Cause and Effect
Most everyone who is forty years old or above has a tendency to lapse into nostalgic recollecting and find themselves saying something like: “I wish we could go back to the day when everything was simple.” In our troubled and fractured world one would wonder if there was ever such a day. The answer is that, yes, there was a day when life was simpler. It was basically uncomplicated and untroubled by the myriad of things and events which impact us. It seems that everything has changed. In fact, it seems that our society has reached the point at which they think that if things are not changing they are reverting. It’s the “cool” thing to look for something different even if it is not one microbe better than the thing which preceded it. You just “aren’t with it” unless you are on a daily quest to find something new and different. And because the sense of stability has been compromised and almost destroyed, we find ourselves in a frantic mode most of the time.
The general populace of in these days is sadly deficient when it comes to the things which distinguished society in the “simpler days.” Everyone is rushing about frantically seeking something which seems to elude them. And, if they found that “something”, the thrill of it all would only last a short time. The sense of “home” has been lost generally. People don’t know where home is. They can’t seem to be able to find their “center of gravity” so to speak. Reference all the shootings, killings, drugs, rebellion, lack of respect for anything or anyone in authority. Notice the increase in narcissism, selfishness and crassness. Look at the lack of integrity and the lack of personal responsibility. It is becoming more and more difficult to find individuals who exude quality, class, integrity and proper raising. More and more people are stating that society is falling apart and that it is happening in rapid fire in today’s world. If one made that statement in just about any environment today, they would get a resounding affirmation from those listening. Anyone with any intellectual acumen and even one ounce of honesty would have to say that society is becoming degraded at a rapid pace. What is causing this. There are a couple of major ingredients.
First, human nature has never changed. From the very beginning man, because of his nature of rebellion against God, has found that his natural bent is to degrade. It seems that this degradation is speeding up. Society has fallen off the edge of the cliff in the past twenty to twenty-five years. We have witnessed a constant downward turn in our government, in our home life, our finances, our insatiable appetites for material goods and our respect for life and morality. This is most noticeable in the way that the last couple of generations have pushed God out to the edge and banished Him and His Word from just about everything we do. Remember this: one generation can teach the next generation only so much as it learned. And, the second generation will not absorb all that the first generation tried to teach it. So, the result is that each succeeding generation will know less and practice less than the generation before it. This is catching up with us at a rapid rate today. One good indicator is the way in which people today can’t seem to get enough of anything they like or anything that is a fad. We live in a day of excess. And, anything that gratifies the flesh is pushed way beyond what any sensible person would think is enough. Take for instance, tattoos. In earlier days, about the only people one saw with a tattoo was a returning sailor coming home from the south Pacific. He might have a tattoo which was his wife’s name. Some would have an anchor on their forearm. Others might have the name of their ship tattooed on their arm. Even then, people often thought: “one of these days he is going to regret having put that tattoo on himself.” But, look at what is happening today! People not only put one or two tattoos on their body. They cover themselves up with them. Their bodies are literally a complete work of art. I recently saw a person who had tattooed his face. Another had tattooed his whole body to the extent that he gave himself a tattoo hairline on his bald head. There is often so many tattoos that there is no where to put another one. These people would have been in a fair sideshow forty or fifty years ago. At our county fair fifty years ago there was a sideshow named…The Tattooed Man. The fact is that this has become an epidemic only in the last twenty years. This is a good example of how the age of excess has infected us. It’s the same way with drugs, and all forms of immorality. Instant gratification of the most inappropriate behavior is a must for many people today.
We can also see the decline in worship as a leading indicator of the collapse of society. Being spiritual is not necessarily the same as being Godly. As one observes how the world has infected the church and how the church has openly welcomed these influences there is little wonder that the spiritual level of people is at a low. God is hardly considered in every day affairs. In fact, He is viewed as being in the way since society has been educated for fifty years with the idea that God really doesn’t belong in the public arena. As it is with almost everything else, if worship in today’s world is fun, feelings oriented and self centered then one will attend church when it is convenient. They are confident that God is just happy they are there whenever they need a dose of Him.
We are suffering and declining today because of that theme expressed in the old Frank Sinatra song: “I Did It My Way.” But, with the church embracing the approach of the current trend and employing an approach which basically appeals to what people desire, there is little wonder that it is losing its influence and its ability to truly worship God. And, we must remember that worship is not about us. It is about Him. He is the one who must be pleased with what is going on and I don’t think the secular influence in our churches today is pleasing to Him. Churches are being infected with the ways of the world and all along wanting to believe that God is pleased with just about anything we do. Not so! There is no way to glorify and magnify the Holy God of this universe with music and dress which is prevalent and expected at a secular rock concert. The sign of a “good” church today is if it makes you feel good about yourself and assures you of heaven no matter what the situation is in one’s life. I would point out that you must feel bad about your spiritual situation before you will decide that you must repent and turn from your sinful ways in order to please God and be saved by the blood of Jesus. A genuinely good church will probably make you feel bad before you feel good but no one wants to hear that today. The respect for the authority of the church has been eroded in the past number of years. As I have stated in another piece, there was a day in which the discipline of the church was feared more than the discipline of the law. That is no longer true because the church has given up too much ground. It has become too much like the world to be respected by the world. If one will notice they will recognize that the general trends in society are manifested in the church. The church has become a microcosm of the world. What goes on there, goes on in the church. The same attitudes and ideas are prevalent in both places.
So the question is begged: Is society getting worse and affecting the church in a negative way. Is it destroying the image and effectiveness of the church OR is the declining position, and respect for the church opening the door for a society to run amuck? This writer thinks that when the moral and spiritual restraints provided by the church in foregone years have been largely removed because of the compromise of the church with the world, then the impetus for restraint and discipline provided by the church is also removed and society feels morally and spiritually unencumbered which leads it to test the boundaries at every point. The church is not to be blamed totally for the crash of society but its corrective influence has been diminished to the point that the people of society feel very little, if any, moral compunction for their actions. The less they are constrained the more they will degenerate. Even with the church in its most influential state, society, because of the nature of human beings, continually declines. But, remove or lessen the church’s corrective influence and society will run amuck. That is what we are seeing today. The church ceases to be corrective the more it assumes the identity of the environment. How can it speak to or correct something that it has become like?
In the early days of this country, our leaders founded a society based on the Judeo Christian ethics. There was a time one could not hold office unless he was a Christian. Historical documents of various states such as South Carolina and Georgia prove this and the reason for this was that the leaders of that day recognized the value of having someone in office who was guided by moral and spiritual principles that were preservative and protective in nature. It also mirrors the degree to which this country was founded as a Christian nation. In those days society was restrained by Godliness and solid moral and spiritual principles because our early leaders set that example. Back then, the church was the most influential entity in society. It kept things in tow by leading people to know and understand the dire importance of a right relationship to God and His Son, Jesus. People feared violating the principles upheld by the church because it was the most respected “glue” holding things together and setting the tone for a properly constructed society. The first thing one considered when involved in something “shady” was, “what will the church do” when they find this out? But, in today’s world, the church has given up that position and the authority that comes with it. The people in the church are guilty to the same percentage points of wrongdoings as the people of the world. With the issues of pornography, drunkenness, drug use, adultery and so forth we find the church people guilty of them to the same extent as the general society. With that fact looming before us, how can we expect that society would exhibit any restraints at all? Society is changing the church instead of the church changing society.
My position is that when the corrective influence of the church was eroded away, society found it easier and easier to advance unstrained because they had a diminishing moral and spiritual guide which was willing to stand and resist the natural tendencies for man to degenerate. The Lord expected us to influence the world. He did not indicate that it was all right for the church to compromise with the world and thereby lose its ability to win the world to Him and furnish a moral and spiritual example of how to properly live. So, when the people of the church complain that the church is being corrupted by the world, they should realize that the more they compromise, the more the world will continue unrestrained by their dwindling influence. I am concerned that this situation has already been allowed to go too far. If there were an effort to return the church to the day when it functioned as a restraining and disciplining entity in society, there would be total civil war within its ranks and beyond. The compromise has gone too far. It is too deep to be easily plumbed. Human nature is comfortable and when one seeks to deal with an issue involving adjusting the natural bent of humans, then they are in a tenuous situation. So, the church, it seems, is going to continue to wander down the path it is presently on. No wonder the people of society consider it just another organization. No wonder they are in the process of relegating the church to a position so inane that it loses its corrective and directive power; its spiritual influence. The ONLY THING that will bring the church back to its significance is if God descends on us with such convicting power that even the most compromised will see the error of their ways and find themselves compelled to correct the situation no matter what the cost.
The title of this article is “Cause and Effect”. The “effect” of an ever increasing degradation of society can be traced to the primary “cause” which is that the restraining and disciplining function of the church has been compromised. The church has the answer concerning how to live and how to conduct oneself. But, primarily, it has the only message as to how to be saved. And that, my friends, is the one thing that will straighten it all out and produce a society that will honor God, please Him and receive His blessings and guidance.
William F. Harrell