You know lower standards will lower the culture. The Roman Empire was destroyed because of lower standards and moral decay. You know they fed each other to lions for entertainment – humans, when left to their on devices, seem to be hopelessly selfish and bent on their own destruction. It seems that unless a power greater than us captures our hearts, nothing will change that trajectory – wealth, knowledge, success – seems to only feed the beast.”
So Super Bowl 2014 is rapidly approaching, and I recently had an unsettling thought about our society. I’ve been reading the book Measure of a Man by Gene Getz. In chapter 4, Getz writes about an exchange he had with a man who was very concerned with the state of America – he saw that the economy, culture, and government were all declining around him, and he was afraid. Getz, in response, made the observation, “if you think things are bad now, just wait a while.”
The man was distressed, and Getz used this emotion to emphasize that our security doesn’t lie in the state of our country, but it lies in the sovereignty of God.
But that’s a long way off from the Super Bowl, isn’t it? No, not really. Nevermind that companies spend no less than a million dollars for thirty seconds of airtime to sell a bag of seasoned corn chips. Nevermind that someone invested more than $10,000 for a ticket to a sporting event. Almost anywhere we look, it seems that society is devolving around us.
The old Roman trope during the fall of the Republic and the rise of the Empire was “bread and circuses.” With society degrading, social classes tearing each other apart, with political and business leaders using their power to crush others, with the civil liberties the Constitution was intended to protect being violated every day, and with the American public, by and large, zoning out at a football game and hoping it all goes away, I had a thought.
When do we start feeding each other to lions? When does our pent up anxiety, animosity, and hate, left unaddressed, combine with our fear of reality and desire to be entertained?
We’re moderately comfortable thinking about bad things happening other places, as long as they look different from where we live. That’s why we call neighborhoods in Israel “settlements” while they’re being shelled by Palistinian guns. That’s why we would rather show footage of riots in the old districts of Syrian cities instead of the internet revolution happening in a downtown Starbucks on a laptop. That’s why the media doesn’t like to talk about the Christians being murdered daily in Egypt.
The things on the news happen to people not very different from us.
Someday, perhaps, we’ll turn on our television and see Americans, those deemed to be traitors by the United States government, being fed to lions in Cowboys Stadium. And many would watch it on TV, laughing as somebody’s arm is torn off, and content with laughing because they’re watching it on a screen in a living room, and it was no one they knew, and it wasn’t them.
This is the way things go with humans. It happens over and over. I remember the George Santayana quote, “those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” I often expound on that with a second part: “those who remember the past are condemned to watch others repeat it.”
If nothing else, this illustrates why it makes absolutely no sense to place our assurance of security in the condition of our nation. It’s like watching the news and seeing that a particular model of car has a tendency to fall apart after driving a few thousand miles in a very particular and very explosive way, and then going out to buy that precise model of car from the lot. I’m sure it has great new safety features – like side airbags! – but it’s slated to blow up on the freeway.
The only stable thing we can rest assured in is the creator of the universe, the eternal and unchanging God who created us. Although we’ve chosen as a race to diverge from His intention for us, and will inevitably destroy everything we’ve created because of it, He is consistent. Although we fall short of the glory of God, He sent His son Jesus Christ to reconcile us with Him, in a promise that is stable like nothing on Earth could ever be.
“Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings.” 1 Peter 5:8-9