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Forgotten Lessons of History

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There are sins that destroy civilizations. The consequences are clear throughout human history.

Today we are witnessing a massive effort to totally transform the cultures of the Western world. Behaviors long viewed as immoral perversions—abortion, prostitution, homosexuality, same-sex marriage, transvestitism, and transgenderism—are now being promoted as acceptable and even celebrated as “alternative lifestyles.”

Governments and churches are welcoming these “liberating” trends, and schoolchildren are being taught to view these behaviors as legitimate and desirable. Many who oppose or question this agenda are attacked as narrow-minded bigots clinging to an antiquated set of values. In some places, negative discourse about these now-sanctioned behaviors is often labeled “hate speech” and punished with fines or imprisonment. But are we witnessing real progress that will usher in a new era of acceptance, equity, and social harmony? Or are we watching history repeat itself with the return of perversions that will hasten the decline of nations and the debasement of civilization?

It has long been said that if we don’t remember the lessons of history, we will repeat the mistakes of history. So, are there sobering lessons of history that are especially relevant for us today? Are we making the same mistakes that led to the downfall and demise of earlier cultures and empires? If so, why aren’t modern leaders and educators pointing out the dangers of blindly going down the same path to destruction? Why isn’t the media calling out those who ignore the tragic lessons of the past? The record of history is certainly full of vivid examples—if we have eyes to see.

The Rise of “Gay Rights”

Since the fall of the Roman Empire, generally biblical moral values about marriage and sexuality have characterized much of Western civilization. These values were widespread in America, Western Europe, among the British-descended peoples, and in areas where their influence spread. However, in the last several decades, these moral values have been attacked, mocked, and pushed aside in the Western world by a rising tide of enforced secular values. Prior to the early 1960s, there were laws against abortion and all 50 states in America had laws that criminalized homosexual activity. Yet, today, nearly 70 percent of Americans now support same sex-marriage—up from only 27 percent in 1996 (“Gay marriage is the left’s biggest culture war victory,” TheWeek.com, June 8, 2021). “Majorities of adults in all 15 countries in Western Europe surveyed by Pew Research Center in 2017 support same-sex marriage…. Support is even higher in Sweden (88%), Denmark (86%) and the Netherlands (86%)” (“Where Europe Stands on Gay Marriage and Civil Unions,” PewResearch.org, October 28, 2019). In recent years, Gay “Pride” parades have attracted millions of spectators and thousands of scantily-clad participants in many Western countries—generating considerable tourist dollars for the sponsoring cities. In 2021, U.S. embassies were instructed to fly the rainbow flag in honor of “Pride Month.”

The most recent battle in the ongoing cultural war is transgenderism. American president Joseph Biden has declared “transgender rights” as “the civil rights issue of our time”—and the push is on to eliminate anything that appears to discriminate against transsexuals. In America, public libraries are even sponsoring “Drag Queen story hours” in which men dressed as women read to children about two worms that love each other and a baby animal with two mommies or two daddies—themes that are also portrayed in animated cartoons on today’s children’s television programs.

Tragically, there is little or no mention of the serious health risks associated with these “liberated” lifestyles: greatly increased rates of HIV infections and other opportunistic diseases, greater risk for various types of cancer, serious depression, increased risk of suicide, and dying 10–20 years earlier than the average person (“Negative Health Consequences of Same-Sex Sexual Behavior,” CMDA.com, June 2019). This important information goes deliberately unmentioned due to threats of legal action and intimidation, and because of widespread propaganda against saying anything negative about this lifestyle or to discourage others from following it.

The Decline of Biblical Values

During the decades when the promotion of homosexuality was gaining strength, another trend was also developing that the media seldom connects to the advance of this secular agenda—the declining influence of biblical Christianity in the Western world. In the early 1960s, the U.S. Supreme Court declared that prayer and Bible reading in public schools were unconstitutional. As a result, students were no longer exposed to biblical concepts of right and wrong outside their homes and were encouraged to make up their own minds about moral values, regardless of whether their ideas totally contradicted what the Bible reveals.

The impact of secular theories and ideas is undeniable. Darwinian evolutionary theory postulates that there is no need for a Creator, theologians cast doubts on the Bible, educators claim there are no moral absolutes, scientists insist that human reason alone is adequate to solve human problems—all while academics and media voices ridicule Christianity. Together, these factors have accelerated the declining influence of biblical values in Western society and fostered an environment conducive to the promotion of an immoral and amoral agenda.

This has led in recent decades to plummeting church attendance. Baptisms continue to decline and the number of people claiming no religious affiliation has increased across the Western world. Today, only about 24 percent of Americans regularly attend church ("How often do you attend church or synagogue - at least once a week, almost every week, about once a month, seldom, or never?," Statista.org, January 15, 2021). In the United Kingdom, only about 2 percent of young people belong to the Church of England ("Church in crisis as only 2% of young adults identify as C of E," TheGuardian.com, September 6, 2018), which has seen its membership steadily decline for the last 50 years. In Australia, nearly half of the population “describe themselves as having no religion” ("The shrinking proportion of religious Australians," RoyMorgan.com, March 23, 2021). In New Zealand, only about 9 percent of people attend church regularly ("Losing faith: Why fewer New Zealanders are attending church," NZHerald.co.nz, June 20, 2018).

In light of these trends, it is no surprise that the highest acceptance of homosexual behavior in the world is found in so-called “Christian” nations of the West, among the younger generation in First World countries who lean left politically and are religiously unaffiliated (“The Global Divide on Homosexuality Persists,” PewResearch.org, June 25, 2020).

In this increasingly secular environment, more and more people have lost sight of—or never known—what the Bible says about marriage and human sexual behavior. A recent survey by the Cultural Research Center at Arizona Christian University found that over the last 30 years in America, the percentage of people who believe in God has fallen from 86 percent to 46 percent, and the percentage of people who view the Bible as accurate and the reliable word of God has fallen from 70 percent to 41 percent. The survey also found that only six percent of Americans hold a biblical worldview, leading the researchers to conclude that “the Bible is increasingly rejected as a trustworthy and relevant document of life principles” (“Just Two-Thirds of American Adults Say They Are Christian: Survey,” ChristianHeadlines.com, June 9, 2021).

The Bible contains very clear statements about marriage and sexual behaviors that are the exact opposite of the modern progressive agenda—so it is no surprise that biblical instructions are maligned and ignored. The Bible reveals that marriage is between a man and a woman and biological men and women were created in God’s image to be fruitful and multiply heterosexually within monogamous marriages (Genesis 1:26–28; 2:24). The Bible plainly says that it is an abomination for men to have sexual relationships with other men (Leviticus 18:22) and for women to have sexual relations with other women (Romans 1:26–27), also stating that it is an abomination for men to dress like women and vice versa (Deuteronomy 22:5).

We are also told in the New Testament that fornicators, idolaters, homosexuals, and drunkards will not inherit the Kingdom of God (1 Corinthians 6:9–10). The Apostle Paul clearly condemned the homosexual relationships that were prevalent in his day as unnatural and “vile passions” that emanate from a “debased mind” (Romans 1:24–32). He also writes in 2 Timothy 3:16, “All Scripture is given by the inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.”

Sadly, many have no qualms about mocking and rejecting these biblical instructions. There are even those who claim that Christian values are discriminatory and hateful and should be replaced by accepting attitudes towards homosexuality, same-sex marriages, and transgenderism. However, the Bible warns us, “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap” (Galatians 6:7).

Are these just empty words? Can individuals and nations simply ignore what God has inspired in His word? Are there important lessons in history and vivid examples in the Bible that record what has happened to nations and cultures that have chosen to ignore their Creator’s instructions about sexuality and marriage?

Sodom’s Sick Society

One of the most ancient and sobering lessons of history is recorded in the book of Genesis. The cities of Sodom and Gomorrah were totally destroyed by fire and brimstone during the days of the patriarch Abraham (about 2,000 BC). Sodom and Gomorrah were prosperous cities in a well-watered plain near the Dead Sea (Genesis 13:10). Today, the whole area around the Dead Sea is a dry, barren, desolate wasteland of rocks and sand—as it has been for thousands of years following the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah.

Archaeologists have located sites that could be the remains of ancient Sodom—Tell el-Hammam and Bab edh-Dhra. Both sites show destruction by fire and layers of ash from about the time of Abraham, and both are near the Dead Sea. Although neither site has been clearly established as the ancient city of Sodom, the time, nature of destruction, and location lend credence to the biblical description of these ancient cities (“Which Site is Sodom?,” Biblical Research Bulletin, vol. XIV, no. 1, 2014).

However, while evidence from archaeology can provide us with a description of what happened to Sodom and Gomorrah, only the Bible records why this sudden destruction occurred—and that reason is extremely relevant to our situation today.

We read that the men of Sodom were “exceedingly wicked and sinful against the Lord” (Genesis 13:13) and that their sin was “very grave” (Genesis 18:20). When two angels, appearing as men, came to visit Abraham’s nephew, Lot, the men of Sodom surrounded the house and demanded to have sex with them (Genesis 19:4–5). As a result of this perverted behavior, the angels led Lot and his family out of the city before it was totally destroyed by fire and brimstone (Genesis 19:24–28).

Some try to discount the role that homosexuality played in this catastrophic destruction by claiming that attempted sexual assault was the sole sin that led to Sodom’s undoing. However, this argument totally ignores other scriptures that clearly point to homosexuality and other sexual perversions as major factors in this disaster; Ezekiel 16:40–50 mentions pride, luxury, idleness, neglect of the poor, and abominations (which include homosexuality—see Leviticus 18:22; 20:13). In the New Testament, the book of Jude states that Sodom and Gomorrah were an example of cities destroyed by fire for “having given themselves over to sexual immorality and gone after strange flesh”—unnatural uses of sex (Jude 1:7).

But what does the sin of Sodom and its destruction have to do with us today? In Luke 17:28–30, we are told that when Jesus Christ returns to judge this earth, conditions will be just like they were in Sodom during the days of Lot. Today, we are seeing the acceptance and promotion of homosexuality and other sexual perversions on a massive scale in nations that once claimed to believe in God and biblical values. How much longer will God let this go on?

Pagan Greece and Rome

In history classes, we hear a lot about Greek democracy and Roman law, but we seldom hear about what was socially acceptable in these ancient pagan cultures—practices and attitudes towards sexual behavior that until recent decades were repulsive to Western minds conditioned by nearly 2,000 years of biblical teachings about sexuality.

Sexual promiscuity was widespread among pagan Greeks and Romans. A married man could have sexual relations with male and female slaves. Prostitution was accepted, legal, and taxed—bringing financial gain to local governments and to pagan temples that were served by male and female “sacred” prostitutes—as at ancient Corinth. For men, there was no stigma in being bisexual, and pederasty—sexual relations between adult males and adolescent boys—was considered a normal practice. In fact, the adult male-adolescent boy relationship was considered a “higher form” of love involving a sexual and intellectual relationship between equals. It is no coincidence that the Greek god Eros and his Roman counterpart Cupid are depicted as naked boys.

Pornographic art was commonly on display in homes and public baths. Gymnasiums, where men and boys exercised in the nude to develop their physique, were often where these adult-adolescent connections began. Today, we would call these sexual predators pedophiles. Infanticide was also widely practiced by the Greeks and Romans, and, in these ancient pagan cultures, women were considered inferior to men, created by the gods to be troublesome to mankind.

The Emperor Tiberius kept groups of boys for his personal perverted pleasures. Nero publicly married a transvestite man and had relations with other men and women. Emperor Elagabalus also married a man—in addition to having several female wives and even more female lovers. Suetonius, a Roman writer in the second century AD, compiled a catalog of this disgusting behavior in The Twelve Caesars.

We learn from history that these perverted behaviors have been around for thousands of years. The “playboy” lifestyle, widespread legal prostitution, killing of infants, homosexuality, same-sex marriage, transvestitism, and pederasty are neither new nor progressive. It is unsurprising that moral decay and debauchery are mentioned among the reasons for the decline and fall of the Roman Empire.

It was into this pagan cultural environment of murder, sexual immorality, perversion, and exploitation for personal gratification that Jesus and His Apostles began to preach the Gospel of the Kingdom of God and promote biblical moral values. Jesus stressed the importance of biblical marriage and denounced fornication and adultery. He also taught that porneia—deviant sexual behavior—was not only evil, but a legitimate cause for divorce (Matthew 19:4–9). Such behavior is totally contrary to the law of God and will keep people from entering the Kingdom of God (1 Corinthians 6:9–10; 1 Timothy 1:8–9).

The coming of Christianity and the spread of biblical principles throughout the Roman world elevated standards of sexual morality, halted infanticide, enhanced the status of women, strengthened the family, and eventually led to abolishing gladiatorial combat in the arena (see How Christianity Changed the World by Alvin Schmidt). Even while the Gospel of the Kingdom of God was corrupted over time, biblical principles of morality continued to influence the cultural values of Western civilization—until the last few decades. Again, we need to ask: How do these historical examples relate to us today, and what lies ahead for Western nations?

Lessons from the Past

Today we are witnessing a sexual revolution that is deliberately rejecting the Bible and biblical morality and returning to the sexual promiscuity and depraved perversions of the ancient pagan world—under the mistaken notions of tolerance, progress, and social justice. Yet history shows that individuals and cultures that go down the path of gratifying immoral lusts and ignoring our Creator’s laws come to a terrible end.

Many voices in government, universities, the media, and even religion are championing the causes of abortion, homosexuality, and transgenderism. A Harvard group even published a recent paper on the supposed benefits of legalizing prostitution—such as “tax revenue” (“To Protect Women, Legalize Prostitution,” HarvardCRCL.org, October 1, 2019).

Yet the Bible—which speaks out against prostitution—reminds us that biblical events were recorded as a warning for future generations, especially for those living at the end of the age (1 Corinthians 10:11). Jesus said that social conditions at the end of the age and just before His return would be as in the days of Noah and in the days of Lot in Sodom (Luke 17:26–30). In Noah’s day, “all flesh had corrupted their way” as a result of widespread wickedness, and God brought that world to an end with a great flood (Genesis 6:5–13). In the days of Lot, Sodom and Gomorrah were totally destroyed because of the magnitude of their sinful ways—which included homosexual perversions. Yet this was only about 400 years after the Flood. The ancient nations of Israel and Judah, with knowledge of these recorded events, chose to follow in the footsteps of Sodom and Gomorrah (Isaiah 1:10; Jeremiah 23:14). As a result, they were conquered and carried away into captivity by Assyria and Babylon.

Today, most in the West appear to be blind to the fact that we are repeating the mistakes of history. In the ancient Greco-Roman world, infanticide was common and acceptable. Today, abortion is legal and takes the lives of millions of babies each year. In the Greco-Roman world, pornographic art, sexual promiscuity, prostitution, and homosexuality were common throughout the Empire. Today, pornography has become a billion-dollar industry and is spread worldwide via the Internet. Sexual promiscuity is rampant, human sex trafficking is the second largest criminal activity in the world, and homosexuality and prostitution are defended by courts and promoted by graduates of Harvard University. Yet when Harvard was founded in 1636 by Puritans, it was intended to train ministers to know God, know the Bible, and live accordingly (“Shield and ‘Veritas’ History,” HCS.Harvard.edu).

What many in the West have forgotten is that there is a God who causes nations to rise and fall (Job 12:23; Daniel 2:21; 4:17). He promises blessings for obedience to His laws and serious consequences for individuals and nations that ignore and violate those laws (Leviticus 26; Deuteronomy 28). Many nations of the West have forgotten that they are the descendants of the ancient Israelites—the people to whom Moses was inspired to write more than 3,000 years ago, “After my death you will become utterly corrupt, and turn away from the way which I have commanded you. And evil will befall you in the latter days, because you will do evil in the sight of the Lord, to provoke Him to anger through the work of your hands” (Deuteronomy 31:29).

The mission of the early Church was to preach the Gospel of the coming Kingdom of God and warn of the consequences of turning away from God and His ways (Mark 1:14–15). That is also the mission of the Church today—to “cry aloud, spare not; lift up your voice like a trumpet; tell My people their transgression, and the house of Jacob their sins” (Isaiah 58:1). Unless the nations of the West wake up and learn from the lessons of history, their fate will follow the path of Sodom, Gomorrah, Greece, and Rome.

Will you learn from the mistakes of the past and avoid the consequences that are coming in the days ahead? Will you be ready for the return of Jesus Christ, when the world learns to truly live by the laws of God? That decision is yours to make.

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