Is Our Civilization Facing a Fall?
THE remarkable materialistic advancements made during the last sixty years have catapulted our civilization from an era of horses and buggies to an era of jet planes and flaming rockets. The transformation has been astounding, especially for such a short period in human history. But now that we have reached a great height of technical achievement is there danger of our civilization falling as past civilizations did when they reached a certain point of glory? Will it crumble because of moral degeneration from within? There are many people who fear that it may. They see disturbing similarities between our civilization and those that fell.
The Canadian newspaper, Victoria Daily Times, reported an expression of this view when it said: “Materialism—the trap that extinguished past civilizations—is endangering Western society’s future, Senator Donald Cameron warned 300 school trustees. . . . He said there was a ‘frightening parallel’ between today’s society and extinct civilizations that ‘grew rich, soft, indifferent and apathetic—and died.’” A somewhat similar expression was made by the Wilkes-Barre Record: “The good life does not just consist of things. The good life involves character, decision, fortitude, the willingness to sacrifice when sacrifice is needed in the common cause. No matter how rich a nation may become, if its people fall into the pit of lazy complacency, if their values are restricted more and more to the purely material, then that nation is doomed to ultimate destruction.”
The fact that modern society is becoming more interested in easy living, material possessions, soft jobs and a “fast buck” than it is in ethics shows that its values are degenerating. How much income a person has, regardless of how he gets it, seems to be the basis for social status. The same was true in ancient materialistic Rome before its fall. The man today with lots of money is the man that is admired, that is highly respected in a community, that generally is elected to political offices. The material goods he has impress people more than the moral virtues of a poor man. It is the car a person drives, the home he lives in, the clothing he wears and the company he keeps that give him status in this materialistic civilization. These are not the important values in life. Only a degenerating society would think they are.
Although many people may speak highly of moral values, few actually live by them. This is evident from the occasional revelations of graft among political leaders of seemingly impeccable morals, of bribery and even burglary among some law-enforcement officers, of “kick-backs” in the business world, of cheating by contestants on quiz shows, of thievery by employees of seemingly good reputation and of seeking personal advancement at the expense of other people. Do not these practices indicate a morally sick civilization?
“Our values, our ideals, are upside down,” said Dr. Laurence Gould, president of Carleton college. “We pay lip service to spiritual values but we give top priority to mink coats and Cadillacs.” The upside down moral values of this world often justify stealing when it is done from the rich. Because a great number of Canadian and American employees reason this way, employers have a total annual loss of some one billion dollars to employee stealing. This is about twice what the public loses to professional criminals. Is not stealing as morally wrong when a rich corporation is the victim as when a poor man is? How can morals have a sliding standard?
Since modern society has allowed moral and spiritual values to degenerate, it should not be surprising when delinquency and cheating are seen to be on the increase among today’s youth. Are not their morals a reflection of the society in which they live? Adults can hardly expect children to live by a moral standard that they themselves do not live by. Regarding this Harry M. Grant, assistant superintendent of Moncton schools in Canada, said: “Too often is it the case that the schools are being asked to teach things by the people at large which they themselves do not generally practice.” He went on to say that there are increasing evidences of deterioration of the social and moral fabric.
More than materialistic advancement is needed to make a civilization great and enduring. High moral values and love for the Supreme Sovereign, Jehovah, are needed as well. Because technical advancement has caused modern society to become wise in its own eyes, it has turned its back on Jehovah God. Its materialistic values pull it toward atheism, and its thinkers stretch their imagination to great lengths in an effort to find an explanation for the existence of man without having to acknowledge a Creator. Such atheistic thinking does not build up respect for godly principles of morality. It tears them down. It encourages people to set up degenerating materialistic standards, creating a condition where none can trust his neighbor.
Since our civilization is following the same materialistic and dissolute course taken by civilizations that have perished, how can it expect to endure? As God brought an end to the civilization that existed before the Flood and as he brought an end to the civilization in Sodom and Gomorrah because of moral corruption so he will bring an end to the present civilization. He has weighed it in the scales and found it wanting. It will fall in the coming “war of the great day of God the Almighty.” (Rev. 16:14; 2 Pet. 3:5-7) The increasing disregard for moral standards is a foretold indication that its end is near. People who love righteousness can hope to see after its fall the rising of a new civilization with high moral and spiritual values. With God’s blessing upon it, it will endure to time indefinite.