Itís good to pause in life and consider man and his world to perhaps increase our awareness of the fleeting nature of life. The days of our years are threescore years and ten and if by reason of strength they be fourscore, yet is there strength, labor, and sorrow, for it is soon cut off. The Biblical age of 70 remains accurate; itís later than you think.|
I want to talk about three changes in life that have altered the worldís politics and economics. 1. COMMUNICATION. A little over 100 years ago (within the life span of some) we had to wait for news from abroad til the boat got here, then the first cable was laid. Radio was only really used as a method of communication during FDRís first campaign. TV as a meaningful force was barely 30 years old (in the 70's). The first trans-Atlantic telephone cable was laid in 1956. 2. INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTION. About 100 years ago. Meaningful commencement in this country and in Europe and in Russia was after 1870, producing that combination of capitol, labor, resources and inventive genius that produced great wealth that the people in the last 50 years have been treated to. They enjoyed or gazed on material wealth that could never have been dreamt of by a Pharaoh, or Solomon, or a Henry VIII, or a Russian czar , or eastern potentate. Man through his exploitation of the earth has produced cars, modern homes (with all that implies), jet planes, central heating and air conditioning, shopping malls, medicines, CDís, hi-fiís and tape recorders, space ships, and so on and on. 3. COMMUNISM AND SOCIALISM. A little over 100 years ago Marx and Engels produced the Communist Manifesto: the materialistic interpretation of history. Things of the spirit gave way to material things. At the root of the theory was that the ruling class and bourgeoisie exploited the working class unfairly. Probably true. Communism was a logical development; reformation began to free mansí mind. Inroads were made against ignorance and superstition arising to freedom of the body and mind with a spread of literacy at least to some. These freedoms brought an awareness that there was no divine right to wealth; everybody was entitled. The natural lust, "I want what youíve got", was raised to a principle of justice: Iím entitled to what youíve got.
The interaction of these three factors, communication, wealth, Communism or Socialism, gave rise to the economic and political climate in which we find ourselves (in 1978). Why this great instability? Communication has not produced educated people. They are only aware of the ďgood lifeĒ, a life made possible by great wealth, and the birthright of all. Just as individuals are poor or rich, so are nations, promoting national envy and covetousness. Producers of wealth are no longer independent. Great wealth is produced by things from far corners of the world, i.e. Americaís dependence on Arab oil. Africa depends on Europe and America. Economics now and always has controlled politics except when the church did it, and that time appears to have passed. So a seething world population, barely under control as they seek their own, makes it dangerous to be a politician. Supplies are finite; something the world has just become aware of. The nitro theory is well illustrated by South Africa: dominated by whites, who could promote a blood bath by turning 19 million blacks loose and risking the rise of another Idi Amin. But look at what the combination of these three factors has done to America. The greatest spending spree in history - buy everything, jet everywhere, skiing and golf (rare 15 years ago). NYC on $250.00 a day, own your own camper Saturday night,-- get out on the road, restaurants filled. The backbone of the nation (age 40) has not known adversity, only 40 years of prosperity.
The world is so good. Everybodyís jogging to stay healthy so they can enjoy it longer. But there is a terrible decay inside what appears to be delicious fruit. Ecological climate going bad, finiteness of mankind always present, mercenary not citizen army, rise of Russian navy, Europe being left defenseless, wages rising faster than production, odd kind of inflation; plethora of goods but prices donít decline, everybody buys because things are worth more than money. We are at the absolute mercy of the Arabs; some believe they will own USA and western Europe. Rise of socialism. Middle class is being wiped out by taxation in the effort to re-distribute the wealth. We are no longer a government of laws, but of men, rather a bureaucracy. The ideal that that government is best which governs least has long since vanished. America will wake up tomorrow, or even right now, to learn it is no longer the strongest nation in the world. The balance of power has shifted and it is the balance of power that prevents war. America has lost its stomach for sacrifice, so nothing stands between Russia and world dominion. Europe sees our weakness and our weak will. And the dollar falls against the mark. Government allows the flaunting of pornography while it requires a permit to dredge a marsh to save a periwinkle.
All this brings us to the state of morality. 2 Tim 3 catalogues our misdeeds: vain, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, without natural affection, truce breakers, false accusers, and so on. The divorce rate may be lower, but only because people arenít getting married. I hasten to say we are no more immoral than hitherto, but have just more opportunity to display those outstanding qualities of human nature: greed, gluttony, sloth. There is so much more to covet; itís right to covet (Socialism). There is so much more to consume and so much more time to consume it in. What bothers me is that this way of life is amoral, not immoral. Thatís why I like hypocrisy. Our moral sense has been lost with the loss of religious sanctions. Without the sanctions, the pendulum wonít swing back. We have three generations of gradual loss of belief. Thereís nobody to criticize that can penalize.
Now to approach the state of world religion, more specifically Christianity, the only religion worth talking about. Another happening a little over 100 years ago was the publication of Darwinís Origin of the Species, and it, along with the age of materialism and rationalism, has discredited religion. Why? The theory overrules God and religion becomes a myth. Who can believe in inherent immortality, or souls being punished or rewarded? Flying off to heaven? How about all those ignorant Chinese? What of devils, what of hell? This is so sad because itís so unnecessary. The things that turn people off are not part of Christianity at all. Ironically, itís religious leaders are the worst enemies. They are the problem; they have a form of Godliness, but deny the power thereof. They donít believe in and whisper in your ear that: thereís no virgin birth, no literal resurrection of Christ. They say the scripture is full of error: the Book of Daniel, quoted by Jesus, wasnít written by Daniel at all. A kind of counterfeit. So these leaders say, Christian traditions are "good". The golden rule can form a basis of social action. It is no wonder that people are leaving the established churches in droves. Nobody likes being a hypocrite. England is a prime example. Institutional Christianity - call it anything, but donít call it Christianity.
What about the new Jesus movement? It is to be applauded but it may not skirt the dangers which were part of the downfall of traditional religions, the myths added to 1st century Christianity. They must be careful not to be affected by the world around them: the sensational Billy Graham in the superbowl, Pat Robertson and his crystal lifetime 3 prayer receptacle, the charismatic movement, escapism with life on automatic pilot. Enthusiasm is not a substitute for a reasoned faith.
The world has been our oyster for the past 30 years, but the world that is the earth does not belong to man. It is Godís world. Future historians may look back on America, as Edward Gibbon did on ancient Rome, as a nation that fell of its own excesses. There are signs of rot on all sides, signs that the nations ideals are being sapped by permissive immorality. The phrase is not used here in any prissy, holier-than-thou sense. It refers to those basic values and virtues, or the lack of them, that have determined historically whether a nation holds together and transmits to its children the sources of its strength and vitality.
We see a pretty dark picture ahead to where we go. Religion and morals are in shambles. The political and economic situations are ready to blow. Cataclysms lie in our future: famine, plague, war, earthquakes, floods. Whatís so new about that? Many Christians believe there will be a final cataclysm, one that will end mans sway over the earth. After all, this is not so strange. Everything we know has an end. Why not an end to mans rulership over the earth? The Bible tells us that it is not within man to rule himself. So when his rule ends, what happens then? If we live long enough, these questions may be answered before our very eyes. If you believe we are headed toward that final cataclysm you may, through the Bible, understand it has to do with what is happening in the Middle East. A primitive struggle commenced 4,000 years ago between two brothers, Jacob and Esau. Jacob received the birthright, the land, at the expense of his brother. Itís significant that the direct descendants of these brothers can still be identified as Israel and the Arabs.
Will the American way parallel the decline and fall of the Roman Empire? Not to take anything away from the decadence of past generations, the America of the 1970's is in a class by itself. Never before has so large a share of the population indulged in an orgy of self pampering, overdosing, loafing, sponging, splurging, cheating, shoplifting, looting, philandering, even murdering. Thatís what the statistics show. Weíre in a civilization crisis.