The Decay of Society
[read in Lamplighter (pdf)]
[Editor's note: This article is extracted in part from a chapter in Dr. Reagan's book, Living for Christ in the End Times.]
An American sports legend, Magic Johnson, reveals that he has AIDS. Rumors begin to fly that he is bi-sexual. He is confronted on national television about the rumors. Instead of simply denying them, he begins to boast about how macho he is, claiming to have been to bed with as many as six women at one time! Is America outraged? No. President Bush appoints him to serve on a national AIDS commission.1
The actress, Suzanne Somers, appears on the TV program, Good Morning, America. She is trying to jump-start her flagging career. The appearance is prompted by her agreement to pose nude for Playboy magazine. The interviewer asks, "Why would you pose nude for Playboy now, when you sued them several years ago for publishing nude photos of you?"
Ms. Somers explains that the previous photos were taken by an amateur photographer and were published without her consent. "I decided that since there were bad nude photos of me that had already been published, I might as well get some good ones published."
She proceeds to explain that she laid down two conditions for the new photo spread in Playboy. "First, they had to let me select the photographer. And second, they had to let me select the photos to be used." She then makes the announcement that she decided to get her son (who was 19 at the time) involved in the project. "I spread out the photos on the floor and let him select the ones to be used in the magazine."
"Oh, that was so thoughtful of you," replies the interviewer.2
The Rapid Decay of Our Nation
What's the point? A nation that once honored God has plunged into a moral abyss. And the decay has reached the point where, in the words of the prophet Jeremiah, the nation "does not even know how to blush" (Jeremiah 6:15).
The descent has been swift. When I was born in 1938 —
- Abortionists were considered the scum of the earth and were sent to prison.
- Homosexuals were still in the closet and were thought of as queer.
- Pregnancy out of wedlock was thought of as scandalous, and "living together" was unthinkable.
- Drugs were something you bought at a pharmacy (or "drug store").
- Alcoholism was considered a sin, not a disease.
- Popular music was free of demonic beats and words.
- Movies were devoid of nudity, passionate love scenes, mindless violence, and filthy language.
- Eastern religion was still in the East.
- The corrupting influence of television was non-existent.
- Pornography was something that circulated underground.
- Public school students prayed in their classes and read the Bible, and creation could still be taught as an alternative to evolution.
- High school graduates could read their diplomas.
- The Ten Commandments were still legal.
- AIDS was a gift of the Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:28 refers to the gift of aids or helps, depending on the translation).
- Our governments — local, state and national — still promoted Judeo-Christian values rather than lotteries, horse racing, and casino gambling.
- Christian teaching focused on sacrificing for Christ rather than confessing materialistic success.
- Governmental authority was respected. Police were held in high esteem.
- Houses and cars were never locked.
- Social security was a job. Living on welfare was considered a disgrace.
- Language was civil. Manners still prevailed. Women were treated with dignity and respect.
Reaping What We Have Sown
Looking back over the last 60 years, the old Virginia Slims cigarette ad seems to sum it up best: "We've come a long way, baby!" Yes, we have, and it has been in the wrong direction.
- Today, we are murdering 4,000 babies a day in the name of "freedom of choice" for women.
- We spend more on gambling each year than we do on food.
- We are assaulted by a glut of pornography in books and movies and on the Internet.
- We are consuming 55% of all the illegal drugs in the world, even though we constitute only 5% of the world's population.
- Our families are being destroyed by an epidemic of spousal violence, child abuse, and divorce.
- Our prisons are overflowing because of a breakdown of law and order.
- Our cities are jungles of violence where people dare not venture out at night.
- Our homes are fortresses with bars on the windows, guns in the cabinets, and electronic security systems monitoring the doors and windows.
- Our schools are filled with drugs, rebellion and violence.
- Our governing bodies are shot full of corruption.
- Our churches are apathetic and compromised by worldliness.
- Our entertainment industry has become a purveyor of violence and immorality, and as we export its products abroad, we serve as the moral polluter of planet earth.
Our Schools as a Mirror of Society
The best way I can think of to summarize the decay of American society is to consider the results of a public school survey that was conducted in the mid-1940's and again in the mid-1980's. The survey was taken by the Fullerton, California Police Department in conjunction with the California Department of Education. The purpose was to determine the major disciplinary problems in the schools. The comparative results speak volumes (see the comparative chart below).3
|Leading Public School Disciplinary Problems
||1) Drug abuse
|2) Chewing Gum
||2) Alcohol abuse
|3) Making noise
|4) Running in the hallways
|5) Getting out of place in line
|6) Wearing improper clothing
|7) Not putting paper in wastebaskets
In January 1993, Time magazine reported some sobering statistics from the National Education Association that affirm the deterioration of our schools. According to the NEA report, every school day:4
- 100,000 students tote guns to school
- 160,000 skip classes because they fear physical harm
- 40 are hurt or killed by firearms
- 6,250 teachers are threatened with bodily injury
- 260 teachers are actually assaulted
That's every day!
An insightful commentary about what has happened to the children of America was posted on the Internet recently:5
What a Concept!
Whoa! What in the world is happening with our kids today? Let's see... I think it started when Madalyn Murray O'Hare complained that she didn't want any prayer in our schools, and we said, "OK."
Then someone said you had better not read the Bible in school. After all, it says: "Thou shalt not kill, thou shalt not steal, and love your neighbor as yourself." And we said, "OK."
Then the Supreme Court said that we could no longer post the Ten Commandments in our classrooms because they might influence our children, in violation of the concept called "separation of church and state." And we said, "OK."
Remember Dr. Benjamin Spock, who said we shouldn't spank our children when they misbehave, because their little personalities would be warped and we might damage their self-esteem? And we said, "OK."
Then someone said that teachers and principals better not discipline our children when they misbehave. And our administrators said, "Whoa, no one in this school better touch a student when they misbehave because we don't want any bad publicity, and we surely don't want to be sued."
Then someone said, "Let's let our daughters have abortions if they want, and we won't even tell their parents." And we said, "OK."
Then someone else said, "Let's give our sons all the condoms they want so they can have all the 'fun' they desire, and we won't tell their parents." And we said, "That's another great idea!"
And then some of our top officials said, "It doesn't matter what we do in private as long as we do our jobs." And we said, "As long as I have a job and the economy is good, it doesn't matter to me what anyone does in private."
So now we're asking ourselves why our children have no conscience, why they don't know right from wrong, and why it doesn't bother them to kill.
Probably, if we think about it long and hard enough, we can figure it out. I think it has a great deal to do with "we reap what we sow."
Whoa! What a concept!
Rejecting the Ten Commandments
In 1980 in the case of Stone v. Gramm, the United States Supreme Court ruled that it is unconstitutional to hang the Ten Commandments on the wall of a school room.6
Think about that for a moment. The Ten Commandments are the foundation of Western Civilization. Our entire legal system is rooted in them.
The reasoning of the Court was right out of the "Twilight Zone." The Court stated that "if the posted copies of the Ten Commandments are to have any effect at all, it will be to induce the school children to read, meditate upon, perhaps to venerate and obey, the Commandments." The Court then proceeded to state that these were not "permissible objectives." Is it any wonder that so many of our schools have become jungles of drugs and violence?
Modernizing the Commandments
A man by the name of Ken Matto has revised the Ten Commandments to reflect current values. He calls his revision "The Ten Replacements."7
- Thou shalt create gods in man's image to confirm the deity of man and the evolution of intelligence. Your gods may be created according to self-revelation.
- Thou shalt make unto thyself images and symbols of your beliefs. If your image is a cow or a rock star or a pentagram, that is fine. All things are relative in the evolution of the species.
- Thou shalt take the name of God and Jesus in vain since Jesus was not God, and God is anything you care to make him — or her.
- Thou shalt profane the Sabbath Day because you get double time on Sunday, and your family need not be in church since it is full of hypocrites. And furthermore, isn't making money the important thing?
- Thou shalt dishonor thy father and mother because they are only good to bail you out of jail or put a roof over your head. Too bad they don't possess the wisdom and knowledge of the years like you do, being a 13 year old.
- Thou shalt kill since you will only be acting on pent up rage because your father disciplined you one time when you were 5.
- Thou shalt commit adultery. After all, we have a free thinking and open society, and since your faith is in science, you know they will soon come up with a cure for AIDS or Herpes Simplex II.
- Thou shalt steal, for isn't everybody doing it? When you get out into the workplace you can steal time, pencils, products, and anything else you deserve. After all, didn't you have a deprived childhood because daddy and mommy refused to buy you $90 attitude pants with the crotch down to your knees?
- Thou shalt bear false witness. After all, it really isn't false witness; it is just looking out for number one. If a good lie at the right time saves your hide, come on, why not?
- Thou shalt always covet your neighbor's things because if you outdo them, your self-esteem will skyrocket, and you will finally be someone special. Remember, your pride is the most important thing.
The amazing thing is that in the midst of all this moral depravity, we have the audacity to call ourselves a "Christian nation"! The fact of the matter is that we are a post-Christian nation that is now wallowing in secularism and paganism. The comedian Steve Allen summed it up well in a remark he often made about the American entertainment industry: "We have vulgarians entertaining barbarians."
Where did America get off course? How have we managed to move so quickly from a God-fearing nation to one that thumbs its nose at God?
The Road to Depravity
An outline of our course to depravity can be found in the writings of the Apostle Paul. In Romans chapter one he states that the road to destruction for a nation begins when its institutions decide to "suppress the truth in unrighteousness," an action that will ultimately lead to people worshiping the creation rather than the Creator (Romans 1:18, 25).
The decade of the 1960's proved to be the turning point for America. But the cultural revolution against God that characterized that decade was rooted in developments that occurred early in the 20th Century. The two most influential were intellectual tides that swept into America from Europe. They arrived almost simultaneously.
One was Darwinism with its atheistic attack on the very concept of God. The origin and purpose of Man was called into question. Man was reduced to a mere animal, a product of chance with no particular purpose.
The other was the German School of Higher Criticism which challenged the Bible as the infallible revelation of God. The Bible was viewed instead as Man's search for God and was therefore considered to be full of myth, legend and superstition.
The Christian worldview suddenly came under attack from without and within the Church. The faith of many was shattered.
Embracing Moral Relativism
As the authority of God's Word was undermined, and Man's purpose became meaningless, moral relativism gradually took center stage. People began to challenge traditional concepts of right and wrong. As in the days of the Judges of Israel, people began to do what was right in their own eyes (Judges 21:25). They called it, "different strokes for different folks." Each man became a god unto himself, able to determine for himself his own values and ethics, if any. And anyone who would dare judge someone else's actions was declared "intolerant."
By the 1980's America had reached the point referred to in Judges 2:10 — we had produced a whole generation "who did not know the Lord..."
We had "suppressed the truth in unrighteousness" by banning prayer from public schools, prohibiting the posting of the Ten Commandments, and declaring that evolution was the only theory that could be taught about the origin of the universe.
Suddenly government was actively promoting all sorts of abominable activity such as gambling, abortion, and homosexuality. Eastern religions and mystical intellectual philosophies like the New Age Movement began to penetrate Christianity.
Earth Day became a national celebration. People gathered to worship "Mother Earth" rather than the Father God who created the earth. They joined hands and hummed to get synchronized with the rhythm of "Mother Earth." They further celebrated their new religion by hugging a tree or stroking a salmon.
Millions of people paid hundreds of dollars each to attend self-discovery seminars of various types. What they all had in common was the teaching that God resides in each of us, and that we must learn how to release our "god power."
Wallowing in Despair
By the 1990's, America had fulfilled another prophecy of the Apostle Paul about the end times. It is found in 2 Timothy 3:1-5:
But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come. For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power...
Notice that this prophecy predicts that the society of the end times will love three things: self, money and pleasure. The love of self is Humanism, the religion of America today. The love of money is Materialism, America's god.
When your religion is focused on self, and your god is money, the result is always a lifestyle based on the love of pleasure, which is Hedonism. Needless to say, that is the lifestyle of the "liberated" American as he enters the 21st Century.
But God cannot be mocked (Galatians 6:7). Humanism, Materialism and Hedonism constitute a deadly combination. They always produce the same pay-off. It is what philosophers call Nihilism, which is a sixty-four dollar word for despair.
Look again at 2 Timothy 3:1-5. The passage describes a society wallowing in despair. The description reads like the news that we witness on TV every evening. The news reports are full of boastful, arrogant revilers who are ungrateful and unholy — as well as stories about rebellious children and reckless, conceited haters of good. And we are constantly bombarded with the opinions of those "professing to be wise" but who in reality are fools (Romans 1:22).
God's Discipline for Nations
In Romans, Paul tells us how God deals with people in rebellious nations. He says that God "gives them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity" (Romans 1:24). In other words, God steps back, lowers His hedge of protection around the nation, and allows sin to multiply as a judgment upon the nation.
The first consequence is a sexual revolution like the one that occurred in America in the 1960's. Paul refers to it as the "dishonoring of their bodies" (Romans 1:24).
Paul says that if this judgment does not produce repentance, God will take another step back and lower His hedge of protection even further. In this second stage, He will deliver the nation to "degrading passions" (Romans 1:26). Paul explains that this judgment will be manifested in a plague of homosexuality. He says women will exchange the natural function for that which is unnatural, and men will abandon the natural function of the woman and burn in their desire toward one another, "men with men committing indecent acts" (Romans 1:26-27). Paul even mentions that those who participate in such evil will receive in their own bodies "the due penalty of their error" (Romans 1:27). Thus, the modern day AIDS epidemic is portrayed clearly as a judgment of God.
Nor is that the end of the process. Again, Paul notes that if the society persists in its rebellion, God will take another step back and lower His hedge of protection even further, giving them over "to a depraved mind" (Romans 1:28). At that point Paul says the society will become like the one he describes in 2 Timothy 3 — "filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, evil; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice; they are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, without understanding, untrustworthy, unloving, unmerciful..." (Romans 1:29-31).
He then adds a sobering thought: "We know that the judgment of God rightly falls upon those who practice such things" (Romans 2:2).
Teetering on the Edge of Destruction
America has reached the third and final stage that leads from judgment to destruction. God has placed judgment after judgment on our nation in an attempt to call us to repentance — judgments like the war in Vietnam, the drug epidemic, the AIDS plague, the disintegration of the family, civil riots, violence in the schools, and natural disasters.
But we have refused to repent. We have, in fact, set our jaw against God, determined to go our own way and do our own thing. This attitude was manifested in the incredible proclamation issued by President Bill Clinton in June of 1999 when he called for Americans to "celebrate" homosexuality. He declared June 1999 to be Gay and Lesbian Pride Month.8 I responded by sending him an email message in which I asked, "What will you ask us to 'celebrate' next? Will you proclaim Adultery Pride Month? What about a month honoring prostitutes or pedophiles?" President Obama resumed this practice of designating the month of June to celebrate sexual perversion, but he has expanded it to include the LGBT community (lesbians, gay, bi-sexual and transgendered).
[The following paragraph was written in the year 2000.] The interesting thing is that despite our continuing rebellion, God has not yet touched our false god — the Almighty Dollar. I suspect He is still patiently waiting for us to repent, and if we fail to do so, He will destroy our god with the greatest economic collapse in recorded history, one that will reduce us to Third World status and remove us from our position as the world's only super power.
God brought the Soviet Union down overnight, and He can do the same to us, just as He did to the super power Babylon in ancient history. At the time He touched the Soviet Union, it was the world's greatest military power. But all its nuclear weapons and missiles could not protect it from the hand of God. Overnight the Soviet Union was reduced to political and economic chaos.
Begging for Judgment
The destruction that will fall upon us will be much worse, "for to those to whom much is given, much is expected" (Luke 12:48). The Russian people can say, "We did not know." But what can Americans say? We have been blessed like no other nation since ancient Israel. In addition to our political and economic blessings, we have been blessed spiritually with a saturation of the Gospel. We have an average of five Bibles in each home, we have radio and television evangelists, and we have an over abundance of churches. We have no excuse before God.
The Bible teaches that God never pours out His wrath without warning. He has been warning America for three decades through His judgments and His prophets. He has raised up prophetic voices throughout the land to warn the people of impending judgment — voices like Dave Wilkerson in New York City, whom I considered to be God's Jeremiah to America. [Wilkerson was killed in a car accident in 2011.]
Non-Christians have understandably mocked these warnings as "millennial madness." What is tragic is that many Christian leaders have also responded with ridicule. Many Christians seem to believe that God sits on His throne draped in an American flag, and that He would never touch His "anointed nation." After all, isn't He dependent on the wealth and influence and technology of America to spread the Gospel all over the world?
A Biblical Example of National Arrogance
It has happened before. When God got ready to pour out His wrath on ancient Judah, He raised up prophets like Micah and Jeremiah to warn the people of their impending doom. And what was their response? They pointed to the Lord's Temple and assured the prophets that God would never allow anything to happen to it (Jeremiah 7:1-4). They were safe, they thought, because the Shekinah glory of God resided in their Temple. The prophets were "full of wind," they argued, because God would protect His Temple and the nation to which He had entrusted it (Jeremiah 5:13). Their attitude was arrogance gone to seed.
And so it is in America today. We are a proud nation. After all, we are "number one." In our pride we have turned our back on God. Like the Jews of biblical times, we want the blessings of God but not the God of the blessings.
A Biblical Type of America
Our prophetic type in the Bible is the nation of Judah. If you want to read about America in Bible prophecy, read Isaiah 5 and Jeremiah 5 and 6. These two prophets list the sins that motivated God to destroy that nation. The sobering reality is that they are the same sins that characterize America today.
Isaiah speaks of injustice, greed, pleasure seeking, blasphemy, moral perversion, intellectual pride, intemperance, and political corruption. Regarding moral perversion, Isaiah says people were "calling evil good, and good evil" (Isaiah 5:20). That's precisely what we are doing in America today regarding abortion, homosexuality and gambling. Isaiah sums up the root of his nation's decay (and America's) by asserting, "They have rejected the law of the Lord of hosts, and despised the word of the Holy One of Israel" (Isaiah 5:24).
Jeremiah, writing about 75 years later (God is so patient!), lists the same sins as still prevailing in the land. But he adds some new ones to the list: immorality and religious corruption. His summary statements are very revealing:
"They have made their faces harder than rock" (Jeremiah 5:3).
"They have refused to repent" (Jeremiah 5:3).
"This people has a stubborn and rebellious heart" (Jeremiah 5:23).
"They do not even know how to blush" (Jeremiah 6:15).
God destroyed this nation. Why would He deal any differently with a modern day clone? God "is the same yesterday and today, yes, and forever" (Hebrews 13:8). Or, as it is stated in Malachi 3:6, "I, the Lord do not change."
As America descends further into a moral abyss, Christians are going to come under increasing attack. Already society has written off evangelical Christians as "intolerant bigots" because they are the only ones speaking out today in behalf of righteousness.
The media have declared open season on Christians. Christianity, the Bible and Jesus are openly mocked in movies, books, television programs and the arts. Similar attacks on blacks, homosexuals, Jews, or even Muslims would not be tolerated. But everything sacred to Christians can be trampled. There is no escaping the fact that we are in the midst of a culture war in America. The forces of paganism, secularism, atheism and humanism have launched an all-out attack on Judeo-Christian values.
The two sides in this war were well represented in the responses to the Columbine High School massacre in the spring of 1999.
Speaking from a Judeo-Christian perspective, Billy Graham said:9
I agree with those who have remarked that the problem is not guns. Rather, it is the hearts of people which need to be changed. I would add that only God can change our hearts. That is the reason Jesus said, "You must be born again." Only God can give us a new nature that is demonstrated by love.
Speaking from the pagan perspective, Howard Stern, the radio "shock-jock" said:10
There were some really good-looking girls running out with their hands over their heads. Did those kids [the killers] try to have sex with any of the good-looking girls? They didn't even do that? At least if you're going to kill yourself and kill all the kids, why wouldn't you have some sex?
A Double Standard
As the culture war intensifies, the press is practicing a double standard. For example, when reporting acts of violence against blacks, homosexuals or Jews, the deeds are instantly categorized as "hate crimes." But with regard to the acts of violence specifically aimed at Christians, these are written off as "random acts of violence."
Nationwide, people are being discriminated against in job hirings and promotions simply because they are Christians, something that would have been unthinkable in this country just a few years ago. Churches are being harassed as never before by zoning boards and building inspectors.
The situation is going to get worse rather than better. Jesus told His disciples that the world would hate them just as it hated Him (John 15:18-19). Jesus also prophesied that in the end times, right before His return, all true believers would be hated on account of His name and would be persecuted (Matthew 24:9). The only reason more professing Christians are not being persecuted today is because most have become so compromised by the world that it would be hard to find enough evidence to convict them of being Christians!
The Prospect of Suffering
In addition to specific persecution, we as Christians face the suffering that is going to engulf our nation if Jesus tarries and delays His return until after America is judged for its rebellion. When God judges a nation, the rain falls on the just and the unjust. Believers are not immune to the suffering, but they are promised that God will walk with them through the suffering and sustain them. As God got ready to destroy Judah, He spoke reassuring words to the true believers in the land (Isaiah 43:2-3):
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they will not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be scorched, nor will the flame burn you. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, Your Savior.
Many of the believers who heard these words suffered terribly from the long siege of Jerusalem. Many were carried into captivity. But the Lord was always there to encourage them and to see to it that their basic needs were met.
As those of us who are Christians face both focused persecution and generalized suffering, how then should we live? How can we live victorious lives in the midst of societal chaos? How can we endure persecution and suffering? How can we remain faithful to the Lord? Are we to withdraw from the world? Are we to arm ourselves, flee to the wilderness, and hunker down in bunkers?
No! A thousand times, No! We are to stand up for Jesus and speak out for righteousness.
1) Interview of Magic Johnson by Roger Mudd on the program, 20/20, produced by ABC Television, 1992. Exact date of the broadcast is unknown. The interview was witnessed by the author.
2) Interview of Suzanne Somers on the program, Good Morning America, produced by ABC Television, 1984. Exact date of the broadcast is unknown. The interview was witnessed by the author. The Playboy spread of her photos was published in the December 1984 issue.
3) Ezra Brown, "Getting Tough: New Jersey Principal Joe Clark kicks up a storm about discipline in city schools," Time, February 1, 1988, p. 54.
4) "The Week, January 10-16, 1993," Time, January 25, 1993, p. 23. Time cites the source of the statistics as the National Education Association.
5) An item taken from the Internet in the summer of 1999. Widely circulated, with no date or author indicated.
6) Stone v. Graham, 449, U.S. 39 (1980). For a good survey of court decisions that have impacted America's schools in a negative way, see David Barton's book, America: To Pray or Not to Pray, (Aledo, Texas: WallBuilder Press, 1991).
7) Mailed to the author in 1997 by Ken Matto. Ken lives in Edison, New Jersey where he works as a production planner in a coffee company. He holds a Doctor of Ministry degree from Bethany Theological Seminary.
8) Bill Clinton, "Gay and Lesbian Pride Month, 1999," June 11, 1999. A proclamation by the President of the United States of America. Presidential proclamations are available on the Internet at http://www.whitehouse.gov.
9) The Lamplighter magazine, June-July 1999, p.13.
10) "Stern blasted for comments about Colorado tragedy," AFA Journal, June 1999,