By Reed Benson
The formative years of American society were the first two centuries, from earliest settlement in 1607 to the proving of our political independence in the War of 1812. This was our founding period. It was during this era that our governmental institutions were formed, tested, and proved to be sound. It was at this time our religious doctrines and habits were adopted and indelibly stamped into the minds of our population. It was during this period that standards of character, conduct, and morality were impressed into the daily lifestyle of the American people. In short, all of the cultural aspects of our people and their lives were framed.
From where did these cultural standards come? Did they fall from the oak trees like acorns? Did our forefathers swipe them from the Indians? Did they just develop in a vacuum? Of course not! All of our political, religious, and social standards came from our European motherland. What is important to understand is all of these cultural standards represented the peak of European Christian cultural development. Let that be repeated—the cultural values of America at its founding are the products of European Christian culture at its highest peak.
This means that America did not go through the painful thousand-year process of cultural development that Europe did to gain the fruits of a mature Christian society. In theology, government, law, music, art, literature, technical development, agriculture, personal habits, mannerly deportment, and a dozen other areas of cultural development, America copied the best that European Christian culture had to offer. America was founded at the high point of Western Christian culture.
Our original American society thus reflected that mature Christian flavor in all of our institutions and habits. We were, as one writer put it, "standing on the shoulders of giants." No nation in history has been so blessed in its growth of power and prosperity. We have our forefathers to thank—they endowed upon us such a powerful Christian worldview that we are, today, two hundred years after their initial investment, still reaping the benefit of their godliness.
Unfortunately, we are rapidly discarding the values, standards, and cultural hallmarks of Western Christian culture. While technological advancements continue to amaze all of us, the social order is decaying. Just like putting a fresh coat of pretty paint on a sinking ship, we delude ourselves in believing that faster computers and wondrous techno-gadgets are indicators of social and institutional health. We should the lesson of the ancient Roman Empire. While Rome was still erecting truly remarkable physical edifices, coliseums, aqueducts, and so forth, the foundational values of society were dissolving. America is presently on the same course. We are moving toward death as a culture, and shortly thereafter, as a civilization.
The causes are not hard to discern. Our forefathers of earlier generations were filled with spiritual zeal, but we are utterly apathetic. Like the Laodicean church, we are "neither cold nor hot" (Rev. 3:15). And the judgment is clear: "So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth. Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked" (Rev. 3:16-17). A more apt description of modern America is hard to find. In addition to being spiritually apathetic, we are almost entirely focused on carnal and temporal attainments rather than spiritual and eternal values. What sort of people do we admire and emulate? Magazine covers reveal the truth: movie stars, athletic superheroes, and Wall Street whizbangs. And of course, they all garner hefty multi-million dollars incomes. The current condition of our mutual funds, our 401K pensions, and our retirement annuities is on the tip of our tongue. And if the grubbing of greenbacks is not our passion, then the worship of our own bodies is. 1001 diet plans are available. Tummy tucks, lipo-suction, wrinkle removal injections, breast implants, tanning salons, muscle enhancers, viagra, and lip pursing injections are only a very few of self-worship options our forefathers would have rightly viewed as ridiculous. We have forgotten that scripture cautions us that "beauty is vain," (Prov. 31:30) and that "bodily exercise profiteth little" (1 Tim. 4:8). Finally, we are also disobedient toward God’s commandments. We simply have no interest in God’s Word and no regard for His instructions as to how our lives should be lived. While the Bible remains the world’s greatest bestseller, it must also now rate as one of the most unread of all readily available books, for Americans know so little about it.
The clear results of our collective decision to cut ourselves loose from the values of Western Christian culture are easy to pinpoint. The following ten symptoms reveal that the patient has a terminal illness. It is now highly improbable that recovery is possible—Western Christian Culture will soon perish. These ten symptoms demonstrate just how far gone is our culture. They are the signs of impending cultural collapse.
First, a sense of duty to a cause larger than oneself is hard to find. While it is still recognized as an admirable quality, few will actually pick up the baton with commitment, unless personal gain is in the works. Mothers are not willing to sacrifice a career for the sake of their children’s well being. Fathers are not willing to sacrifice their pleasures and aspirations for the sake of their family’s best interests. A half-century ago, fathers and mothers regularly sacrificed their own hopes for the best interests of the children. A child is no longer an investment—he is simply another possession to show off like a car, boat, or RV.
Second, the deterioration of popular literature is reaching new levels. When once the reading of any novel was considered frivolous, now not only are novels written and read by the million, many of these are of the lowest nature. Many of the most popular romance novels contain vulgar pornographic scenes. The bizarre, weird, and occult, epitomized by Stephen King, are also wildly popular genres. Magazines that have had wide distributorships for decades are steadily introducing topics that are more and more immoral.
Third, the abandonment of good music for continually more awful noise is the undeniable trend. Music has three elements: melody, which should be dominant, harmony, which should be secondary and complimentary to melody, and rhythm, which should remain as a background element. Today, the trends are reversing all of these. Rhythm is now so dominant in many forms of popular music that the melody and harmony cannot hardly be even perceived! Harmonies in today’s hits are almost always dissonant with the melody. And melodies are hardly discernable. The driving beat overwhelms all other aspects creating in the listeners a mood of tension, hostility, and sexuality.
Fourth, art has deteriorated. Until the early part of the twentieth century, artistic forms considered notable were genres that followed the examples of the great masters of painting, sculpture, and engraving. Those great masters of the high point of European Christian culture were called masters for a good reason—they had mastered the form—and their products were truly virtually perfect. But the modern era swept in a philosophy that not only abandoned the Christian themes the masters usually preferred, but they sought to express their own rebellious viewpoints without the years of dedicated discipline required to master the form. They established new forms that have only a subjective appeal. When a novice sees a masterpiece of high culture, they can immediately perceive it is very good, for it is obvious that very few people would have the skill to produce such a work. But novices have no such awe for modern "masterpieces." Their own intuition reveals the work’s mediocre, and sometimes blasphemous, caliber.
Fifth, we have become a culture of escapism. There is the obvious—the epidemic of illegal drugs used to escape reality—crack cocaine, methamphetamines, etc. But, our culture has a host of only slightly less dangerous legal drugs that encourage a person to avoid their problems rather than deal with them; anti-depressants, anti-anxiety, etc. And let us not overlook the video mania that dominates so many youth and young adults. Innumerable hours are wasted in front of a television or a video game, seeking escape from a difficult reality. An increasing number of these video games indulge the viewer in violence and immorality that should make one cringe.
Sixth, the business world has become overwhelmingly self-serving, where once it was not so. In the 1920’s, Henry Ford sought to be a "father-figure" to his employees, looking out for their best interests. He was determined to make his autos inexpensive enough so that the men building them could afford to buy one. When the Great Depression struck, he voluntarily raised the wage of the thousands of workers in his plants from $2.30 per day to $5.00 rather than pocket the profits himself. A century ago, industry attempted to pay a married man a "married man’s wage" that his wife would not be forced to seek outside employment. But now, such a notion is foreign. Corporate loyalty to its employees is a thing of the past as plants close in America only to re-open in foreign countries where they only have to pay poverty wages. Thirty years ago, the average CEO in America received a salary 40 times the average employee. As extravagant as that was, now the average CEO receives 500 times the average employee!
Seventh, the academic world now has open hostility for anything that smacks of Christianity. Harvard, Yale, Dartmouth, Princeton, and nearly all of the oldest and most prestigious American universities were founded for the sole and express purpose of training ministers to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Now, these very institutions are bastions of atheism and every foul ungodly philosophy that heathen craniums can concoct. In the twisted logic that only politically correct minds can follow, many universities, in the wake of 9-11 are falling all over themselves trying to prove they are not going to be prejudiced against Muslims. Wake Forest, for example, a secular university that has never, and would never, dare to require students to read Christian literature is now requiring all incoming freshmen to study the tenets of Islam and read Muslim works!
Eighth, we have become a generation of irresponsible expert buck-passers. We recognize no failure or misfortune on our part as being the possible result of our choices—it is someone else’s fault. Are you plagued by guilt or low self-esteem? It must be your parent’s fault; they treated you badly as a child. Do you have lung cancer or emphysema? Sue the tobacco companies, win millions, and go out in style. Are you fat? Now you can sue the fast food industry!
Ninth, our legislators at both the state and federal level have, in recent decades, actually provided legal cover for sinful activities. By state or federal statute, abortion is available—outright murder. Sodomy, the sin of homosexuals, is protected and even given special status. These are only two illustrations of the legislative endorsement of sin we are experiencing.
The tenth and perhaps most telling symptom of our mortal cultural disease is our loss of identity as a people. In this respect, I am referring to Caucasian English speakers. Every culture must instill in its people an ingrained desire to propagate offspring like unto themselves. It should be intuitive that if this does not occur, the culture will wither and die. Other cultures around the world have maintained this vital sense of identity. The Chinese believe they are superior to all others; they refer to their nation as the Middle Kingdom—the central focus of the world. They generally marry among themselves and work hard to perpetuate their language, worldview, and lifestyle among their young. The Arab Muslim world, in like manner, believes firmly that their way is best, and all other worldviews are flawed. They are migrating geographically into Europe and America, but they are determined not to assimilate. Mexicans also have a powerful sense of identity. Many immigrate to the United States, but few cast off their language, religion, or sense of whom they are in favor of being an "American." We expect all of these people to take on our values, customs, language, and way of life when they cross the border, but to them, traversing over an imaginary line changes nothing within themselves, only the geographic location where they roost! Consequently, we are surrendering our identity while they are clinging to their own. Our culture is dying.
For those that wish to avoid the spiritual dullness settled over our land and all of the other deadly symptoms of a mortally ill culture, our only hope is to raise a counter-culture. It must be based on the old Christian values being rapidly abandoned. We must voluntarily segregate ourselves from the noxious fumes of mainstream American culture before they rob our children of their sense of identity. Imminent collapse of Western Christian culture is not a question of if, but only when. With that in mind, the best counsel for our time in history may very well be this verse in Proverbs 22:3: "A prudent man forseeth the evil, and hideth himself: but the simple pass on, and are punished."