Lights in the World - PH39-02
Please turn with me to Philippians 2:14-16 on the topic of lights in the world. The Christian life,
as you know, is designed to win out over sin, and to operate on divine viewpoint thinking. Satan, who controls all the societies of
the world, makes a convincing case for sin, and makes a very convincing case for human viewpoint attitudes. Satan creates a world of
spiritual darkness by causing people to become morally disoriented. When people are morally disoriented, they lose their freedoms.
They lose the privilege of exercising their personal wills and their personal decision-making mechanisms with which God has invested
them. Therefore, we are told in this passage that Christians are placed in Satan's world to be lights: lights to guide humanity to divine
viewpoint; and, lights to guide humanity to moral understanding, and thus to freedom.
Advanced Bible Doctrine - Philippians 2:14-15
Therefore, part of God's divine viewpoint is what
constitutes right and wrong--the issue of morality. We referred last week to the matter of the new morality where right and wrong is
determined by the situation of the moment. The rejection of moral principles, as we find them in the Word of God, has been widely popularized
by the new morality. History is replete with examples of societies which rose to great power and great prosperity as nations while
observing the principles of morality reflected in the Ten Commandments, for example, but collapsed when immorality became rampant in
that particular society. The nation, or a people, that does not view absolute moral standards as being applicable at all times is a
nation which is inviting the loss of its freedom and its personal destruction.
The Roman Empire
So the result is that we have to look at our societies and our nation and say, "How far do we publicly tolerate violation of God's moral
code? How far do we tolerate immorality in public; in practice; in entertainment; in education; and, in literature?" That is an indication
of how far we are from having lost our freedom. We need only to look at one of the most glorious empires that ever existed in ancient
times, the Roman Empire. History fascinates us as we read about the Romans because we discover that the Romans were the United States
of America of the ancient world. They were the power nation of the whole universe. They were in the same position that we found ourselves
in as a nation following World War II. Without any particular effort on our part, we were the absolute, number one, predominating,
overwhelming nation of the world.
Now, that's the kind of people the Romans were. They had huge cities. They had magnificent buildings
with the splendid sparkling marble columns. They had paved streets. They had roads that connected the whole empire together, and some
of them are still usable and operational today. They were very adept at developing water supplies, aqueducts, and plumbing. They had
a victorious army. Law and order was a thing that you could count on. They had a general prosperity. Rome was supreme, and Rome was
The time came when there were some Roman leaders who were standing up and saying, "Hey, people,
something has happened to us in the moral fiber of our nation. We are in danger of going down in destruction under the defeat of foreign
powers." History tells us that these men were looked upon as kooks, and were laughed to scorn because you couldn't walk down the main
thoroughfares of Rome itself and look upon the buildings that existed and all that constituted the Roman Empire, and take anything like
that seriously--that our nation can go down into oblivion, and that we should cease to exist as an empire. Most people said, "You're crazy,
man. It could never happen to a magnificent nation such as the Roman Empire constituted."
In time, moral decay became so widespread that they began fighting
wars that they could not win, or would not win. They began excessive taxation of its citizens. Crime began to mount throughout the empire,
and they were hard pressed to squelch it. Race riots broke out. There were internal conspiracies. Political assassinations were the
order of the day. There were huge doles for welfare. There was creeping inflation. All of this was matched by a general yawning indifference
on the part of the average Roman citizen.
The Fall of the Roman Empire
Edward Gibbon, one of several historians, has outlined for us five basic areas, which are the
reasons historically that this magnificent Roman Empire went down. Each of these, you will see, is an area of moral breakdown. The
reason Rome lost its freedom was because Rome lost its morality. We have this in Gibbon's book, The Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire.
Other historians have observed the same thing:
This raises a very interesting question to us. We
are moving, as you may have suspected, to the Ten Commandments, which is the ultimate expression of the moral principles by which
a nation rises and falls. If you want to see how far your nation has gone and where it stands, just review the moral principles of
the Ten Commandments, and then evaluate your nation on each one. You will have a perfect scale as to how far your society has gone to where
its freedom is about to be ended. What I'm going to establish for you is that the whole purpose of the Ten Commandments was to preserve
personal freedom and national freedom. The two are connected. When morality goes, freedom goes.
The Breakdown of the Family Unit
The first reason given (the first moral breakdown) is the breakdown of the family unit.
This was the ultimate source of influence in the Roman society, and it was the source of the moral fiber which prepared and produced
the fantastically capable Roman men who were able to lead and to dominate the world. The home (the family) was the key to Roman society
in a fantastically marvelous way. The whole structure of Roman society began on the basic unit of the family, and then it went up from
there. That was widespread; that was widely known; and, it was widely recognized as the acceptable pattern.
Divorce in time became an
acceptable option, and thus a widespread practice. In the early part of the Roman Empire's history, divorce was extremely rare. It was
almost unknown because the whole concept of divorce was unthinkable. No one ever stood up to take marriage vows with the slightest
thought that there was ever any way out. Divorce and remarriage of the Romans became so extensive that finally, near the end of the
empire's history, marriage was simply viewed as legalized adultery. The high class citizens of Rome actually rejected marriage outright,
and they detached sex from marriage. Among the upper class, which set the patterns that influenced people of lower classes, they simply
did not use marriage at all. They simply followed the pattern of living together, and when they got tired of it, shifting to a new setup.
The pattern of family life in this way was totally destroyed.
Fathers and Husbands
Along with this was the problem of the husband's authority.
The father's authority, in the early Roman history, was fully recognized. It was the important feature of family life. He was the final
court of decision in the family.
Roman wives, however, in time, were not content to live their lives besides their husbands and under his
decisions as his helper. They began demanding a liberated frame of reference for themselves with careers of their own. Wives, therefore,
increasingly carried on another life actually apart from their husbands,
and in competition with him. They were the emancipated women of the Roman Empire. I mean that they led a life apart from their husbands
in the full sense of the word.
They actually began evading the role of maternity. The Roman historians tell us that their women did
not want to bear children because it would spoil their figures. The idea of bearing children was offensive to them from that point
alone. This had a marked influence on the population level of the Roman Empire--a marked decrease in population. Women in Imperial
Rome then were doing their own thing by the end of the second century, and the results were wretched marriages; divorce; and, unruly delinquent
children. All that they had hoped to gain, they had not gained. This is because when you violate God's moral order, all you gain is slavery,
and you lose your freedom to enjoy what could have been had you followed God's plan. These wives were cheapened in soul, and they were a misery
to themselves and to those near them because they were violating crucial moral principles.
The Roman children, as a result of this kind of family breakdown, became idlers and wasters of their fathers' possessions. The parents,
the fathers particularly, failed to control and to discipline them. Permissiveness was the keynote of the day. They never punished the
children. So the society of Rome was plagued near the end with hostile, rebellious, lawless, long-haired (and I mean long-haired) youth
who scoffed at their parents and who scoffed at all authority. They were rebels, and they developed signs to reflect (like
wearing long hair) that they were against the authority of their parents.
If a child is against the authority of his parents,
he has not learned subjection to the authority of the home; he's going to be against the authority of his teacher at school; against the
authority of the policeman on the street; against the
authority of the central government; and, all the way down the line.
A child in Rome had been trained at one time in the Roman Empire to be a
great respecter of constituted authority. That's what made Rome strong Where Rome ruled, there's one thing you could count on: There were going
to be fair laws; they were going to be objectively enforced; and, you were going to be protected. That's one thing you could count on where
Rome was present. In time, you could no longer count on that. Authority had been undermined in the home, and thus it was undermined
throughout the Roman Empire, society, and life.
The same conditions of moral disorientation have been repeated many times in the past. Actually, Israel itself suffered from that.
In Isaiah 3, we have a declaration of these two things that we have indicated as moral breakdown of the Roman Empire.
The women were no longer subject to the authority of their husbands, and the children ruled their parents. Listen to what Isaiah,
writing in 760 B.C., said concerning Judah, who was about ready to go into slavery again--slavery to the Babylonian Empire. Isaiah 3:12
says, "As for my people, children are their oppressors, and women rule over them. O, my people, they who lead you cause to err and destroy
the way of my paths. What is God going to do?
Verse 13: "The Lord stands up to plead, and stands to judge the people." That's what our God
is doing today. He's standing up and He's pleading. There are voices here and there in the land that are saying the same thing that
was being said to the Roman rulers and to the Roman people of ancient Rome in the final years of the empire's existence.
They were pleading with the people to turn back to moral principles. In time, God disciplined and judged them. Today, we are hearing
pleas for a return to morality. This nation is in a state of shock because of what it has discovered concerning the low level of morality
in its public officials. People don't know where to turn. Apathy and indifference is creeping upon the mentality of the average American
because he does not understand that the answer is going back to morality. The answer is going back to what is right is right, and what is
wrong is wrong. If we do not heed the pleading, then God will judge as he did the Jews and as he did the Romans.
There was a second problem, and that was the spiraling rise of taxes.
That was an immorality which brought the destruction of the Roman Empire. Extravagant government spending required extravagant taxation.
There were huge welfare programs which burdened the taxpayer. Multitudes in the Roman Empire were idle, living on the dole. The government
entertainment strained the treasury. Coins were debased. They were mixed with cheap metals in order to devalue them. Government spending
created monumental inflation. Maintaining world peace, the Pax Romana, became a tremendous, gigantic military burden as the empire had
overextended itself, and its people were no longer of a moral character capable of maintaining that law and order. The Roman working
class was getting such high wages that they were unable to compete with cheap foreign labor. So the emperors had to resort to millions
of slaves in the production line in order to get cheap enough labor to try to compete with labor from other countries and what they
were producing. The result was, however, that the government had to subsidize its own workers so that their salaries would remain at
the level of living that they were used to.
Obsession with Pleasure
Thirdly, there was a mounting obsession with pleasure, entertainment, and the brutalization
of sports. Rome's superiority led to a national craze for pleasure, and for a brutality in its sports. It was the great thing of a Sunday
afternoon to go down to the Coliseum to see two gladiators on the field of battle, one of whom who actually slaughtered the other right before
your eyes. That was viewed as a great relaxing Sunday afternoon family outing together.
Men enjoyed dissipation. There was great sensuality in the entertainments that were presented.
These dissipated citizens were then incapable of fighting the invading barbarians to preserve their freedom.
The Circus Maximus seated
400,000 people. They had so many citizens in Rome who were idle, living off of welfare, that they had nothing else to do but to
rush at dawn (the historians tell) to the Circus Maximus (the huge stadium) in order to get the good seats; or, some of them would
even line up the night before (if you could imagine somebody lining up the night before in order to be able to buy a ticket to get in). But
they didn't have to buy a ticket. All they had to do was get in there and get themselves right down there on the 50-yard-line where
they could see good. These entertainments would go on all day long, some of them for several days at a time. The government exhausted
its ingenuity in coming up with bigger and better features of entertainment in the Circus Maximus. Along with this, of course, was gambling
because there were many races which were run. So gambling heightened the gratification for pleasure. It didn't matter whether you were
rich or whether you were some character on the dole who had one penny left. It was your opportunity to have a great time at the races.
In this way, the emperors managed to keep the minds of the people off
the things that were happening to their nation. People were obsessed with the trivia of sports. They could tell you all the statistics
about the latest gladiator's performance and the games coming up, but they were oblivious to the rats which were eating away at the
foundations of their whole nation which was to go down into oblivion. The spectaculars that they viewed preoccupied their minds. The
spectaculars, I can tell you, were gory with violence. They were grossly indecent. They were literally public displays of pornography
financed by the government.
The Expansion of the Production of Armaments
Another moral breakdown was expanding production of armaments to fight the rising tide of external attacks.
As the society decayed morally, its will to defend freedom diminished. As the will to resist weakened, the barbarians, pushing out
on the outer fringes of the empire, were emboldened to push harder. The harder they pressed, the more of the cost of defense rose.
Yet, the moral weakness of the Romans invited the daring of the barbarians. They simply, in time, could not be stopped, no matter how
much was being spent on military armaments.
They came, in other words, to the place where they could no longer fight and win. This is the same thing that Winston Churchill had warned
his own nation against, concerning the empire of Hitler that had been developed before World War II. He warned Britain that if she does
not act, the time will come when she will find herself in a place where victory will become extremely difficult, fighting upon the
enemy's ground and upon the enemy's time. That victory will not only be difficult, but perhaps even impossible. That's what happened
to Rome. It was no longer that victory was difficult. It was that no matter how much military armaments they had produced, and how much
money they were pouring in, victory was now impossible. They were no longer able to stem the tide of the barbarians simply because
they did not have the moral fiber as a people to do that. You must understand that it takes a man of character to face an enemy on
a field of battle, and to place his very life on the line in behalf of the cause of liberties and freedoms of the nation he represents.
Men without moral character are never going to do that. So the Romans quit fighting, and the nation was overrun.
The Decay of Religion
A fifth moral breakdown was the decay of religion into confusion. The pantheistic Roman religion espoused certain moral principles.
It was pagan, but it did stand for certain virtuous qualities which they viewed as being pleasing to the gods. These bound the nation
together, and they actually promoted patriotism. When the Romans lost their faith in their religious beliefs and their ideals, they turned
to astrology; to sorcery; and, to the mysticism of the East. But the overwhelming result was that there was no more a united guide
to virtue. Morals, consequently, went out the window. Roman society became unstable, and past virtues were abandoned.
Rome became one big barnyard of immorality in the strictest sense of the word.
I'm going to read an article to you. It is an article
written a few years ago by a newsman, the editor of the Tulsa Oklahoma Tribune, Mr. Jenkins Lloyd Jones. The reason I'm going to
read it to you is because he has put it so aptly. He has reviewed the American scene so exactly. Though this was written a few years
ago, it is even more pertinent and applicable in our day such that I couldn't put it better. I'm going to just share this with you. So will
He is addressing on this occasion the Inland Daily Press Association in Chicago, and he also gave the same address before the
American Society of Newspaper Editors at New Orleans. So he's speaking to newspaper professionals. He says:
I am about to inflict upon you a jeremiad. Long before the prophet Jeremiah uttered his lamentations about the evil behavior of the
children of Israel, the world had seen many calamity howlers. We have cuneiform tablets describing the moral decay of Babylon in Chaldea.
We have hieroglyphic inscriptions predicting that Osiris and Ra will smite the Egyptians for their wickedness. So when I rise today and
make some comments about the moral climate of America, and about our responsibilities, therefore, as temporary custodians of America's
press, I speak in a very old tradition.
"The calamity howler: It is customary to dismiss such fogeyism as I am about to display with
a tolerant laugh. For while it was freely predicted all through the ages that the world was going to hell, it hasn't gone to hell yet.
Who can deny that in practically all the crafts, and certainly all of the sciences, we are further advanced than we have ever been.
Why not be cheerfully optimistic? I think I can tell you why. Human progress has never been steady. It has washed back and forth like
waves upon a beach. Happily, there has also been an incoming tide, so the waves have washed higher and higher as each great civilization
"But the pathway of history is littered with the bones of dead states and fallen empires. They were not, in most cases, promptly
replaced by something better. Nearly 1,000 years elapsed between the fall of western Rome and the rise of the Renaissance.
And in between, we had the Dark Ages in which nearly all of man's institutions were inferior to those which had gone before. I don't
want my children's children to go through a couple of centuries of dialectic materialism before the sun comes up again.
"So the Jeremiah's
haven't been so wrong after all. It is sad to watch the beginning of decay. It is sad to see an age of Pericles replaced by the
drunken riots of Alcibiades. There was indeed just cause for gloom when into the policies of the Caesars went Nero and Caligula,
and when the once noble Praetorian Guard became a gang of assassins willing to sell the throne to the top bidder.
poured over the walls of Rome. But it was not that the walls were low. It was that Rome itself was low. The sensual life of Pompeii,
the orgies on Lake Trasimene, the gradually weakened fiber of a once self-disciplined people that reduced them at last to seeking
safety in mercenaries, and the payment of tribute--all these brought Rome down. She went down too early. She had much to teach the world.
"And so, ladies and gentlemen, I look upon our own country and much that I see disturbs me. But we are a great people. We have a noble tradition.
We have much to teach the world, and if America should go down soon, it would be too early. One thing is certain: we shall be given no centuries
for a leisurely and comfortable decay.
"We have an enemy now, remorseless, crude, brutal, and cocky. However much the leaders of the communist conspiracy may lie to their subjects
about our motives, about our conditions of prosperity, about our policies, and about our aims, one thing they believe themselves implicitly, and
that is that we are in an advanced state of moral decline. When Nikita Khrushchev visited Hollywood, he was shown only one movie set--that
of a wild dancing and "Can-can." He said it represented decadence, and I am sure he really thought so. It is a dogma of current communist
faith that America is Sodom and Gomorrah ripening for the kill.
"Do you know what scares me about the communists? It is not the political
system which is primitive and savage. It is not their economic system which works so badly that progress in a few directions is purchased
at the price of progress and all the rest. It is their puritanism. It is their dedication and self-sacrifice. It does no good to comfort
ourselves with the reflection that these are products of endless brainwashing, of incessant propaganda, of deprivation by censorship,
of jamming and counter-information and contrary arguments. The dedication is there. The confidence that they are morally superior is
"The naive questions of your intourist guide reveal only too quickly that she thinks she is talking to a self-indulgent fop
from the court of some latter-day Louis XIV. In the school, the children rush up to show you not their yo-yos, but their scholarship
medals. And when you offer them new Lincoln pennies as souvenirs, they rip off their little Young Pioneer buttons and hand them to you,
proud that they are not taking gifts but are making a fair exchange.
"The Russian stage is as austere as the Victorian stage. Russian literature
may be corny, but it is clean and it glorifies the Russian people and exudes optimism and promise. Russian art is strictly representational,
but the paintings and the sculptures strive to depict beauty and heroism--Russian beauty, of course, and Russian heroism.
"And what of us?
"Well, ladies and gentlemen, let's take them one at a time.
"We are now at the end of the third decade of the national insanity known as progressive
education. This was the education where everybody passes, where report cards were noncommittal, lest the failure be faced with the fact
of his failure. We're all moved at a snail pace like a transatlantic convoy, so the slightest need not be left behind. All proceed
toward adulthood in the lockstep of togetherness. Thus, the competition that breeds excellence was to be sacrificed for the benefit
of something called life adjustment.
"With what results? We have watched juvenile delinquency climb steadily. We have produced tens
of thousands of high school graduates who move their lips as they read and cannot write a coherent paragraph. While our Russian contemporaries,
who were supposed to be dedicated to the mass man, have been busy constructing an elite,
we have been engaged in the wholesale production of mediocrity. What a switch!
"When was the last time you, as editors and publishers, examined
the curricula of your local schools? How did your schools rank on the standardized Iowa tests? When have you looked at your school's
report card and the philosophy behind their grading system? Have you asked to examine senior English themes? Have you offered any recognition
to your school's best scholars to compare to the recognition you accord your school's best football players?
"For the funny thing about
progressive educators is that theory vanishes when the referee's whistle blows for the kickoff. In the classroom, they pretend to grade
subjectively against the student's supposed capacity, lest he be humiliated by a natural inadequacy. But on a football field, they
never put in a one legged halfback, under the theory that considering his disability, he's a great halfback. They put in the best halfback
they've got, period. The ungifted sit on the bench or back in the stands, even though they, too, might thirst for glory. If our schools
were as anxious to turn out brains as they are to turn out winning football teams, this strange contradiction wouldn't exist.
"Having neglected disciplines in education, it was quite logical that we should reject disciplines in art. The great painters and sculptors
of the past studied anatomy so diligently that they often indulged in their own body snatching. Today, after many centuries, we stare
at the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel,
or at the walls of the Reichsmusee, and marvel at their works.
"But this self-discipline is of little concern to the modern non-objective painter.
All he needs is pigment and press agent. He can throw colors at a canvas, and the art world will discover him. He can stick bits of
glass, old rags, and quids of used chewing tobacco on a board, and he is a social critic. He can drive a car back and forth in pools of
paint, and Life magazine will write him up.
"Talent is for squares. What you need is vast effrontery. If you undertake to paint a cow,
it must look something like a cow. That takes at least a sign painter's ability. But you can claim to paint a picture of your psyche,
and no matter what the result, who's to say what your psyche looks like? So our museums are filled with daubs being stared at by confused citizens
who haven't got the guts to admit they're confused.
"But the Age-of-Fakery in art is a mild cross that American civilization bears. Much
more serious is our collapse of moral standards and the blunting of our capacity for righteous indignation.
"Our puritan ancestors were
preoccupied with sin. They were too preoccupied with it. They were hag-ridden and guilt-ridden, and theirs was a repressed and neurotic
society. But they had horsepower. They wrestled livings from rocky lands, built our earliest colleges, started our literature, caused our
industrial revolution, and found time in between to fight the Indians, the French, and the British,
to bawl for abolition, women's suffrage, and prison reform, and to experiment with graham crackers and bloomers. They were a tremendous
"And for all their exaggerated attention to sin, their philosophy rested on a great granite rock. Man was the master of his soul.
You didn't have to be bad. You could and should be better. If you want to escape eternal fires, you'd better be.
"In recent years, all
this has changed in America. We have decided that sin is largely imaginary. We have become enamored with behavioristic psychology. This
holds that a man is a product of his heredity and his environment, and his behavior to a large degree is foreordained by both. He is either
a product of a happy combination of genes and chromosomes, or an unhappy combination. He moves in an environment that will tend to make
him good, or that will tend to make him evil. He is just a chip tossed helplessly by forces beyond his control, and therefore not responsible.
"Well the theory that misbehavior can be cured by pulling down tenements and erecting in their places elaborate public housing is not
holding water. The crime rates continue to rise along with our outlays for social services. We speak of underprivileged, yet the young
men who swagger up and down the streets, boldly flaunting their gang symbols on their black jackets, are far more blessed in creature
comforts, opportunities for advancement, and freedom from drudgery than 90% of the children of the world.
We have sown the dragon's teeth of pseudo-scientific sentimentality, and out of the ground has sprung the legion bearing the switchblade
knives and bicycle chains.
"Clearly something is missing. Could it be what the rest of the world's children have been given--the doctrine
of individual responsibility?
"Welfare is gradually becoming an honorable career in America. It is a pretty fair life, if you have neither
conscience nor pride. The politician will weep over you. The state will give a mother a bonus for her illegitimate children, and
if she neglects them sufficiently, she can save enough out of her ADC (Aid to Dependent Children) payment to keep herself and her boyfriend
in wine and gin. Nothing is your fault. When the city fathers who harass a community like Newbrourgh suggest that able-bodied welfare clients
might sweep the streets, the liberal editorialists arise as one man and denounce them for their medieval cruelty.
"I don't know
how long America can stand this erosion of principle, but I believe that some of my starry-eyed friends are kidding themselves when
they pretend that every planeload of Puerto Ricans that puts down at Idlewild is equivalent in potential to every shipload of pilgrims
that put into old Plymouth. Nations are built by people capable of great energy and self-discipline. I never heard of one put together
"The welfare state that taxes away the rewards for responsible behavior so that it can remove the age-old penalties for
irresponsible behavior is building on a foundation of jelly.
It is time we stopped this elaborate pretense that there is no difference between the genuinely unfortunate and the mobs of reliefers
who start throwing bottles every time the cops try to make a legitimate arrest.
"Finally, there is the status of our entertainment and
our literature. Can anyone deny that movies are dirtier than ever? But they don't call it dirt. They call it realism. Why do we let
them fool us? Why do we not look owlishly when they tell us that filth is merely a daring art form, and that licentiousness is really social comment?
Isn't it time we recognize Hollywood's quest for the fast buck for what it is? Isn't it plain that the financially harassed movie industry
is putting gobs of sex in the darkened drive-ins in an effort to lure curious teenagers away from their TV sets? Recently, the screen
industry solemnly announced that henceforth perversion and homosexuality would no longer be barred from the screen, provided the subjects
were handled with delicacy and taste. Good Lord!
"And we of the press are a party to the crime. Last year, the movie ads in our newspapers
got so salacious and suggestive that the advertising manager and I decided to throw out the worst, and to set up some standards. We
thought that due to our ukase, there might be some interruption in advertising some shows. But no. Within a couple of hours, the exhibitors
were down with much milder ads. How was this miracle accomplished?
"Well, it seems that the exhibitors are supplied with several different ads for each movie. If the
publishers are dumb enough to accept the most suggestive ones, these are what they get. But if publishers squawk, the cleaner ads are sent
down. Isn't it time that we all squawked?
"I think it's time we quit giving page 1 play to the extramarital junkets of crooners.
I think it is time we stopped treating as glamorous and exciting the brazen shakeups of screen tramps. I think it is time we ask our
Broadway and Hollywood columnists if they can't find something decent and inspiring going on along their beats.
"And the stage? Well, rather they
raided Minsky's, so Minsky's has spread all over town. Bawdiness has put on a dinner jacket, and seats in the orchestra that used to
go for six-bits at the Old Howard and Nichols' Gayety are now scaled at $8.80. Oh yes. And we have lots of 'realism.' Incestuous Americans,
perverted Americans, degenerate Americans, and murderous Americans.
"How many of these realistic Americans do you know? Two months ago,
an American touring company sponsored by the State Department and paid for by your tax dollars presented one of Tennessee Williams'
more depraved offerings to an audience in Rio de Janeiro. The audience muted in disgust and walked out. Where did it walk to? Right
across the street where a Russian ballet company was putting on a beautiful performance of the glory of Russia. How dumb can we get?
"We are drowning our youngsters in violence, cynicism, and sadism piped into the living room and even the nursery.
The grandchildren of the kids who used to weep because the little match girl froze to death now feel cheated if she isn't slugged, raped,
and thrown into a Bessemer converter.
"And there's our literature. The old eye poppers of the past, which tourists used to smuggle back from
Paris under their dirty shirts are now tame stuff compared to some of our modern slush. Ulysses reads like the minutes of the Epworth
League. Lady Chatterley's Lover has been draped with the mantle of art and is now on sale in the corner drugstore to your high-school-aged
son or daughter for 50 cents. Henry Miller's Tropic of Cancer, which resembles a collection of inscriptions, taken from privvy walls,
is about to join Lady Chatterley. The quick-buck boys have apparently convinced our bumfuzzled judges that there is no difference between a
peep show and a moral lecture.
"And, of course, we have our latter-day historical novels in which the romance of man's upward movements from
savagery is lost in a confused welter of bundlings and tumblings. The foreign reader of one of these epics on the development of the
American West must marvel how our forefathers found time to quell the Comanches, plow up Kansas, and build a transcontinental railroad
while spending practically all their time in the hay.
"Don Maxwell of the Chicago Tribune has recently asked his book Department to
quit advertising scatological literature by including it in a list of bestsellers.
The critics and the book publishers have denounced him for tampering with the facts. I would like to raise a somewhat larger question.
Who is tampering with the soul of America?
"For nations do have souls. They have collective personalities. People who think well of
themselves collectively exhibit elan and enthusiasm and morale. When nations cease believing in themselves, when they regard their
institutions with cynicism and their traditions with flippancy, they will not long remain great nations. When they seek learning without
effort and wages without work, they are beginning to stagger. Where they become hedonistic and pleasure-oriented, when their Boy Scouts,
on their 14-mile hike start to hitch, there's trouble ahead. Where payola becomes a way of life, expense account cheating common, and union
goonery a fiercely defended right, that nation is in danger. And where police departments attempt to control burglary by the novel
method of making it a department monopoly, then the chasm yawns.
"Ladies and gentlemen. Do not let me overdraw the picture. This is
still a great, powerful, vibrant, able, optimistic nation. Americans, our readers, do believe in themselves and in their country. But
there is rot and there is blight and there is crowding out and filling to be done if we as the leader of free men, are to survive
the hammer blows which quite plainly are in store for us all.
"We have reached the stomach-turning point. We have reached the point where we should reexamine the debilitating philosophy of permissiveness.
Let this not be confused with the philosophy of liberty. The school system that permits our children to develop a quarter of their natural
talents is not a champion of our liberties. The healthy man who chooses to loaf on unemployment compensation is not a defender of human
freedom. The playwright who would degrade us, and the author who would profit from pandering to the worst that's in us, are no friends
"It is time we hit the sawdust trail. It is time we revived the idea that there is such a thing as sin--just plain old willful
sin. It is time we brought self-discipline back into style. Who has a greater responsibility at this hour than we, the gentlemen of
"So I suggest:
"Let's look to our educational institutions at the local level, and if Johnny can't read by the time he's ready to
get married, let's find out why.
"Let's look at the distribution of public largesse and if, far from alleviating human misery, it is producing
the sloth and irresponsibility that intensifies irresponsibility, let's get it fixed.
"Let's quit being bulldozed and bedazzled by the self-appointed
long hairs. Let's have the guts to say that a book is dirt if that's what we think it is, or that a painting may well be a daub if you
can't figure out which way to hang it.
And if some beatnik welds together a collection of rusty cog wheels and old corset stays and claims it's a greater sculpture than Michelangelo's
David, let's have courage to say that it looks like junk and probably is. Let's blow the whistle on plays that would bring blushes
to an American Legion stag party. Let's not be awed by movie characters with barnyard morals even if some of them have been photographed
climbing aboard the presidential yacht. Let us pay more attention in our news columns to the decent people everywhere who are trying
to do something for the good of others.
"In short, gentlemen, let's cover up the cesspool and start planting some flowers.
"Well, that's the
jeremiad. I never thought I'd deliver one of these. I never dreamed I'd go around sounding like an advance man for the Watch-Word
society. I used to consider myself quite a liberal young man. I still think that on some people bikinis look fine.
"But I am fed up
to here with the educationists and pseudo social scientists who have underrated our potential as a people. I'm fed up to here with
the medicine men who try to pass off pretense for art and prurience for literature. I am tired of seeing America debased and low-rated
in the eyes of foreigners. And I am genuinely disturbed that to idealistic youth in many countries, the fraud of communism appears
synonymous with morality, while we, the chief repository of real freedom, are regarded as being in the last stages of decay.
"We can learn a lesson from history. Twice before our British cousins appeared headed
into a collapse of principle, and twice they drew themselves back. The British court reached an advanced stage of corruption under the
Stuarts, but the people resolved. And in the wild days of George IV and William IV, it looked as though Britain were rotting
out again. But the people banded through the reform laws, and under Victoria went on to the peak of their power.
"In this hour of fear,
confusion, and self-doubt, let this be the story of America. Unless I misread the signs, a great number of our people are ready. Let
there be a fresh breeze, a breeze of new honesty, new idealism, and new integrity. And there, gentlemen, is where you come in. You have
typewriters, the presses, and a huge audience."
To that I can only add a hearty "Amen," for it represents that which is
indeed true of our nation, and it reflects that which the Word of God says should not be true of it. We will go into details concerning
this moral ground that should be true of us so that I think you will have increasingly a better perspective on how freedom and morality
are tied together and thus why this is the greatest hour of danger our nation has ever faced. When the nation faces it, you as individual
believers, face it along with it.
Dr. John E. Danish, 1973
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