The uncanny correlation of America’s history with the rise and fall of the world’s superpowers indicates that our end may be closer than we think. Our evolution through ages of pioneering, commerce, affluence, intellect and decadence mirrors the stages experienced by past civilizations before their collapse. The time required to complete that cycle has averaged roughly 250 years, a birthday America will celebrate in the not-too-distant future.
Empires run their natural course according to a consistent progression and timeline because humans are uniform in their thoughts and tendencies across centuries and nationalities. The faith initially required to achieve the freedoms enjoyed in a democracy dissipates when sinful human nature encounters the pitfalls of progress and prosperity. In other words, reliance on God during times of uncertainty evolves into self-sufficiency in times of abundance.
It is that transition from reliance on God’s provision to belief in our adequacy that precipitates the inevitable. Ironically, our sinful human nature both leads to the Age of Decadence and then prompts the ultimate deception that hastens the Age of Decline & Collapse – the fallacy that our human nature is not sinful, but inherently good.
A wealthy and educated society no longer sees a need to subscribe or subject itself to the arcane principles and practices of the previously “unenlightened”. It establishes new, less rigid standards of behavior and celebrates new, more superficial heroes. It defines new virtues like self-determination, welfare distribution and dissent suppression. It then surveys all it has created – selfishness, dependence and coercion – and declares, “Behold, it was very good”. Yet denying or reframing sin does not eradicate it. As the Lord warned Cain right before he killed Abel, sin still lies crouching at your door. Faith, family and freedom quickly deteriorate in nations that call evil good and good evil, while division, debt and defenselessness against threats mount.
What the Bible Says…
Scripture commands us to dwell on whatever is pure…whatever is admirable, leading even some Christians to believe they should assume the best about human nature. However, Paul is speaking of diverting thoughts from worldly anxieties, renewing our minds through preoccupation with God’s good, pleasing and perfect will. Only God is good and only what He creates is “very good”. Every good and perfect gift is from above. It was man who corrupted what God intended for good in the Garden of Eden. Now men are dragged away by their own evil desires, causing the downfall of even the most powerful nations.
Likewise, what modern American society calls good, including human nature, is neither pure nor admirable. Whatever belongs to our earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed defines the State of the Union as we wallow in the Age of Decadence. We have exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator. Our only hope is Jesus, who came to pay a debt He didn’t owe because we owed a debt we couldn’t pay. Yet our Post-Christian culture does not acknowledge that debt or accept His payment. Regardless, one day at the name of Jesus every knee will bow…and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.
God’s Word goes further, saying there is no one righteous, not even one. Even our righteous acts are like filthy rags. Human nature enables only selfish motives for apparent benevolence. After years in ministry Paul confessed, “For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do – this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.” We may attempt to clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside we are full of greed and self-indulgence without Jesus. Our sinful nature is a slave to the law of sin unless we are reborn by the power of the Holy Spirit. Through Jesus we can become a new creation and slaves to righteousness instead of sin, resulting in sanctification. My nature is transformed because it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me.
What the World Says…
Nearly every facet of today’s culture conveys a message diametrically opposed to that biblical assessment of human nature. The absence of sin requires no repentance. The only people seen as bad are those who refuse to believe that everyone else is good. The only sin is telling someone they are sinning. The only accepted standard of behavior is the requirement that no one attempt to impose one. In effect, those social norms are perfectly designed to block the Gospel message: 1) “I don’t need good news if there’s no bad news”, and 2) “Any attempt to present the good news is actually bad news” (i.e. socially unacceptable). In lieu of the Gospel, society has replaced the Lord’s good news with the “better” news that Americans can be liberated from the shackles of amazing grace and free to worship at the altars of self, science, sex and success.
- Social Media – Facebook and Twitter are closely monitored for posts, tweets or likes reflecting non-conformance to established norms of common decency. Personal beliefs and inclinations are set aside to portray to the public an exemplary nature they do not possess. Most conceal the reality that not long ago they either did not care about or disagreed with positions they now feel compelled not only to approve, but to celebrate.
- Corporations – Executives are quick to publish letters decrying any “intolerable” stances or behaviors as if they were genuinely appalled. If they were so concerned, why had they never spoken out before it became politically expedient to preserve profitability? And failure by an employee to adopt the company’s profit-driven public opinion has become a CLM (Career-Limiting Move), resulting in firing or demotion.
- Politicians – The same individuals running vicious campaigns and apologizing profusely for “ignorant” statements made years before they “awoke” pretend their flawed human nature is now reformed. Feigning offense at someone else’s “insensitivity” to win votes, they speak far more harsh words behind closed doors in accordance with their true selves.
- Media – Hollywood touts the goodness of the human spirit, but then strategizes to produce movies and shows that would appeal only to an evil nature. In fact, a series may begin fairly benign but quickly escalates to satisfy growing appetites for sex and violence fed by earlier episodes. Those themes even dominate news outlets, knowing audiences are more interested in death, disasters and corruption than stories of kindness.
- Celebrities – Many actors, musicians and athletes publicize their generosity and speak out opportunistically about issues grabbing the headlines, but how often do most work diligently and quietly behind the scenes to mentor, support and serve those they claim to care about so much?
- Poor – Government is increasingly competing with Jesus in America for the right to be regarded as “savior”. We cannot serve both God and money any more than we can be dependent on both God and government. Reliance opens the door to abuse of power when funds may be withheld without compliance. Communism isn’t far behind when government defines right and wrong, using welfare to control whoever it deems the oppressed and using regulations to control whoever it labels the oppressor.
- Charities – Even private-sector compassion efforts are often tainted by “checking the box” through transactional hand-outs that make donors feel good but actually do more harm than good, perpetuating poverty. We need to #ReimagineCompassion through a more dignified approach to helping families plot their own course to a better future.
- Churches – Many churches are debating how involved to get in today’s hot-button issues, fearing the consequences of speaking out. Some leaders would rather remain quiet or conform to culture rather than risk potentially futile attempts to transform it. In the interest of not sounding “judgmental”, Christians understandably see themselves in a “glass house” but must still recognize the difference in their natures after being “born again”.
- Other Religions – Christianity is the only religion on earth that holds a realistic depiction of human nature, teaching mankind cannot alter our eternal fate through our own goodness (external actions) or inner divinity (internal discovery). Only Christianity says God came down because we were too sinful to aspire to rise up – even one inch.
Without Jesus, nations always believe the lie that man’s goodness will bring utopia, but entropy is the outcome of the truth that humans are actually sinful. Power doesn’t become justice, but control. Uniformity doesn’t become unity, but division. Sex doesn’t become love, but deviance. Atheism doesn’t become freedom, but depression. Dependence doesn’t become equality, but poverty. Wealth doesn’t become generosity, but greed. Promises don’t become trustworthiness, but betrayal. Education doesn’t become wisdom, but delusion. Advancement doesn’t become progress, but pride. Those are the reasons why letting our guards down by subscribing to a faulty fundamental premise will soon lead America from the Age of Decadence to the Age of Decline.
What Do You Say?…
In the next blog post, we will talk more about how Christians and churches can dispel the myth that man is inherently good, and potentially reverse our nation’s current collision course. Please share your thoughts, prayers and ideas on those topics…