Indulgence in nostalgia is commonplace amongst those who are getting on in years. A check to it comes with the warning in Ecclesiastes: ‘Say not, “Why were the former days better than these?” For it is not from wisdom that you ask this’ (Eccles.7:10). Yet we are also encouraged to learn from the men of Issachar who had ‘understanding of the times’ (1 Chron.12:32). So it is with some caution that one might point out some of the increasingly obvious features of the Western world today.
First, it has lost any notion of a moral foundation. One is unable to state the obvious these days without it leading to a storm of controversy. That there are two sexes and hence two genders is widely contested. Indeed, to state that, so far as restrooms go, there is a gents for the males and a ladies for the females, is to invite an avalanche of progressive criticism. Somehow the elites of society have been able to gain credence for the view that all moral values are relative, and that there is no such thing as sexual ethics. Everything, including one’s gender, is a matter of personal choice. The widespread acceptance of such a view has had quite an impact on family life: millions of abortions in the West each year; just about any liaison with anything is probably legal, and unlikely to be prosecuted if it is not; and a widespread breakdown in families at terrible cost to parents and to children.
Rather than face the fact that something is radically wrong, the progressive thinker has to dress this up as liberation of some kind or another, and remind women of the dark days when they did not get a vote, although in Australia’s case, Federation was achieved in 1901, and women received the right to vote and to stand as federal candidates soon after, in 1902. This has not been as liberating as it is usually dressed up to be, as now both men and women have the right to vote for a thin variety of candidates who are all finely tuned in the art of saying whatever they think the media will accept. It rather looks like the camel has been swallowed while there is rejoicing over the gnat that has been strained.
Of course, if there is no moral code in sexuality, there is no moral code in anything. We shake our heads at the amorality of so much that comes our way as news, but we should hardly be surprised. There are robberies, murders, child killings, hooligans on every corner, and a breakdown in general civility. The media publicise it, applaud most of it, and selectively get indignant about parts of it. The result is moral confusion. It looks like this is the result of a deliberate policy – but one ought to be wary of conspiracy theories.
Yet, in the second place, this is all accompanied by a well-nigh universal belief in the essential goodness of humanity. All the evidence we have seen or heard of is opposed to this. It is both a ludicrous and a dangerous belief, but it is virtually unquestioned in the social sciences of today. Everybody has a right to choose his or her own morality because human nature has the capacity to make that choice. Surely, there is more evidence for the world being flat than there is for human beings being good at heart. Jesus said that the human heart was the problem, not the solution (see Mark 7:20-23).
Thirdly, with the rejection of any religious authority – the Bible, the Church, or creeds – we are left with a cult of celebrities which makes the dependence on medieval priests look positively enlightened. As Paul Tripp put it: ‘When awe of God is absent, it is quickly replaced by our awe of ourselves.’ Lady Gaga’s views on the world are treated with greater respect than the apostle Paul’s. Our heroes are an odd collection of moral derelicts who in saner times would have been locked up. The ageing feminist, Gloria Steinem, who looks remarkable for a woman of 82, has dedicated her autobiography My Life on the Road to Dr John Sharpe who referred her for an illegal abortion in 1957. Ms Steinem then chants the soothing mantra that ‘It seems to me that every child has the right to be born loved and wanted’. One looks in vain for an increase in the love, but presumably it must be somewhere.
How do we explain all this? Too much drug-taking in the 1960s? In the last of his books, Ethics, written in a Nazi prison cell, Dietrich Bonhoeffer recorded: ‘Everything established is threatened with annihilation. This is not a crisis among crises. It is a decisive struggle of the last days.’ In fact, ‘The west is becoming hostile towards Christ. This is the peculiar situation of our time, and it is genuine decay.’ He picked it, and we are living through it.