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Society's downward trend and proper response?


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#1 Matthew M.

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Posted 17 March 2012 - 09:07 PM

(Note: I apologize if I posted this thread in the wrong section, I wasn't sure where else to put it.)

I think it's a well accepted idea around here that society is on a downward trend, in terms of sexuality, drug use, and general immorality. I realize that we are not called to say we are better than others, but many people, when you broach this topic with them will respond, "That's true, so what do we do?"

I'm never quite sure what to say to that. Is there anything we're called or supposed to do, scripturally or according to the Fathers?

#2 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 17 March 2012 - 11:12 PM

Christ told us what to do: endure unto the end.

And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold. But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved.
Matthew 24:12-13



#3 Matthew M.

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Posted 18 March 2012 - 12:08 AM

Christ told us what to do: endure unto the end.


Should we at all try to rectify the trends of morality of society, or should we rather tend to our own lives instead of worrying about the world?

#4 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 18 March 2012 - 12:49 AM

There is so much in addition to the decline in morality that is wrong. We are to be witnesses for our faith; the Gospel was to be preached in the whole world but as St John Chrysostom says, 'though it was preached everywhere, it was not everywhere believed'. We cannot rectify events but only, by our witness and service, hope to change the minds of some who bring about events. In that we may not succeed, just as we cannot make the disbelieving believe. We are to help others as God shows us. St Theophan the Recluse advised people not to goggle at the mass of suffering humanity but to help the person right in front of them. I do not know about worrying about the world but we should pray for it, and so we do in every liturgy.

#5 Herman Blaydoe

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Posted 18 March 2012 - 01:17 AM

What should we do? We should pray. We should feed the hungry, clothe the naked, comfort the suffering, visit the prisoner, give alms to the poor. We pray. We help those who come to us in need. We pray. Did I mention that we should pray? And when the storms of life cause us to start sinking into the troubled waters, we keep our sights set firmly on Christ. Oh and pray.

Or so it seems to this bear of little brain.

Herman the praying Pooh

#6 Ryan

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Posted 18 March 2012 - 03:01 AM

When people talk about society's decline I have to wonder what golden age we're declining from.

#7 Olga

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Posted 18 March 2012 - 03:27 AM

When people talk about society's decline I have to wonder what golden age we're declining from.


Indeed. Even the pre-Christian ancients lamented the decline of their societies. The golden age never was the present age.

#8 Matthew M.

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Posted 18 March 2012 - 05:20 AM

Indeed. Even the pre-Christian ancients lamented the decline of their societies. The golden age never was the present age.


I don't think we've declined from a golden age necessarily, but morality within societies zigs and zags and right now it seems to be moving consistently down. From the 60s onward, especially in America, things are not moving up.

#9 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 18 March 2012 - 08:24 AM

No golden age, but Christ in Matthew 24 seems to tell us that there would be a decline in morals and an increase in coldness of people towards one another. There is an immense amount of charity (in the wider sense): look at how people so readily give when there is some disaster in the world. In western societies, there is respect for the person and condemnation of the corrupt in ways not seen before. Governments are responsible and accountable in ways that were unknown in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. But the incidence of sexual immorality, abortion, and drug taking seems without precedent. There has always been immorality in civilised societies but the extent of the decline in the last half century is remarkable - why otherwise would so many people remark upon it?

#10 Olga

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Posted 18 March 2012 - 11:03 AM

There has always been immorality in civilised societies but the extent of the decline in the last half century is remarkable - why otherwise would so many people remark upon it?


Perhaps because many matters which were taboo are now more likely to be brought out in the open. In many cases, this has been a good thing, in that what was once kept hush-hush is now no longer tolerated, such as domestic violence, child abuse, and institutional corruption. Other taboos have lost, or are losing, their age-old stigma, and about time, too. Also, don't forget that the news service is getting better. ;-)

But one example: I'm quite old enough to remember the furore 30 years ago when the anti-cancer organisations in Australia tried to launch a national television and print campaign encouraging women to self-examine for breast cancer. A generation later, the cultural squeamishness and shame once associated with breast cancer, and, indeed, other cancers, has all but disappeared. All to the good.

The downside of all this is that behaviours and proclivities which should rightly remain unacceptable are being promoted as normal and desirable. Openness is indeed a double-edged sword.

#11 Father David Moser

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Posted 18 March 2012 - 12:16 PM

When people talk about society's decline I have to wonder what golden age we're declining from.


Indeed. Even the pre-Christian ancients lamented the decline of their societies. The golden age never was the present age.


The "golden age" was the age of paradise in the Garden of Eden before the fall. Since the fall, we have been "falling" continually.

Fr David

#12 Ryan

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Posted 18 March 2012 - 03:32 PM

I don't think we've declined from a golden age necessarily, but morality within societies zigs and zags and right now it seems to be moving consistently down. From the 60s onward, especially in America, things are not moving up.


I'd say the civil rights movement was a major step up, wouldn't you?

#13 Matthew M.

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Posted 18 March 2012 - 05:32 PM

The "golden age" was the age of paradise in the Garden of Eden before the fall. Since the fall, we have been "falling" continually.

Fr David


Father bless,

After the fall, have we been in a continual downward freefall, or is it fair to say the last 50 years or so have been more downward than usual?


I'd say the civil rights movement was a major step up, wouldn't you?



They were a step up, but that's one good for all the evils that have come of the sexual revolution, the losings of stigmas regarding divorce, premarital sex, outward promiscuity etc.

In Christ,

Reader Matthew

#14 Paul Cowan

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Posted 18 March 2012 - 08:56 PM

I'd say the civil rights movement was a major step up, wouldn't you?


I have to agree with Rdr Matthew on this one.


Nope; it was a major setback to all minorities and these days currently are set deeper back due to those minority leaders keeping their own people under their thumbs.

Paul

#15 Ryan

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Posted 19 March 2012 - 01:43 AM

I have to agree with Rdr Matthew on this one.


Really? Reader Matthew says, "They were a step up," whereas you seem to suggest that minorities were better off in the days of Jim Crow, segregation, lynch mobs, etc.:

Nope; it was a major setback to all minorities and these days currently are set deeper back due to those minority leaders keeping their own people under their thumbs.


Please correct me if I'm misreading you.

Re: what Reader Matthew said:

The losing of stigmas for premarital sex, divorce, promiscuity, etc. I see as simply the lifting of a mask covering hypocrisy. Yes, it is a shame that these things are largely accepted nowadays, but let's not pretend that society was generally more moral beforehand. Some evil things are stigmatized today which in the 1950's were very widely accepted, such as racism. The one change which to me is a substantial turn for the worse was the legalization of abortion.

I think the proper response for the Church is what it always is: preach and demonstrate the gospel of Jesus Christ. The whole gospel. Not falling into the trap which most public Christianities have fallen into, such as hyper-focusing on sexuality or other hot-button issues of the "culture wars" or backing the most reactionary politicians around because they happen to agree with us on one or two issues.

#16 Bryan J. Maloney

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Posted 19 March 2012 - 11:24 AM

As a student of history, I must say that society has been in decline as long as anyone has written anything down about society. Sexual immorality, in particular, has been far worse than ever--and it has always been far worse than ever. The barbarians have always been at the gates. We always live in the pre-eminent age of social decline and the most immoral era of all history--and so have all our ancestors in every other era. Perhaps it is a form of pride "Our evil is more evil than any previous evil!"

#17 Anton S.

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Posted 21 March 2012 - 07:22 AM

I would not be so complacent about the state of society in which we live today.

Of course, since the fall of Adam there has never been a 'golden age', every age had its sins. And of course, people in ancient Rome and Athens complained about the degenaration of their societies. But history proved them right. Both Athens and Rome entered into a stage of moral and spiritual degradation and fell to barbarians.

Modern society seems to have entered into the stage of final decline too. Like Rome under her dissolute emperors the modern civilisation is strong, wealthy and proud of its achievements. However, pride comes before a fall. The religion which forms the basis of Western civilisation - Christianity - is no longer taken seriously by most people, especially by its cultural and political leadership. Christianity is ridiculed, slandered and rejected. Christian symbols in many countries are thrown out of public institutions. The mainstream media has a very strong anti-Christian bias. Thus, the most important pillar of our civilisation is being destroyed. 'Progressive' church leaders themselves greatly contribute to its destruction - by putting into doubt the basic dogmats, like Resurrection, by promoting 'ordination of women', by wedding homosexual couples, by their general attitude to life, which seems incompatible either with the Bible or with any respectable Christian traditions.

The family, another pillar of any viable society, is being destroyed too. We see huge numbers of divorce, huge numbers of people living in temporary cohabitation or just choosing to live alone and have multiple 'affairs'. This leads to a lot of psychological and even psychiatric problems. Children brought up by single mothers tend to be very problematic, indisciplined and anti-social. It also leads to a falling birth rate. In Germany, Japan, Russia, Ukraine, Serbia, Latvia, and a number of other countries there are more deaths than births every year. In the rest of Europe, Canada and East Asia the total fertility rate is such that they will inevitably enter into demographic decline in foreseeable future.

This causes ageing, and the 'progressive' lobby insists that this problem should be solved by euthanisia. Thus, the worst crime - the crime of suicide - is promoted as something good and useful to society.

Other sins are also nowadays often considered as something nice and progressive. Many humanitarian organisations no longer use the word 'prostitute' because they regard it as offensive. They have adopted the 'sex worker' to show that prostitution is a respectable profession. Homosexuality is actually supposed to be a virtue, while any criticism of it - as 'hate crime'.

Blasphemy has also become 'cool'. It is fashionable to mock God, His Holy Mother, saints, angels.

All these are just particular symptoms of the general disease whose name is hedonism. The dominant approach to life, which underlines all political reforms, all prominent cultural trends, all religious modernism, all popular entertainment is based one primitive idea - the only thing that matters is to get as much pleasure in this earthly life. Anything that prevents you from getting your pleasures, from having your fun is bad. Christian religion, especially Orthodox Christianity, that calls on people to live in the perspective of eternity, to consider eternal life more important than temporal, that puts an emphasis on asceticism, fidelity, selflessness is thus deemed 'reactionary', 'dangerous', 'cruel' etc.

I remember a picture which I saw 25 years ago in a copy of the Cosmopolitan shown to me by a girl in my University (at that time, Cosmopolitan was a novelty in Russia). It showed an ugly elderly woman dressed in black who was saying: 'A decent woman must not have fun on the beach. In fact, she must not have fun at all.' Well, this poor woman is, in fact, a caricature of the Christian Church, in fact, of all Christian civilisation as seen by the mindless, lecherous, impudent and ignorant products of the 'Century of the Self'.

Modern civilisation, with its hatred for Christianity, with its demonstrative fornication, with its insatiable consumption reminds me very much of the Scarlet Whore of the Revelation.

And let us not delude ourselves with the idea that it is a free society. People who reject traditional formal authority (that of God, of the Church, of the father, of the king...) are very easily manipulated by informal authority. Modern Westerners are much more brainwashed - by advertising, mainstream press, pop culture - that Soviet citizens were by Communist propaganda.

Let us not delude ourselves with the Scarlet Whore's supposed humanism. Yes, she uses manipulation more often than coercion, but if necessary she can be violent enough. Let us remember what she has done to Serbia, to Iraq, to Afghanistan. The bloodshed in Libya is also, to a great extent, her fault.

The worst effect of this civilisation is the degradation of the human being. My wife lived for a while in France. She said she was struck by the difference between very old people - brought in early 20th century and the younger generations of French people. Those old men and women (mostly dead by now) looked warm, alive, mentally healthy, they looked human. Younger people are a different picture. Their life force seem to be drained from them. They are weak, nervous - often neurotic, ready to have a fit over a trifle difficulty. Their relations with other people are distant and fragile, they are lonely. To compensate for this loneliness they try to console themselves with material things - food, promiscuous sex, all sorts of material objects. Here, in Russia, I also begin to notice young people of the same mould - cold, distant and somehow bloodless. They are also very calculating, selfish, materialistic. This is the new generation that embraced the lethal 'Western values'.

Having said that, I do not idealise any of the past societies. But when you remove Christian faith from a Christian society, you remove the soul from the body. Therefore, a modern European country looks very much like a zombieland.

#18 Herman Blaydoe

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Posted 21 March 2012 - 09:06 AM

And it was in such "zombie lands" that the early Church flourished, in the catacombs, under persecution. When the Church is attacked is when it is strongest. As God's people, our "society" is the Church and we strive to live the Christian life regardless of what the other "society" does, because it will always be opposed to us. Christ said so. But if "the world" (society) hates us, we must remember that it hated Him first, and that He has overcome the world.

#19 Anton S.

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Posted 21 March 2012 - 10:38 AM

And it was in such "zombie lands" that the early Church flourished, in the catacombs, under persecution. When the Church is attacked is when it is strongest. As God's people, our "society" is the Church and we strive to live the Christian life regardless of what the other "society" does, because it will always be opposed to us. Christ said so. But if "the world" (society) hates us, we must remember that it hated Him first, and that He has overcome the world.


Yes, I agree that persecution has made the Church stronger. But there is a difference between pre-Christian and post-Christian societies. Pre-Christian pagans had not a chance to know Christ. Post-Christian ones have rejected Him. As far as I understand, both the Bible and the fathers teach us that having rejected Jesus Christ, the human race will embrace the anti-Christ. So, there is little reason for complacency or worldly optimism, though of course, every reason for eschatological optimism.

#20 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 21 March 2012 - 02:21 PM

I broadly agree with Anton. I think two connected things distinguish modern western society from past periods of history. In any past period, people believed in something, mostly the Christian faith. True, life for ordinary people was tough and the oppression of them by the rich and powerful was iniquitous, but the Christian faith did regulate behaviour. Impulses to Christian charity and the striving for social justice (as opposed to the clamour for rights) of men such as Wilberforce were grounded on the Christian faith. In modern western society, Christianity means nothing to the majority of people (even though a majority describe themselves as 'believing in God') and there is a sense that religion is not necessary anymore. A historian might correct me, but this development is new. The second thing is that there are far more opportunities for sins now than before because traditional and moral norms have largely been abandoned, plus most ordinary people have the financial means (partly, for some, because of state benefits) to be materialistic, irreligious, and immoral.




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