How terrifying it would have been to live in Europe and hear stories and warnings about the coming of the Huns in the 400s A.D. or the Mongols in the 1200s. The impotence of your military to stop them, the resulting brutality and destruction, the hopelessness as your world was threatened with obliteration…talk about bad news!
Some disasters you can’t avoid. They are external and imposed by someone or something else; the destruction they wreak must be weathered as well as possible. Hopefully, afterwards you can clean up the rubble and rebuild.
What’s happening today in America, however, is quite a bit stranger. The headlines are filled with craziness and growing moral darkness, but by-and-large the storms that are being unleashed are primarily self-inflicted. It is not something outside our civilization that threatens us; we are doing it to ourselves.
Think things aren’t turning nutty in America? How about a small town in Minnesota that’s about to allow a satanic monument to be placed in a park memorializing veterans? Or perhaps the fact that hundreds of people gathered in Washington D.C. to explore the possibility that the Harry Potter books were sacred text?
Or how about the bizarrerie (yes, that’s a word) happening on the transgender front? This year, the editorial board of the New York Times applauded the Boy Scouts for deciding to welcome as members transgender “boys” – girls who believe they are boys.
The editorial was astonishing in its clear evidence of self-delusion. It quoted a nine-year-old girl who said, “My identity is a boy.” The Times followed this by giving a thumbs up to “that simple, yet profound, logic.” The girl was a boy, the editorial asserted, adding that this was “an immutable trait.”
“The Boy Scouts are recognizing transgender boys for what they genuinely are: boys,” opined the New York Times, arguably the most influential paper in the nation. Furthermore, the paper said, what the Boy Scouts have done “may help a new generation of Americans think more rationally and compassionately about gender identity.”
Simply put, there is nothing logical or rational about a girl claiming to be a boy – and then being recognized as such by the adults in the room. Transgender “boys” are not boys, genuinely or otherwise. They are human beings made in the image of God who are confused, for whatever reason. They deserve our respect and compassion – but not our encouragement to continue in their confusion.
We should not be surprised at the confusion that seems to be springing up in every corner of society, because the Bible shows us how it happens. Romans 1:18-32 lays out the process by which individuals go from good to bad to worse over time. The core reason for this is idolatry, because people recognize certain truths about God in nature but reject that in order that they might have what they truly love.
The results of such rebellion against truth are frightening. There is clearly a downward “death spiral” from higher to lower, from light to darkness, and from virtue to debauchery. For example, Paul says there are people who “knew God” (vs. 21), but they refused to honor Him as God or be thankful for His many blessings. As a result, they “became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened.”
The corruptive power of rejecting truth enters the mind (“speculations”) and the heart, but it does not stop there. It so corrodes the inner man that the actions are warped next – “they became fools” (vs. 22), even while pretending to be wise.
Finally, there is complete moral decadence: they go from embracing “impurity” (vs. 24) to embracing “degrading passions” and a complete twisting of their sexual natures. This results in the physical aftershocks that come from abusing the body (vv. 26-27).
The final step downward into the pit of darkness is a “depraved mind,” which has not only lost the ability to see and comprehend the light anymore, it unleashes every form of wickedness in a destructive torrent that eventually sweeps away all goodness. Worst of all, it is self-perpetuating and malignant, for the depraved “not only do the same [wicked things], but also give hearty approval to those who practice them” (vv. 28-32). It spreads.
The effect of this process is an act of judgment by God. The entire passage is summarized in its opening verse: “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness” (vs. 18).
This is not to say that God never judges a people or a nation by a peculiar act of sudden punishment, as in the case of Sodom and Gomorrah. Such a judgment serves as an example “to those who would live ungodly lives thereafter” (2 Pet. 2:6).
For most of us, our lives are lived in the shadow of these rarer, sudden acts of judgment. Instead, we witness all around us the much slower process of corruption that comes from moment-by-moment rejections of the light granted to us by God. Either way, His wrath is revealed.
The process laid out by the apostle Paul in this chapter also applies to societies, which, after all, are created by groups of individuals. What can happen to one person can happen to two in a marriage, or six in a family, or 1,200 in a town – or 320 million in a nation.
Romans 1 provides for us as a nation warnings of a spiritual, moral, and cultural nature. If we continue to reject what is plain about God, His nature, and our own, fallen human nature, then the downward death spiral will swallow up our culture, too. There is no escaping it because, like the law of gravity, this is the way the world truly works.
The good news is, of course, that just as individuals can repent and turn in faith to God, so can nations. The grace of God can save a people from ruin just as it can an individual. It’s called revival, and if God’s people won’t pray for that, God might not have any choice but to give America what it deserves.
As it says in Ezekiel 22:30-31, “‘I searched for a man among them who would build up the wall and stand in the gap before Me for the land, so that I would not destroy it; but I found no one. Thus I have poured out My indignation on them; I have consumed them with the fire of My wrath; their way I have brought upon their heads,’ declares the Lord God.”