeminent and "almost universally accepted" in British culture during Britain's ascent to greatness (One Nation, Two Cultures, p. 5). The decline of British prominence has followed the erosion of these fundamental values.

Alexis De Tocqueville, the French political philosopher writing in the 1800s about the secrets of America's greatness, states, "the religious atmosphere of the country was the first thing that struck me on arrival in the United States" (The Character of Nations, Codevilla, p. 224). He describes a nation where people worked hard and attempted to live godly lives, valued the family, revered marriage, punished adultery, treated sexes equally—yet recognized different natural roles for each sex. These basic ideas were taken directly from the Scriptures. De Tocqueville observed that "on the Sabbath, America came to a halt and that after church the typical American read the Bible. No where else in Christendom was the Old Testament read so much and the notion of God as lawgiver so widespread" (Ibid. p. 227). The character of Americans was molded by biblical values. These were the values that drove America on the road to its destiny. Yet these are the values that America is abandoning!

Sociologist James Hunter writes that biblical theism— the belief in the God of the Bible and the necessity of following His laws—provided the "cultural cement in American public life" (Culture Wars, p. 71). Nearly all Americans accepted and followed the same biblical guidelines regarding marriage, family, sex roles and personal behavior. A prominent American rabbi stated in 1903, "this country is, as everybody knows, a creation of the Bible, particularly the Old Testament" (Ibid.). More recently, Rabbi Daniel Lapin has observed, "Christianity, has been responsible, among other things, for the founding of America, the greatest civilization the world has ever known, and for making America great" (America's Real War, p. 12).

It is simply impossible to escape the fact that biblical values molded the character of the American and British peoples. De Tocqueville and others have noted that America and Britain, forged by Judeo- Christian principles, became the preeminent examples and bearers of culture around the globe—lights to the world! The Bible reveals this is exactly what God intended to happen (see Deuteronomy 4:1–10). (To explore this incredible story further, request our free booklet What's Ahead for America and Britain?).

Sowing the Wind

But how could we be deceived into discarding such valuable religious principles—principles that shaped our national character and set us apart from the nations of the world? The pages of the Bible and the lessons of history tell the story. The Scriptures describe Satan, the Devil, as the adversary of God, "who deceives the whole world" (Revelation 12:9). Satan deceived Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. He said that by eating the forbidden fruit and defying God's instructions they would become like God and be able to determine right and wrong—for themselves (Genesis 3:1–5, see also The Expositor's Bible Commentary, vol. 2, p. 51). This argument sounds reasonable, but the results are deadly (Proverbs 14:12). The truth is that God determines what is right and what is wrong. We merely decide whether to obey or reject what God has revealed. Satan, however, has continued to promote this same lie down through the ages—that morality does not need to be based on religion or the Bible, it can be determined by individuals—apart from God.

Adam Smith, the 18th century Scottish economist wrote: "In every civilized society… there have been always two different schemes or systems of morality… the one may be called the strict or austere; the other the liberal, or… the loose system" (Himmelfarb, p. 3). The Bible reveals one of the fundamental challenges of life involves choosing between two different ways of living (Deuteronomy 30:15–20). In America and Britain the strict or religious scheme dominated our culture until the mid 20th century. The loose schemes of morality existed on the fringes of our society, primarily among the so-called "decadent elite" who had nothing but disdain for Bible-based morality (Ibid. p. 7). This fringe element found fertile ground in the growing secularization and urbanization of society, the decline of religious influence, the increased power of the media and the "dissolvent effect" of two world wars on traditional behavior and belief (Ibid. p. 10). The explosive growth of higher education in the 1950s gave increasing numbers of young people "access to the worldview-changing experiences of university life" that undermined traditional values (Ibid. p. 13; Hunter, p. 63).

In the 1960s, a social revolution erupted in nations of the West as these trends merged (Himmelfarb, p. 19). Free speech became a license to public profanity and vulgarity! The "make love, not war" notion fanned sexual promiscuity! The "tune-in, turn-on, drop-out" slogan was a ticket to an acid-rock music nightmare! The rebellion of the Sixties, according to theologian Peter Jones, was a rebellion "against the Christian religion" and "Western Judeo-Christian culture" (Spirit Wars, p. 23–24). The goal of this "destructive generation" was nothing less than the overthrow of Christian values and dismantling of Western civilization! Their "tools" were rejection of authority and rejection of biblical sexual mores (Ibid. p. 19). The damage has been widespread!

Unfortunately, the same tools are still being used. The anti-establishment rebels have grown up and now occupy positions of power in government, courtrooms, universities, seminaries and in the media—where their agenda continues! The social revolution of the Sixties has become the cultural war of today. As crusader Charles Dobson has stated, "We are in a civil [cultural] war of values and the prize to the victors is the next generation—our children and grandchildren" (Hunter, p. 64). It is a "war of ideas, it's a war about our way of life" (Ibid.). In biblical terms, we have truly sown the wind and reaped the whirlwind— just as God warned over 2,000 years ago (Hosea 8:7).

But what are the actual fruits of the uninhibited choices that many in America and the West have been making since this social revolution began in the Sixties? The outcome is hardly what was promised or expected! Unraveling the Christian moral code—which was to liberate us from oppressive restrictions— has unleashed a host of "social pathologies" or "diseases of democracy" that were virtually non-existent fifty years ago. Historian Himmelfarb catalogues a sad list, "…the collapse of ethical principles and habits, the loss of respect for authorities and institutions, the breakdown of the family, the decline of civility, the vulgarization of high culture, and the degradation of popular culture" (Himmelfarb, p. 20). By tolerating everything, we now stand for nothing! Where selfdiscipline once prevailed, self-gratification now reigns!

Looking at specific issues, the undeniably negative results of this "liberating" revolution are even more shocking! By removing the stigma from divorce, America now claims the highest divorce rate in the world. The family, long considered the basic building block of strong, stable societies, is literally under assault in the Western world. The liberation of women from marital responsibilities and sex roles outlined in the Bible, has resulted in more women in therapy and on tranquilizers than ever before. Combined with easy divorce, the "women's lib" movement has spawned a huge jump in single parent families and the feminization of poverty. Homosexuality is touted as a normal, alternative lifestyle, yet homosexual men die at half the age of heterosexual men! Banning the Ten Commandments and undermining respect for authority has led to a 400 percent increase in the incarceration rate in the United States! We pass out contraceptives in high schools to reduce teen pregnancy, yet parental disapproval is a greater deterrent. Cohabitation rates have increased over 800 percent in the last 35 years in spite of the fact that those who marry have a 50 percent greater chance of divorce than individuals who did not cohabit before marriage (see Himmelfarb, pp. 20–28). The jettisoning of biblical guidelines for sexual morality and decency has "led to a progressively savage, deviant and predatory sexuality" (Knight, p. xxiii). The entertainment media in most Western nations is now awash in vulgarity, violence and filth of all kinds.

These are the actual fruits of the progressive, secular, liberal, anti-Christian revolution that erupted in the Sixties. Yet, incredibly, those who advocate a return to the biblical values that contributed to our greatness are labeled as small-brained, narrowminded fundamentalists who desire to "turn the clock back" to the repression and oppression of the stifling Fifties!

Surprises Ahead!

But just where are America and the West heading? What will happen to our nations as we abandon principles that made us great? Concerned observers see danger ahead, but are reluctant to make predictions. Historian Himmelfarb cautions that we "are living off the religious capital of a previous generation and that that capital is being perilously depleted" (p. 146). She further warns, "cultural revolutions are least susceptible to reversal" (p. 144). Judge Robert Bork advises, "we are well along the road to the moral chaos that is the end of radical individualism… Gomorrah is our probable destination" (Slouching Towards Gomorrah, pp. 331, 343).

Author and researcher Jim Nelson Black discusses many of the same disturbing issues and trends we have covered in this article in his sobering book When Nations Die: Ten Warning Signs of a Culture in Crisis. He sees in America many of the same problems that plagued the Roman Empire during its decline. While noting the signs of danger, he suggests, "Perhaps we have not yet reached the point of collapse… Perhaps Western civilization is in for a renewal…" (p. 247). Tim and Beverly LaHaye conclude their book A Nation Without a Conscience with an optimistic series of "what ifs." They suggest if we change, "the entire world would rejoice in the restoration of America's conscience" (p. 271). But will America and the West change in time to avert a cultural disaster? Can we know the future? What does Bible prophecy reveal?

Anciently, God warned Israel—the ancestors of America, Britain, and other Western nations—that when they were blessed above all other people to be careful not to forget God (Deuteronomy 6:10–12, 7:6, 12–14, 8:11–14). However, God foresaw by the end of the age, their rebellious descendants would turn from God's way and become "utterly corrupt." God prophesied that "disaster will fall upon you because you will do evil in the sight of the Lord" (Deuteronomy 31:27–29, NIV). Russian social critic, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, testifies to the accuracy of end-time Bible prophecies when he states, "the principle trait of the entire twentieth century… Men have forgotten God" (LaHaye, p. 53). By rejecting biblical morality, we are becoming an increasingly secular, self-indulgent, godless culture! This is the root cause of our problems.

In prophecies that have a dual application to both ancient and modern Israelite nations, God describes His chosen people as a sinful, rebellious nation that is sick from head to toe (Isaiah 1:1–6). They would become like Sodom and Gomorrah (Isaiah 1:10). As they reject God's law, the stabilizing supports of their society will crumble (Isaiah 3:1–3). Children (impulsive, unprincipled individuals) will be their princes, and "women rule over them" (vv. 4–5, 12). The revolt of youth against the establishment and the rise of radical feminism have been two of the most prominent developments of the twentieth century. God prophesied the leaders of Israel "cause you to err, and destroy the way of your paths" (v. 12). Today it is the secular, liberal leaders in religion, government, academics and the media that are waging the cultural war against traditional Christian values. They are "Pied Pipers" leading our nations to destruction! Isaiah lists a series of social pathologies that result from the rejection of God's law— materialism, self-indulgence and moral degeneracy, lying to promote evil, corrupt justice and calling "evil good, and good evil" (Isaiah 5:1–24). In the last 50 years we have seen the total inversion of values that God prophesied would occur. Today the deviant is called normal, and normal is now termed deviant! But will we change? Will we see a revival and renewal?

Here again, the Bible provides a sobering insight into the future. Jeremiah foretold a "time of Jacob's trouble… in the latter days" (Jeremiah 30:7, 24). Speaking of the Israelite nations (Jacob) he said: "Your affliction is incurable, your wound is severe… you have no healing medicines," and that God will punish Israel for their sins (Jeremiah 30:12–14). God warns: "Your own wickedness will correct you, and your backslidings will reprove you" because "…you have forsaken the Lord your God" (Jeremiah 2:19). God indicates "the plunderer [a powerful foreign nation] will suddenly come" upon His stubborn and rebellious people (Jeremiah 6:16–19, 22–26). Hosea indicates the nations of Israel will "stumble in their iniquity" (Hosea 5:5), and be "destroyed for lack of knowledge… because you have forgotten the law of your God" (Hosea 4:6). Isaiah and Ezekiel speak of Israel being devoured and taken into captivity by a foreign nation (Isaiah 1:20, 5:13, 24–30, 9:8–14; Ezekiel 12:10–11, 20:23–24). Bible prophecy indicates nothing about a revival in the latter days. This period of national punishment (Jacob's trouble) is significant, in that it will occur just before the return of Jesus Christ (see Jeremiah 30:1–3, 8–9). God's solution involves correction!

However, the Scriptures also indicate that God will gather repentant Israelite nations after their punishment (Isaiah 11:11–12) and use them, once again, as a force for good in the world (Isaiah 19:23–25). This will be after the return of Jesus Christ when the kingdom of God is established on earth. During the millennial reign of Christ and the saints, the world will be taught the true way to peace and happiness (Isaiah 30:20–21). The Kingdom of God will bring an ultimate restoration of biblical values that will impact all peoples of the earth (Acts 3:19–21). This is what the Gospel is all about. You can have a part in this exciting challenge if you are not deceived by the cultural war that is raging today!


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