Victorious over military enemies in war after war, Great Britain is now succumbing to attacks by cultural enemies within. As this once-proud nation abandons the values that supported its prosperity and greatness, what lessons can the rest of the world learn from a nation facing decline?
What happens when a nation forgets the laws of God? The British experience holds lessons for the world.
In the last several decades, Britain has experienced a cultural revolution more sweeping than a foreign invasion. Laws, traditions and institutions that contributed to the greatness of this island realm were altered or dismantled and swept aside. In less than 40 years, Britain's own leaders have accomplished what World War II's "Battle of Britain"—and before that the Spanish Armada and Napoleon—had failed to achieve: the systematic destruction of a great nation that once ruled and influenced much of the world. This massive assault on national values—spearheaded by academics, artists, clergy, judges, politicians and feminists who resented established traditions and assumed that they knew better—has been tolerated by an apathetic public.
The results of this "revolution" now make daily news. Trains no longer run on time, strikes cripple public services, the quality of education has declined and student performance has tumbled. The National Health Service is in shambles. Illegitimacy and homosexuality flourish, cohabitation is common and pornography is everywhere. Shocking crimes and wanton violence are now commonplace. Patriotism and respect for the monarchy and Parliament have been discredited. The influence of religion has fallen precipitously.
A nation that once ruled an empire now struggles to manage its own internal affairs. Many Britons have lost their sense of identity and mission. Regional interests—English, Scot and Welsh—threaten to sunder the United Kingdom. The average person's focus is on making money, buying more things, going to the pub or taking holidays. "Duty, honor and country" is a relic of a past that disappeared almost overnight. To many, the prospect of joining Europe seems Britain's only real hope for a future.
The speed and scope of these changes have bewildered older generations. Many wonder how and why this could have happened. Yet younger generations see little reason for concern—this is simply the way life is today! Few grasp the real causes of this remarkable cultural transformation or where these changes will lead. In fact, modern Britain is simply repeating the mistakes of history. The Bible reveals what is actually driving this revolt against tradition, and what the future holds for a nation that has forgotten the laws of God! The modern British experience is a powerful warning of what lies ahead for the Western world—if we have eyes to see!
To understand what has occurred in Britain, we must look at the history of this remarkable island nation. One reason younger generations do not grasp the magnitude of what has happened is that key facts about British history have been forgotten—or have not been taught. Many historians understand that Britain is unique among the nations of Europe. For nearly a thousand years it has not suffered a major invasion or foreign occupation. This enabled the British to develop their own traditions of individual freedoms, such as a right to trial by jury, habeas corpus (no detention without legally determined guilt), a representative Parliament and guaranteed property rights. Surrounded by foggy and treacherous seas, Britain sits like an island fortress off the coast of Europe. This protected location allowed the British to remain a people apart—largely aloof from the strife and warfare that plagued continental nations. Britain's more temperate climate helped this island nation to be self-sufficient in food, and less prone to famines that frequently struck Europe. The world's most productive fishing grounds lie just off Britain's shores. As an island outpost on the edge of Europe, Britain developed a powerful navy and a global perspective, and prospered as the world's foremost maritime nation with "more contact with more parts of the world than almost any other nation" (Britons, Colley, p. 9). Customs barriers disappeared in Britain well before they were eliminated in Europe, which permitted the British to travel more easily and more frequently than the average European.
Protestant religion was a powerful formative factor in the development of the British nation. Following the Reformation, Britain rose to greatness as a bastion of Protestantism during a series of struggles against the most powerful Roman Catholic nations of Europe—France and Spain. As a result of the Protestant influence and free enterprise printing, the Bible was translated into English and circulated widely for anyone to read. This was key to the development of freedoms that made Britain uniquely different from many continental nations, and fostered a range of vital godly values: a sense of individual responsibility toward God, honesty, humility, thrift, hard work, compassion, respect for parents and "family values" and honor for elders and those in positions of authority. Britons took to heart the Bible's strong proscriptions against adultery, fornication, idolatry, lying, stealing, pornography, homosexuality and incest.
The principles of the "Protestant ethic" were the "dominant component of British religious life," and made Protestantism "a unifying and distinguishing bond" that held British society together (ibid., p. 19). These biblical values were promoted widely in schools and churches, were guarded by the monarchy and inspired much of the legislation passed by Parliament. Favored by an advantageous geographical position, and possessing a vast empire, the British came to understand themselves as specially blessed and protected by God for the purpose of spreading around the world not only their religious beliefs, but also the advances of science and technology and a civilization based upon biblical values.
This feeling of divine mission gave the British "a sense of their place in history and a sense of worth" (ibid., p. 57). It gave them an identity, allowed them to feel pride in their advantages and helped them endure hardships. It fostered among the Protestant British a feeling that they were special—different and superior to Catholic Europe. Italian journalist Luigi Barzini described how for many years Europeans admired, envied and sought to imitate the British, who were nearly always "well-educated, well-behaved, and incredibly richer than almost all continentals" (The Europeans, p. 36). During the height of the British Empire, many Europeans felt that the British model was best—from dress, to education, industrialization, transportation and administration—and many sought to discover the "secret" of British success (ibid., p. 37).
Yet, almost overnight, this whole situation has changed. In the space of a few decades, these unique and remarkable British qualities and traditions were nearly obliterated by intellectuals and educators. As journalist Peter Hitchens relates: "England is perhaps the only great country where intellectuals are ashamed of their own nationality" (The Abolition of Britain, Hitchens, p. 34). He also describes how revisionist teachers in Britain "saw our history as an embarrassment.… In an incredibly short time, we have been turned into a nation without heroes, without pride in our past.… We are like an amnesia patient… doomed to repeat mistakes we do not even know we have already made" (ibid., pp. 62–63). But why has Britain changed so dramatically? Why have so many turned their backs on such a unique and remarkable past? And why are so many of Britain's problems simply growing worse?
The answers are not hard to find. Many have pinpointed the moment when Britain and much of the modern world made dramatic changes. Speaking to a gathering of educators, Prince Charles observed: "It all goes back to the sixties, when everything that was tried and tested… was abandoned. We threw the baby out with the bathwater and cut all our links with the past" (London Daily Telegraph, October 7, 2002). The 1960s witnessed the emergence of powerful forces—increasing affluence and leisure, television, liberalism, feminism, freedom marches, student riots, free speech movements, anti-war demonstrations. Radical activists wishing to remake society emerged in nearly every field—art, films, education, law, politics, religion, music and the media. These revolutionaries disliked authority, defied regulations, mocked traditions and had little use for traditional religious teaching—especially Christian morality. The radicals considered the culture of their parents' generation restrictive, old fashioned, guilt-producing, hierarchical, sexist, hypocritical and evil. The activists' battle cry was "freedom and tolerance," but their methods were "rebellion and revolution." Within a decade, traditional culture was overwhelmed and transformed.
During the 1960s, the Labor Party's Roy Jenkins introduced a wave of "progressive" legislation while serving as Home Secretary. He spoke of "the need to make this country a more civilized place to live" (Hitchens, p. 264). His goal was "to create a climate of opinion which is favorable to gaiety, tolerance, and beauty, and is unfavorable to puritanical restriction, to petty-minded disapproval, to hypocrisy" (ibid., p. 263). The legislation passed by Parliament was a direct assault on Britain's foundational values. Laws against obscenity were removed because they "limited freedom of expression." Laws against homosexuality and abortion were called "brutal and unfair" and eliminated. The "barbaric" death penalty for serious crime was abolished. Divorce laws that caused "unnecessary suffering" were liberalized. The "fanatical" powers of government censorship "that forced some of the most intelligent presentations into the semi-obscurity of private clubs" were curtailed. The "ridiculous" Sunday observance laws were abolished, as were laws against gambling. Laws against public drunkenness were deemed unnecessary (ibid., pp. 263–269).
This monumental change in the direction of British society was engineered by Britain's liberal, secular and intellectual elite whose ideas "were rooted in a post-Christian humanism which sought to perfect life on earth" (ibid., p. 271). Humanism is the belief that man, not God, is the source of all values. Remarkably, the Anglican establishment put up a feeble and disjointed resistance to the attack on its core values. While some clerics opposed the new immorality, many others sought to appease the progressive forces—by accommodating behaviors once labeled as sins such as premarital sex, easy divorce, and homosexuality. In an effort to be relevant, liberal clerics introduced more casual and contemporary forms of worship, including rock bands and hand-clapping during services. They supported the ordination of women. The laws of God, as given in the Bible, were watered down and quietly shelved. Some clerics reveled in the "new freedom" and openly proclaimed their doubts about God, the Bible, Jesus, and many other doctrines and practices—with one radical theologian describing the resurrection of Christ as "conjuring tricks with bones" (ibid., p. 105).
The student radicals of the 1960s now teach in schools, universities and seminaries, serve in Parliament, sit as judges and preach in churches. However, the passage of time provides a sobering picture of the world they helped to create. The events making headlines today document what the rejection of traditional Christian values has done to the nation of Britain.
Reformers in the 1960s sought to make Britain a "more civilized" country by eliminating what they considered "repressive" laws based on biblical principles. Yet the results of their reforms now look more like a nightmare! The Bible calls for a "life for a life" (Exodus 21:23–27) and the swift application of justice (Ecclesiastes 8:11) as deterrents for evil behavior. By contrast, eliminating the death penalty and adopting a system of repeated warnings (and mild or postponed consequences for law breakers) has produced a "crime crisis," in Britain—its streets are more dangerous than New York and its murder rate has climbed to the highest level in a hundred years! A recent United Nations study of crime placed England and Wales at the top of a list of 17 other industrial nations (The Sunday Telegraph, November 3, 2002). Outlawing handguns for British citizens left only criminals carrying guns. This meant that police had to be armed—something never required before. The soft treatment of convicted criminals has made prison a joke instead of a deterrent. Due to the failure of progressive policies that protect the criminal more than the victims, many frightened Britons want tougher laws on crime—and nearly 70 percent would like the death penalty restored!
Eliminating obscenity laws opened the floodgates to pornography in Britain. Nudity is now commonplace on billboards and newspaper pages. Novels describing sexual aberrations are praised for their "literary value" and made recommended reading in schools. The repeal of laws against homosexuality encouraged many to "come out of the closet" to parade openly and actively promote their agenda in the schools to children. Since liberalizing laws against public intoxication, Britain today boasts three million alcoholics and a serious underage drinking problem.
After condoning sexual freedom, abortion, easy divorce, and removing the stigma of unmarried motherhood, Britain ranks among the world's leaders in divorce, teen pregnancy and births out of wedlock. Political leaders and their staff live openly with their "partners"—not their mates. These are remarkable changes in a nation where 90 percent of marriages once lasted for life, and unmarried women with children were rare. Sexual liberalization has led to spiraling rates of sexually transmitted diseases. Dr. Michael Adler, a medical professor in London, comments that "it is no exaggeration that we now face a public health crisis" (London Daily Telegraph, April 15, 2003).
These efforts to revise Britain's remarkable history have had a devastating impact. Historian David Starkey asserts that "the current state of history in schools is disastrous… instead of teaching children facts, we tell them that interpretation is what matters… all this is absolutely wrong. Teachers poison the minds of the young by suggesting that everything is open to interpretation" (London Daily Telegraph, October 7, 2002). Oxford professor Niall Ferguson believes that "the national curriculum for history should be scrapped" (ibid.). Prince Charles has observed that "education has become so shallow rooted that we now lack an understanding of who we are… history is crucial to our understanding of who we are. People who believe history is for others will have their history determined by others… I think we are in danger of creating a society in which children won't understand either their place in history or the distinction between good or bad" (ibid.).
Perhaps the greatest effect of this cultural revolution has been on the established church and the clergy. The Church of England, once the guardian of British morality, now accepts and promotes ideas and behaviors that the Bible openly condemns—premarital sex (1 Corinthians 6:9, 18), easy divorce (Matthew 5:31–32; 19:4–9), homosexuality (Leviticus 18:22; Romans 1:25–32) and even polygamy (1 Timothy 3:2—see The Times, April 27, 1998). Brides no longer promise to obey their husbands (Ephesians 5:22) and cohabitation is seen as a "new pathway" to marriage, as clergy fear that proscriptions against premarital sex produce a "heavy burden" of guilt and drives potential churchgoers away (The Times, March 31, 2003). Seminaries, dominated by liberal theologians, produce clergy who read from pro-homosexual translations of the Bible (if they read it at all!) but are "less likely than their predecessors to have a good basic knowledge of Christianity" (London Daily Telegraph, April 16, 2003). In fact, many religious leaders in Britain no longer believe in the fundamental doctrines of Christianity. One theologian stated that "it is an intolerable situation where the faithful are being led by the unfaithful," which is destroying the credibility of the church (The Daily Express, August 1, 2002).
Until about 1960, Britain considered itself a "highly Christian" nation. But over the last 40 years, church attendance and personal commitment to Christian beliefs have been in a "free fall." Today, fewer than 10 percent of the British regularly attend church. During this same period, many churches were closed, or converted to other uses (carpet showrooms, etc.) as, in the words of Scottish historian Callum Brown, the British started "to reject the role of religion in their lives" (The Death of Christian Britain, pp. 9, 188). What we are seeing in Britain today "is not merely the decline of organized religion, but the death of the culture which formerly conferred a Christian identity on the British people.… Britain is showing the world how religion as we have known it can die"(ibid., pp. 193, 198). Brown observes that "the nation's core religious culture has been destroyed… [by] a catastrophic cultural revolution beginning in the 1960s" and that the secularization and "de-Christianization" of Britain is "emblematic of the destiny of the whole of Western Christianity" (ibid., p. i). The outright rejection of the basic principles of biblical Christianity by Britain's ruling intellectual elite, and the disastrous social consequences, appear to be a foretaste of what is in store for much of the liberal, secularly oriented Western world if these lessons go unheeded!
Today millions of Britons are totally absorbed in a secular materialistic lifestyle focused on gratifying personal desires. But this is not the end of the story. There will still be a future, and Britain's future is revealed in the Bible—the very book most modern Britons seem determined to live without. Few in Britain understand that the British people are descendents of the ancient nation of Israel. The British inherited the birthright promises made to Ephraim (a son of Joseph) who was prophesied to become "a multitude [commonwealth] of nations" and "a fruitful bough" whose "branches run over the wall"—a reference to the colonizing tendency of the British people (see Genesis 48:19–22; 49:22). Numerous prophecies reveal that these modern Israelites would turn from God and suffer serious consequences.
The prophet Hosea states that while Ephraim (modern Britain and many of its former colonies) would be "planted in a pleasant place," these nations would become "utterly corrupt" in the latter days and will be punished by God for their sins (see Hosea 9:13; Deuteronomy 31:29). Hosea catalogues Israel's sins and warns that "because you have forgotten the law of your God, I also will forget your children… I will change their glory into shame… because they have ceased obeying the Lord" (Hosea 4). Hosea describes a nation that has "rebelled against My law… cast off the good… they sow the wind, and reap the whirlwind" (8:1–7). He also describes terrible punishments that lie in store for a people who have forgotten the biblical promises that explain their origins, and rejected principles that contributed to their greatness (vv. 8–14).
Similar prophecies are found throughout the books of Isaiah and Jeremiah. Isaiah describes "a sinful nation, a people laden with iniquity… they have forsaken the Lord" and will face serious consequences for their actions (Isaiah 1:4). Misguided teaching and a lack of discipline have allowed children to become oppressors, and feminist ideas to dominate society (3:12). Willful self-indulgence (in alcohol, sex and violence) and accepting perverted practices as normal (5:8–23) will prove to be a costly mistake (5:24–30) that will lead to "sudden" destruction (30:8–13). Jeremiah writes that God planted His chosen people as a "noble vine, a seed of highest quality" but they have become a "degenerate plant" (Jeremiah 2:21). They have forsaken God, changed their religion and turned to idols—while idol worshipers around them have maintained their beliefs over the centuries (vv. 11–13). Jeremiah states that "because My people have forgotten me" and stumbled "from the ancient paths" that God "is fashioning a disaster and devising a plan against you" (18:11, 15). The prophet reveals that misguided religious leaders "destroy and scatter the sheep of My pasture… caused My people to err" and they "strengthen the hands of evildoers [by accepting or encouraging godless behavior], so that no one turns back from his wickedness" (23:1–2, 13–14). Jeremiah warns that God's chosen people will develop incurable problems and will be punished for their sins during the "time of Jacob's trouble… in the latter days" (see Jeremiah 30).
The once-great nation of Britain is teetering on the edge of an abyss. Just what may trigger a fatal plunge remains to be seen. Unless the British are able to recognize the real cause of their problems—forgetting God and rejecting the laws of God—their future will be sobering. However, you can avoid these prophesied punishments if you can learn from the mistakes Britain has made over the last 40 years. Centuries ago, the Apostle Peter urged his own countrymen—who were also facing imminent demise—to be "saved from this perverse generation" by making major changes in their beliefs and actions (Acts 2:37–40). The God who gave Britain its incredible blessings still exists, and can change your life—if you repent and bring your life into harmony with His laws and His ways.