“The United states, and the West, are caught in the slowly asphyxiating Grip of a decadence they do not understand, and have been there for fifty years . . . We are not standing on the cusp of decadence. The US, and Australia, have been decadent for half a century or more. The culture wars of the 1960s have never been resolved but have left us with a paralysed dystopia slowly getting worse”.
Greg Sheridan, ‘How the West Was Wasted’’
Generally, a Dystopia means a state or society in which there is great injustice, typically one that is totalitarian or post-apocalyptic, characteristics of which are not hard to see in the degradation of, and often in the politics of, Australian (Western) society in recent times.
This ‘Descent into Dystopia’ is characterised by growing traits of selfishness, rudeness, crudity, uncouth behaviour, lack of respect for others and their property (private and public), largely unchallenged loutish behaviour, and ‘Rages’ of all types. To this one can add assaults on nurses, doctors, paramedics and police-the list of ‘it’s all about me (or my child)’ bad behaviours goes on.
In parallel to all this, we see the politicization of the education system from primary school to university, increasingly controlled by the ‘thought police’, and the decay of the political system itself with elected representatives seemingly more concerned about retaining power than serving the people who elected them. It is one of the great ironies that the word ‘Minister’ means ‘Servant’!
Another Dystopian characteristic is the loss of ‘quaint’ notions such as common decency, civility, politeness, courtesy, self-control, self-denial, concern for others (and their property). Indeed, what on earth are those we might say?
Then there is the ‘Casting down of Truth’ (Daniel 8:12) and its replacement with an ever changing mosaic of alleged ‘truths’ from which we can choose for ourselves, no-matter how intellectually nonsensical, mutually incompatible and cancerous for society they are. It is this smorgasbord of ‘truths’ that allows the identity politics-driven Tribalism, the very antithesis of the New Testament teaching on human relationships, which is fragmenting society.
The diagnosis of all of this through a biblical lens is that it is the inevitable consequence of a creeping myopic trend by the nation as a whole, either with intent or through an ignorant apathy, to reject the faith that shaped Western society for centuries ( even if subconsciously for many) and provided the basic Australian moral value system. It is the faith that has been the basis of our world view, our laws and freedoms.
Western society, probably up to the second world war, was largely shaped by that Biblical world view that is fundamentally a reflection of the Nature of the God from whom emanates sacrificial love, supremely demonstrated on the Easter Cross, the Nature that says-“Love your neighbour as yourself”. It is the deliberate rejection of that ‘Nature’ over the last 50 years that is the cause of the Dystopian horror we now see unfolding.
That’s the negative but what about the positive? What could change things?
The only thing that can possibly stem the rushing tide of darkness is to be found in Jesus words to his disciples –
“You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot’ (Matthew 5;13).
In pre-refrigeration times ‘Salt’ was a very valuable commodity for many reasons. One of these is that it acts as an anti-corruption agent in that it preserves what is good and stops things (e.g. meat) from going rotten. Jesus used the term ‘Salt’ metaphorically to indicate that His followers were to be active agents of the Kingdom of God in society, opposing corruption and injustice, preventing things ‘going rotten’ and promoting what is good, i.e. God’s values etc. It is the ‘Salt’ of the Gospel, the values of the Kingdom of God, that Christians both are and are to promote.
This requires energetic, passionate action, that should be expressed in two basic ways.
Firstly, it is only through the creation of more ‘Salt’, that is the presence of more active Christians in society, that the dystopian tide of darkness can be reversed. Such an increase will only occur through the making of more disciples, however this is a project that most western Christians show little interest in engaging with.
Secondly, those that are already Christians need to be a lot more active, a lot more ‘Salty’ in society, that is in workplaces, schools, local government, sports organizations, the political process etc. Surveys show that is something most are not, but rather hide their claimed faith within the walls of church services, members’ lounge rooms and in their private lives generally. Such religious, ‘Unsalty’, alleged Christianity, corralled in the private and largely hidden corners of life is complicit in society’s plunge into the stygian gloom of the falling dystopian darkness.
It is not uncommon to hear Christian parents and grandparents rightly express great concern regarding the society their children, grand-children will live in. Yes parents do well to be fearful, but the irony is that the ‘Unsalty’ lives of those same parents makes them complicit in the very dystopian future they wish to avoid for their children.
There is only one antidote to the obvious descent into a Dystopian future, and that is the production of much more, and much more active, ‘Salt’. If those who claim to carry the Name of Christ just continue in a slothful, comfortable, ‘church’ going apathy, then the probability is that the second half of Jesus’ simile applies.
‘If the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again?
It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot’.
For those of us who claim to be members of the Kingdom of God, as we face this ‘paralysed dystopia slowly getting worse’, especially for our children and grandchildren, the question is ‘how Salty are we?