A recent Bible survey of the five chapters from The Book of Lamentations, reminded me that theologian and philosopher, the late Dr. Francis A. Schaeffer, wrote a seminal book, in1969, “Death in the City,” against the backdrop of the 1960’s countercultural upheaval. It reads like today’s headlines, fifty-three years after Woodstock, that’s now being celebrated by revisionist historians, heralding it as a time of “love and peace.” Lust and perversion’s more accurate, leaving three dead, five-thousand treated for injuries, illness and countless drug overdoes. Schaeffer 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’s propensity to destruction, absent restraint, though the secular humanist continue to peddle enlightened education and technology as a paper mache guardrail against inevitable moral assault.
The title of this compelling, book, rarely read today, parallels the writing of the Old Testament, Book of Lamentations, attributed to the prophet Jeremiah, who lamented that death and destruction had devastated his beloved Jerusalem. Many in our day lament the death and destruction in our beloved nation. Drag Queens are now doing story time for children endorsed by renegade library boards. In 2018, an 11 year-old boy “danced in drag for dollars” dressed as a Gwen Stefani look-alike, in a Gay Bar in Brooklyn, New York, as adults threw money at him, with mom’s approval, cleared by Child Protective Services, only after public outcry brought it to their attention. Governor Cuomo gave it a pass. Who’s protecting kids? Most troubling is why do Drag Queens want to be around our kids?
Most penetrating is the parallel of what happened to God’s chosen people, the Israelites, and our current culture. Rulers and the people in Jerusalem, continued their self delusion, proclaiming that all was well, and there was peace in the city. Jeremiah knew otherwise, that the foundations would crumble and perish, 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. Denial plagued Britain too, as described by Winston Churchill’s multi-volume memoirs, as a painful study among British leaders when Hitler was on the rise, is not dissimilar from our culture’s denial of our nation’s sin and debauchery today, masquerading with a feigned veneer of self-righteousness, deluding ourselves that God won’t judge us.
Our erudite, sophisticated and technologically advanced society’s knee-jerk reaction is to dismiss the warnings of an ancient scribe who wrote, in the 6th century BC, 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.” Jeremiah 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, has been taken for granted.
Most surprising to the casual reader of Lamentations, in the face of tragedy, in Jeremiah’s terrible holocaust, 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, Personal 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 60 million unborn lives with impunity, survive for long? It took nearly fifty years to overturn Roe v.Wade, and millions are outraged that they can no longer kill the unborn casually. 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 800 lives annually like “Gunfight at OK Corral” on steroids. In Chicago, the general public timorously yawns at it, and moves on to another Facebook post or Twitter account, shrugging their shoulders.
Consider the unparalleled stream of pornographic filth on the internet, that’s accessible to the youngest and most vulnerable. We’ve exposed generations of children to a strict diet of virtual violence. Students perpetuate bullying, yet most are victimized by it. 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, and become violent. Like those empty young men who’ve opened fire in schools at Parkland and Uvalde, randomly slaughtering defenseless school kids. Ironically, public schools that shun firearms, advocating “gun free zones” have turned into mass shooting ranges.
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, transgenderism, fostered a culture where millennials and school aged children seek their moral compass on social media, chat rooms, or the most recent sitcom? Adolescent suicides are far too high, 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 addiction. Our nation’s deeply divided across gender, political, and racial lines, and brags of its tolerance. When society’s alienated from a righteous God, other relationships are ultimately flawed, and we’re left to chase symptoms, yet answers elude us.
Extrapolated across our nation, we’re perilously close to the latitudinarianism that haunt nations who’ve jettisoned their 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 very short. Whether it’s in Jeremiah’s day, or our generation, the outcome’s unaltered. As America resists God’s presence, we’re left with the inconsolable emptiness of hedonism, chasing another fleeting pleasure on a secular cul-de-sac.
Jeremiah’s inspired words are 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.” It’s miraculous Israel has survived to this day.
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, and learn these lessons? Will the slide from the apex to the abyss awaken us? Prosperity won’t alter this postmortem. What do you think?
Mike Pyatt’s a Natrona County resident. His email’s firstname.lastname@example.org