Who is not stunned by today’s news stories of violence?
- On July 22 Anders Behring Breivik murdered 91 fellow Norwegians.
- Just two weeks later we witnessed the August riots in England.
- Riots tore apart France in the fall of 2005.
- “Flash mobs,” organized by social media, are bringing mayhem to increasing numbers of US cities.
Much of the Western elite, arguing from atheistic/materialistic assumptions, locate the root of these problems in poverty, lack of jobs, and poor education. In this framework, the solutions are outside the individual: more government programs, more money, more technology, and more government specialists are the answer. The straightforward application of more and better social engineering will achieve the perfect society.
Such thinking fails to recognize that the life of a nation is rooted in the soul of a nation. The rioting in France and England, the flash mobs in the United States, and the gunman in Norway all have a common source, one which is not essentially financial. As the soul of the West dies, western nations will perish in very painful and dramatic ways. When a society severs its national life from its cultural roots, the nation will suffer. Or to put it differently, when a tree is severed from its roots, the tree will die. As Will Durant has said “A great civilization is not conquered from without until it has destroyed itself from within.”
The problems we face in the West go even deeper than the violence and have been unfolding for many generations. They are moral and spiritual problems at their core. A nation that puts money over family, convenience over the life of a baby, feelings over covenantal commitment, or consumption over thrift, reveals its moral bankruptcy and is destined to a slow death. When I was a young man, Mother Teresa came to New York City for the first time and was quoted as saying that she had never seen so much poverty in her life. She was not speaking of material poverty: New York City was (and is) one of the most prosperous cities in the world. She was calling out moral and spiritual decadence.
Very simply, the belief system of a people produce the values of the nation. The values drive the behavior of individuals, corporations, and governments, and those behaviors produce consequences.
For example, at both the individual and governmental levels, the United States and most of Europe are in or near bankruptcy. Why? Because of spending behavior: most people and governments live above their means. Such behavior comes from valuing spending over thrift, consuming wealth over creating wealth. Such values come from a belief system, atheistic Materialism. Human beings are primarily consuming animals. Life consists of gaining as much as you can, as quickly as possible and by any means you can for your own consumption and pleasure. Contrast this to the Judeo-Christian framework: human beings are made in the image of God and placed on this planet to steward the earth and generate the potential of all creation to generate wealth for the larger community.
Another way of saying this is: Paradigm -> Principles -> Policy -> Program.
Most moderns try to solve problems by policy and program, failing to reflect on principle and paradigm. The West is living off a memory, all that remains of a former certainty—that the Bible and its worldview is essential to our civilization.
While policy and programs need to change, a deeper transformation is needed. Policy is downstream from culture and culture is downstream from cult (another word for “worship”). One cannot expect different results as long as our policies are derived from materialistic/atheistic culture. That would be like trying to keep a river clean by constantly removing impurities downstream from the polluting source. Rather, one must change the source. Real change can only happen in a nation by transforming the culture and the worship.
Prime Minister David Cameron declares that Britain needs to find its moral compass. An August 15th Article in the Economic Times, states:
Britain faces a battle to find its moral compass, Prime Minister David Cameron declared Monday, following four days of riots that left five people dead, thousands facing charges for violence and theft, and at least 200 million pounds ($350 million) in property losses.
Cameron said senior ministers of his two-year-old coalition government would spend the next few weeks formulating new policies designed to reverse what he described as a country being dragged down by many citizens’ laziness, irresponsibility and selfishness. He said “the responsible majority” was demanding that the government build a stronger society.
“This has been a wake-up call for our country. Social problems that have been festering for decades have exploded in our face,” Cameron said in his prepared remarks for a planned Monday morning speech. “Do we have the determination to confront the slow-motion moral collapse that has taken place in parts of our country these past few generations?”
I applaud Prime Minister Cameron for his courage to admit that Britain’s political problems flow from its moral problems. But further reflection is needed. He calls it a slow-motion moral collapse and yet thinks it can be fixed in the next few weeks formulating new policies. Decades of moral and spiritual decline cannot be fixed in a few weeks. You cannot fix with policy what has its root in culture and cult. Governments at all levels have a part to play in reversing this disaster, but the moral and spiritual nature of the issues will require that individuals, families, and churches return to the moral and spiritual roots of the Judeo-Christian worldview that made England, and Europe, and the United States, the greatest of all civilizations.
God used two generations OF CHRISTIAN LEADERS in England to remove her from a previous moral and spiritual cesspool. The first generation was led by John and Charles Wesley; the second by William Wilberforce and the Clapham Sect.
The government of Prime Minister Cameron will not solve this problem in a few weeks. It will take national repentance and national re-formation. Reading Donald Drew’s wonderful review, England Before and After Wesley: The Evangelical Revival and Social Reform, would be a great start. Drew outlines how God realigned the moral compass of England through the lives and preaching of John and Charles Wesley.
Yes, England needed a change in her moral compass then, just as now. The solution to England’s problems did not begin with government. It began from Wesley’s preaching, calling individuals and a nation to repent. That was followed by discipling the nation in the nature and character of God through Wesley’s methods.
The spiritual sons and daughters of Wesley drove Wesley’s lessons deep into the policies and programs of English society. They brought an end to slavery in the British Empire, restored civility to English Society and set about reforms in prisons, industry, education, and other sectors. (See Richard Gathro’s William Wilberforce and His Circle of Friends.)
Today, as in Wesley’s day, national repentance is needed (2 Chronicles 7:14). A change in worship (cult) is a prerequisite to a change in culture. We need to confess that in the West, man, rather than God, has been the center of the universe. The United States has become a nation under man rather than “one nation under God.” The change in worship must give rise to a change in culture, from psychological and materialistic language to moral and spiritual/theological language. We need to move:
- from the language of illness to the language of sinfulness
- from victimhood to personal responsibility
- from consumers of wealth to producers of wealth
- from spending to saving
- from instant gratification to delayed gratification
- culture of death to a culture of life
In the West we are facing, not an economic problem, but a vision problem. We cannot solve this problem with economic and political policy changes. It will only be solved by examining and changing the deep things that drive modern economics and politics. We must examine the current political and economic culture and the worship/cult from which it is derived.
We must return to the worship of the God of the universe.
- Darrow Miller with Gary Brumbelow