Over the past months I’ve had a recurring thought about the future state of things in the West that I’ve wanted to put out there and solicit feedback. Three recent stories have finally impelled me to take it up. This is a long post (and one that deals with sensitive subjects), but, if you’re willing, I’d love to throw it out there and see what kind of response I get. Questions, comments, and suggestions are welcome.
First, in his talk at the Desiring God Conference for Pastors, Michael Oh made mention of the horrific Japanese sex trade. The online notes to his talk don’t include the details, but you can watch the first 10 minutes to get the basic idea. Here are two of the basic facts he mentioned:
1. The rape and brutalization of thousands of “comfort” women by the Japanese Imperial Army in and around World War II, including the use of forcibly-impregnated women and their children in “scientific” experiments.
2. The thriving Japanese sex trade, involving around 150,000 Filipino and Thai women, young girls, and boys, who are used as sexual objects by perverse men. (He also made mention of the sex trade in other parts of Southeast Asia).
Second, there is this story about the Muslim “grandmother” who convinced young women to become suicide bombers by arranging for them to be raped:
A woman suspected of recruiting more than 80 female suicide bombers has confessed to organizing their rapes so she could later convince them that martyrdom was the only way to escape the shame.
Finally, there is one closer to home. A woman pregnant with a 23-week old baby goes to get an abortion. The doctor is late and the baby is early. Here’s what happened:
One of the clinic’s owners, who has no medical license, cut the infant’s umbilical cord. Williams says the woman placed the baby [alive] in a plastic biohazard bag and threw it out.
Even the pro-choice folks were shocked (however hypocritical there concern may be):
“It really disturbed me,” said Joanne Sterner, president of the Broward County chapter of the National Organization for Women, after reviewing the administrative complaint against Renelique. “I know that there are clinics out there like this. And I hope that we can keep (women) from going to these types of clinics.”
All three of these stories help me to understand the Pauline admonition in Romans 12:9: “Abhor what is evil.” “Outrage” seems like a tame word when I describe what I feel when I think about the callous evil displayed in these acts. And all three of them lead me to make a (tentative) judgment about where we’re headed.
(DISCLAIMER: I am not a prophet, nor even the grandson of one. I’m just trying to humbly learn to “interpret the present time.” Whether or not this is what the New Testament calls “prophecy,” the principle of 1 Thessalonians 5:20-21 still applies: “Do not despise prophecies; but test everything; hold fast what is good.” It’s in that spirit that I make the following analysis.)
These three events (along with other indicators) lead me to think that these sorts of things will become more common in the near future, unless God is massively gracious to us. And by “these sorts of things” I mean the combination of disturbing sexuality and shocking brutality, particularly against women and children. I see two primary factors at work here, and I see them at work a lot.
1. The spread of openly idolatrous religions and ideologies in much of the world. I have in mind everything from Islam to Eastern religions to resurgent neo-paganism to humanistic atheistic secularism. What all of these religions have in common is a rejection of the living triune God. Along with that rejection comes the absence of the significance of human beings as creatures made in God’s image.
The mistreatment of women in Islam is fairly common knowledge. From honor killings to the forced circumcision of young girls to the tolerance and promotion of wife beating, Islam has a brutal streak that often finds exercise upon women. And when I say Islam, I don’t mean all Muslims. Many Muslim men are good and honorable husbands and fathers who protect and provide for their families (and they are so because of God’s common grace).
However, there is a tolerance for sexually-related violence in Islam that can shock the sensibilities of those of us in the West. I’m no expert in Islam, but I wonder if such violence is rooted in Islam’s view of a unitarian god who demands absolute submission to his arbitrary will from human creatures who do not have the worth and value that they do in reality.
The tolerance of sexual brutality among Eastern religions can be seen in the thriving sex trade in Asia. Paganism has a long history of interweaving sexuality and spirituality in shockingly wicked ways (For evidence, see Peter Jones The God of Sex: How Spirituality Defines Your Sexuality). And, of course, in atheistic humanism, there is no god to speak of, and human beings are nothing more than highly-evolved apes whose value is derived purely from sociological constructs that we can create and dismember as we choose.
So factor one is the brutality and inhumanity of the current idolatries that are spreading.
2. The second factor is the inability of so-called Western civilization to resist this brutality. The West is simply ill-equipped to deal with
the kind of brutality that exists in much of the world. The civility and assumptions about human dignity that linger in the West are owing to our Christian history. They are the fruit of the penetration of the gospel over hundreds of years. The great folly of our time (as in most times) is the notion that we can sever the root of faith in the living God and his Son Jesus Christ and keep the fruit of human dignity, respect for women, and sexual boundaries.
In other words, ours is a failure to say “Thank you” to God for his marvelous gift of a Christian heritage. And when human beings fail to honor God as God and give him thanks for his abundant goodness to us, God judges them. And his judgment often consists in the giving over of human beings to all manner of debauchery and sin. The sexualotry of our current society is not just something for which we will be judged later (when Jesus returns); it is itself a judgment on us now.
The society-wide rejection of the biblical God (which began to take place a couple of centuries ago) has led to the gradual abandonment of a biblical understanding of manhood and womanhood, the feminization of the West, and the subsequent pornification of our culture. Untethered from the right worship of the living God through Jesus Christ, notions of sexuality have continually pushed the boundaries. Such pushing has, for a time, existed in a society still “Christ-haunted,” that is, one in which the lingering memory of a Christian past allows for the protection of the weak (e.g. women and children) in the midst of growing rebellion.
At some point, however, the culture finally “gives up the ghost.” Apart from the connection to the root, the fruit of the gospel (dignity, respect, honor) dies on the vine. When the protection that our Christ-haunted past affords us is gone, there will be no longer any barrier to the sexual exploitation and brutalization of the weak.
I’ve noted before that cultural elites are more than happy to use “women’s issues” to amass power for themselves, but that they don’t actually care for women. I’ve heard Doug Wilson point to this exact phenomenon by noting that feminists have convinced women to forsake the God-designed protection and provision of husbands and fathers for the selective and inept “protection” and “provision” of the all-powerful State.
Women have been taught to “liberate” themselves from those to whom God has entrusted them and instead seek asylum in a nameless and faceless bureaucracy. But the bureaucracy isn’t as much interested in caring for real women as it is in solidifying its power through protection of the “women’s issue.” It’s amazing how many women can be slaughtered in the name of women’s rights.
So, to wrap up this post that has gone on far too long, in the near future I see an increase in the level of sexual violence against the weak and voiceless, born and unborn, as the cultural elites seek to make peace with the brutal realities of a post-Christian world. I offer this analysis, knowing that it will probably provoke questions and objections on a number of issues. I’m not completely convinced of everything I’ve written and am open to correction on any number of points. So feel free to probe and push back, if you feel so inclined.
I’ll have more thoughts on how Christians can respond and live wisely in a world like this in future posts. For now, I simply commend prayers and petitions for those around the world already swept up in the flood of human wickedness and rebellion. Christ is our Lord, and he is still mighty to save.