Whether we’re in a time of decline or a time of amazing success like Solomon, the same response is required from God’s people. We must be faithful to what He asks us to do, to what He asks us to believe, and to how He instructs us to live. In all of these things, we take up life in this moment as part of our calling.
If it seems as if the world is falling apart that’s because, in some very real ways, it is.
The news has been relentless, for a while now, but especially these past two weeks. After multiple mass shootings, the nation is grieving. People are angry that nothing seems to change.
According to the FBI, there’s been a 50% uptick in “active shooting incidents” since last year, and that’s not counting the shooting that left 21 dead in Uvalde, Texas. “The two attacks (in Buffalo and Uvalde) are not outliers,” announced National Public Radio. “Mass shootings happen in the U.S. with depressing regularity.” According to their count, 213 so far this year.
A variety of things and people are being blamed: access to guns, social isolation, politicians, talk show hosts, authorities, harmful ideas, and more. Behind events this tragic are a number of contributing factors. At the same time, we can no longer think of mass shootings as isolated incidents. They must be understood as indications of social breakdown, along with spiking rates of addiction, overdoses, violent crime, suicide, sexual confusion, and even airplane incidents.
Last week, a friend reminded me of some insightful words from Chuck Colson. One can easily imagine Chuck Colson extending a similar analysis to today’s issues, “The problem is not gun control, poverty, talk-show hosts, or race. The problem is the breakdown of moral values in American life, and our culture simply cannot respond.”
In fact, Chuck Colson is not the only thinker to have pointed to the inevitabilities of cultural breakdown. “Great civilizations are not murdered,” wrote historian Arnold Toynbee. “They commit suicide.” In other words, civilizations do not last forever, and there are rules that determine whether or not they have a future.
At the recent Wilberforce Weekend, author and social critic Os Guinness stated that we are living in “a civilizational moment”:
“All the great civilizations reach a moment when they’re out of touch with the inspiration that made them. And there’s a critical transition moment when they either go towards renewal or down to decline.“
We are at such a moment, if not already past it. For example, a civilization cannot survive if it is not preparing for the future.