A given culture’s depravity isn’t measured simply by the percentage of Christians in that culture. Vital to the equation are two other factors. First, and most important, is how spiritually mature those Christians are. Corinth remained a sewer not because there weren’t enough Christians there, but because the Christians there weren’t Christian enough. But there is another important part of the calculus, the common grace of God in the lives of the lost. God sometimes gives over not only people but cultures to the depravity of their minds. Other times chastity, fidelity, and love are given a fighting chance.
It was, I believe, Ruth Graham who first said that if God doesn’t judge these United States, He will have to apologize to Sodom and Gomorrah. We are in the midst of a radical sea change over our understanding of marriage, especially as it relates to homosexuals. There was a time, not too long ago, that this didn’t much worry me. I figured, culturally speaking, that the homosexual agenda would get no where because there existed a grand coalition that wouldn’t budge. The allies were the church, which would stand with the Word of God and roundly condemn perversion as perversion, and the rest of the straight world that had enough common grace to recognize perversion when they saw it. Both fronts are in rapid retreat.
The church is retreating because the world has fired its biggest cannon against us, suggesting that we aren’t nice. We in turn have responded as we always do, loving the sinner, and quietly hoping the sin will go away. Now the only thing left in the closet is our prophet’s mantle.
The retreat of the straight world, however, is driven by a whole other cultural phenomenon, the Internet. A curious combination of fiber optics and silicon has given us a technology that has carpet bombed the last great defense against sexual perversion, shame. The reason for the explosion of online pornography is simple enough. The Internet is the first pornography delivery system that doesn’t require any interaction with a live human being. The only thing standing between millions of men and oceans of pornography fifteen years ago was the public shame of consuming it. That public shame is now gone. There is no longer a convenience store clerk, or video store clerk, or bouncer at the “Gentleman’s Club.” On the Internet it’s just you and the pictures.
The very pleasure of pornography is the shock of it. This explains the all too familiar phenomena of the downward spiral. Like illicit drugs, each “hit” requires a stronger hit the next time to get the desired effect. What was once delightfully forbidden soon becomes all too commonplace. And so darker perversions are pursued. The path from marijuana to crack cocaine runs parallel to the path from Playboy to pedophilia. It is, in the words of Solomon in the Proverbs, the path to death.
Culturally speaking, we are treading the same path. We are slouching toward Gomorrah. Once, for instance, homosexuality was considered a gross perversion. Then it became an illness. Thirty years ago, when the psychiatric profession removed homosexuality from its list of mental illnesses, the Christians howled in anger. Better we should have howled when it was first called an illness. Now homosexuality has gone mainstream, and homosexuals have become a protected class.
It will only get worse. We are culturally treading that path because we are individually treading that path. As more and more men get tangled in this web, we will more and more define deviancy downward. As homosexuals enjoy their moment in the sun, pedophiles wait patiently in the wings, knowing that their time is coming. They are building momentum, as more and more men visit more and more websites, and sink lower and lower. If we were to empty every prison in America tomorrow, and then arrest every man consuming child pornography, there wouldn’t be enough room for them.
There is never a good time for the church to be worldly. But the least bad times are those when the world is at its most churchy. It is safer to mimic the mores of a decent culture than a decadent one. Which means in turn that it is all the more important to be set apart when the world is at its worst. Our standards are not their standards. We don’t define deviancy by the culture, but by the Word of God.
Now more than ever, we as a body must manifest chastity and fidelity. How might the world change if all the world knew that within the church one could find faithful spouses? Now more than ever we must covenant with our eyes. Now more than ever we must cherish our spouses, the wives of our youth. Now more than ever we must encourage one another onto righteousness. Now more than ever we must be a body that calls sin “sin,” and grace “grace.” Now more than ever we must believe the promises of God, who has told us not only that if we confess our sins He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, but that He will cleanse us from all unrighteousness. Now more than ever we must eschew not only the filth that passes for normal all around us, but the despair that it will ever be like this. He can change men, and He can change cultures. He can and will make all His enemies a footstool. The darkness hates the light, but the light has already come into the world. Indeed we must be of good cheer, for the light has already overcome the world.