Have you ever watched the professional demolition of a multistory building? Dynamite is placed in strategic spots inside the structure. Seconds after the detonator is pressed, the building implodes, falling into a surprisingly small pile of rubble.
Historian Will Durant once said that a great civilization cannot be destroyed from the outside until it falls first from the inside. No matter how well we might arm ourselves against enemies outside our borders, the greatest enemies are those who place destructive devices inside our strategic institutions—causing us to morally implode. British broadcaster Malcolm Muggeridge observed, “Since the beginning of the Second World War, Western Society has experienced a complete abandonment of its sense of good and evil. The true crisis of our time has nothing to do with monetary troubles, unemployment, or nuclear weapons. The true crisis has to do with the fact that Western man has lost his way.”10
Muggeridge described the danger of subtle changes to culture in his famous “pot of frogs” illustration. If you drop a frog into a pot of boiling water, the frog will immediately jump out. But if you place the frog in a pot of lukewarm water and slowly turn up the heat, the relaxed frog will just swim around, growing accustomed to the increasing warmth until it eventually boils to death. This is what happens with cultural decay. It is a gradual process that slowly dulls our senses until what was once seen as unacceptable somehow becomes acceptable.
Since the 1940s, America has allowed sin to creep into our nation as never before. As a result, we have become desensitized to sin and our moral judgment is impaired. Even worse, at each step along the way, we eliminated Jesus Christ from our lives and culture. The gospel was no longer politically correct, and many Americans embarked on a new “crisis of faith” that would be the catalyst for national despair. Dr. Charles Malik, former President of the United Nations General Assembly, addressed this crisis of faith:
"I really do not know what will remain of civilization and history if the accumulated influence of Jesus Christ, both direct and indirect, is eradicated from literature, art, practical dealings, moral standards, and creativeness in the different activities of mind and spirit...The heart of the whole matter is faith in Jesus Christ."
In the years following World War II, General Omar Bradley warned America, “We have grasped the mystery of the atom and rejected the Sermon on the Mount...The world has achieved brilliance without conscience.” Though we had helped to win a great military and moral victory in Europe, we were becoming a world of “nuclear giants and ethical infants.” Success and power blinded most Americans to their need for God. One by one, all across America, the great institutions that had been fountains of righteousness began to fall away from God. Like the frog, we had begun to swim in a pan of lukewarm moral water and never noticed the temperature rising.
What kind of foe were we facing? Imagine a great army of spiritual beings battling in the heavenlies with sharply honed swords. These swords are not made of tempered steel, but of strong ideas. One idea is flung against another with the heavy ring of contact. Whose ideas will win the battle? How we use the ideas we wield will determine who wins the battle for America’s soul. Will we keep our swords sheathed or come out fighting with the ideas we know will win—the principles of God’s Word?
Indeed, the 20th century could be labeled the battle of ideas.
Seduced by the “logic” of the age, many people turned their backs on the God of their fathers. They developed a thirst for anything spiritual that could add significance to their empty lives. Eventually, some experimented with drugs, hoping that the release from pain and the hallucinatory experiences might provide a mystical vision that was missing in their de-Christianized lives. Others drowned themselves in alcohol and sex.
When Aldous Huxley published his astonishing novel Brave New World in 1932, he predicted that future societies would advocate the use of drugs to help alleviate the emptiness of life. As other experimental works helped introduce Eastern metaphysical concepts drawn from the Hindu religion, thousands more were enticed by such exotic ideas and tempted away from belief in God. In Time Must Have a Stop, Huxley lamented, “If we must play the theological game, let us never forget it is a game. Religion, it seems to me, can survive only as a consciously accepted system of make-believe.”13
Huxley wrote of man’s dilemma:
“If God were there and the world had meaning, then he had to accept God’s meaning and God’s rules. But, if he said there were no God there, and everything was meaningless, then he could make his own rules.”
Suddenly, we come to the heart of the matter.
Sadly, as we stand at the threshold of a new millennium, our torch of freedom is burning dimly. Looking back over the 20th century, we can chart the downfall of our nation and her great mission. At each critical step, we have shifted our focus further from God and onto ourselves. The church has fallen into widespread decay and missed many opportunities to fulfill its commission. The United States of America, far from being a shining city on a hill, is in great danger of losing her sense of purpose and her blessings. How do we stop this process of decay? How important is it to regain what we have given away?
If this generation cannot rise up and reverse the disastrous trend of rejecting God, who can say where this downfall will end?
This is the battle we must, and we can, win.
Based on excerpts from Red Sky in the Morning by Bright & John N. Damoose
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