by Mike Pyatt
For those unfamiliar with the writings of the late Dr. Francis A. Schaeffer, evangelical theologian and philosopher, who published twenty four books, with a central theme of revealed Biblical truth in our modern culture, a pivotal work, written in1969, Death in the City, against the backdrop of the 1960’s countercultural upheaval. It reads like today’s headlines nearly fifty thereafter. He contended there’s a inextricable link between the intellectual, cultural and spiritual orientation of society and impending death, physically and spiritually, when a society abandons a Biblical view of God, and Fallen man. The title of this compelling book parallels the writing of the Old Testament, The Book of Lamentations, attributed to the prophet Jeremiah, who lamented that death and destruction had devastated his beloved Jerusalem.
Most penetrating is the parallel of what happened to God’s chosen people, the Israelites, and our current culture, that the rulers and the people in Jerusalem, continued their self delusion, proclaiming that all was well, and there was peace in the city. Jeremiah understood otherwise, that the foundations would crumble and die, once the intellectual and spiritual edifices had been subverted, at the hands of the sixth century Babylonian horde. Jerusalem suffered under seventy years of relentless, brutal domination, and servitude, as a result of a departure from their prior knowledge of the True and Living God. The parallel to our current conditions in America are uncanny, and frightening.
Our erudite, sophisticated and technologically advanced society’s knee-jerk reaction is to dismiss the warnings of an ancient scribe who wrote a five poem funeral dirge. He painted a mournful portrait of a once proud city that now lies barren. His lament opened with, “How lonely sits the city, That was full of people, Who was great among nations.” In another verse he speaks of the moral and physical consequences when a culture turns their back on God, “She did not consider her destiny, Therefore, her collapse was awesome; She had no comforter.” How quickly we’ve forgotten what occurs with the removal of the Biblical roots, in our relatively young Republic, and His manifold beneficence we’ve enjoyed.
Most surprising to the casual reader of Lamentations, in the face of tragedy, in Jeremiah’s terrible holocaust, is that he cries out in 3:23, “Great is your faithfulness,” acknowledging that God had never failed him, even when life appeared to be unraveling before his eyes. Also he understood that when the Infinite God is rejected, like pagan cultures, unbridled inhumanity becomes the norm, rather than the exception. How can our “Death in the City” culture that inhumanely slaughtered sixty million unborn lives survive for long? And with what justification should a society, that venerates sleaze, and suppress wholesomeness survive? Chicago has its own version of “Death in the City,” where rival gangs gun-down more than seven-hundred lives annually like “Gunfight at OK Corral” on steroids. The general public timorously yawns at it.
Consider the unparalleled stream of pornographic filth on the internet, that’s accessible to the youngest and most vulnerable in our society. We’ve exposed generations of children to a strict diet of virtual violence. Students perpetuate bullying, yet are most victimized by it. And they’re profoundly confused by their own sexual identity. They’re more likely to be reared under the impoverishment of a single parent home, according to Reeves and Howard. Research sociologist, Christina Hoff Summers, claims boys suffer most without fathers. The Heritage Foundation warns that SOGI activist are a direct threat to our religious liberties, and imperils the psycho-social well being of those they purport to defend.
Decadence in Jerusalem spawned the seed for eventual destruction. How are we exempt? What’s the outlook for a nation that has legitimized same sex marriage, and fostered a culture where millennials and school aged children seek their moral compass on social media, chat rooms, and the most recent sitcom? Adolescent suicides are at epidemic rates as hopeless despair eclipses their sensory boundaries and coping skills. Opioid addiction’s unparalleled, and has written its own version of “Death in the City,” prompting a spate of political rhetoric, that’s woefully scant on realistic options, given America’s insatiable appetite for addictive substances. Our nation is deeply divided across gender, political, and racial lines. Confidence in government hovers at a new low.
When society’s alienated from God, other relationships are ultimately flawed. Extrapolated across our nation, we’re perilously close to the latitudinarianism that haunt nations who’ve jettisoned our Judeo-Christian edifices, once the linchpin for a stable society. When Biblical faith diminishes, it doesn’t occur in a vacuum. It’s supplanted by some vacuous form of religious mumbo jumbo. G.K. Chesterton said, “When men choose not to believe in God, they do not thereafter believe in nothing, they then become capable of believing in anything.” The leap to paganism is a short one.
Schaeffer further observed the consequences of spiritual amnesia encompassed two factors that haunt any society, referring to Jerusalem, “She has forgotten what her end will be if she turns from God; but even more fundamental, she has forgotten her purpose as a nation.” When nations forget what the Reformation stressed, “That our chief end is to love God,” whether it’s in Jeremiah’s day, or our generation, the outcome’s unaltered. Man forgets his purpose, and he’s doomed to forget his Fallen state, though redeemable. When America resists His presence, we’re left with the inconsolable emptiness of hedonism, chasing one pleasure after another, on a secular cul-de-sac.
Jeremiah’s inspired words were painfully cringeworthy. Babylonian empire’s extreme cruelty sacked and razed Jerusalem. Babylon’s glory days rest in ruins in modern-day Iraq, sixty miles southwest of Baghdad. Lamentations describe Jerusalem’s misery in prosaic language, “Our skin is hot as an oven, Because of the fever of famine. They ravished the women of Zion. The maidens in the cities of Judah. Princes were hung up by their hands. And elders were not respected. Young men ground at the millstones. Boys staggered under the loads of wood…Our dance has turned to mourning…Woe to us, for we have sinned.” Jerusalem-God’s timepiece, is still tickin’.
Should we heed the warnings of an ancient seer who understood and witnessed the consequences of ignoring God’s rightful claim on our lives? Dismiss it as passé? Are we too urbane, and too big for our own breeches to weep for our country? Will the slide from the apex to the abyss haunt our reverie? Prosperity won’t alter this postmortem. Psalm 33:12 offers a glimmer of hope. What do you think?
Mike Pyatt’s a Natrona County resident. His email’s firstname.lastname@example.org