This week's 'thought' comes to you from a fascinating and insight-fully penetrating book called "The Sensate Culture" by Harold O. J. Brown. Written in 1996, it is amazingly "prophetic" in the sense that he predicted beforehand, based on the trends he saw then, much of what we now see happening around us today. If you want a good read, written by a very wise, intelligent and well-informed Christian individual, this is it.
Today's selection has to do with the rise of the sensate culture, through the demise of Christendom and the adoption of Pluralism and Multiculturalism in its place. The word "sensate" means "a culture dominated by materialism, sensuality, and self-indulgence (It's the last stage a culture passes through before either destruction or transformation).
The book helps one see how we have arrived at the place where we're at in Western European/American culture. It is very helpful! And for those who might read this, and desire to know more, his book is well worth the price. Enjoy!
"The man who does not believe in God does not believe in nothing; he will believe in anything."
G. K. Chesterton
"Until recently the majority of people in the West still embraced the civilization that grew out of resurrection faith. Western culture grew out of belief in some definite religious truths, but now Western sensate man (sensual, materialistic and self-indulgent) does not believe that religious truth exists. Can it long survive?
The centuries-old tendency in the West to extol the value of Christian civilization without necessarily believing in the truth of Christian doctrines has finally proven unworkable. Two key passwords or slogans in this development are pluralism and multiculturalism.
The term pluralism was first used descriptively for a situation in which many different religions and philosophies were present side by side, with no single religion having official or factual predominance. Recently it has become prescriptive -- to mean a situation in which no religion or philosophy may be allowed to claim that it is true. In practice, in the West, pluralism is often invoked to prevent Christians and Christianity from claiming the right to determine the course of culture, to favor certain developments and trends, and to oppose or suppress others. Pluralism denies to Christianity the right to exercise its traditional normative or stabilizing function in the society that it shaped and formed.
Multiculturalism also began as a descriptive term and has become a prescriptive one. Unlike pluralism, which can result when there is massive migration of ideas, multiculturalism describes the situation that arises when the migration of people results in individuals from a variety of cultures living side by side. In the past immigrants into a culture have generally been willing to adapt themselves to the host culture, either accepting it or at least living in harmony with it... Normally a host country assumed that immigrants would respond according to the proverb, "When in Rome, do as the Romans do."
Yet, since World War II, multiculturalism has become prescriptive rather than descriptive. The movement of populations, including large numbers of refugees as well as those moving for reasons of business, education, or employment, from non-Western cultures, has become immense at precisely the time that Western culture has undergone a crisis of self-confidence. It was in the West that the two most destructive wars in human history began. It was a Western demagogue, Adolf Hitler, who proclaimed a doctrine of Nordic racial superiority so odious it made other Nordics, and Caucasians in general, begin to apologize for their existence on the planet.
It was the paramount Western power, the United States, that unleashed weapons of mass destruction in Asia, wiping out whole cities by atomic and by conventional firestorms. It was the United States that utilized all sorts of modern technological weaponry against a much smaller Asian country and ultimately withdrew from Vietnam in disgrace. Under these circumstances, people in several Western countries, especially the United States, promoted the view that all cultures are equal -- with the exception of their own Western culture, which is inferior.
It is denounced as cultural imperialism for Western countries to try to preserve (most critics would say "impose") Western cultural views even within their own borders. Non-Western religions brought into the West by immigrants and accepted by some Westerners must be given a hearing and treated with respectful courtesy, including the acceptance of their cultures, mores, social standards, and religious holidays, while traditional Western customs, mores, social standards and holidays derived from Christianity must under no circumstances be imposed on the newcomers. Indeed, out of respect for the newcomers, these traditions must be shoved into the background even among those who normally hold and practice them.
Pluralism and multiculturalism, then, lead to a phenomena that may be called the demoralization of the majority in the nominally Christian lands of Western culture. This is demoralization in both senses of the term -- in that it involves a loss both of morals, which in the West have been derived principally from the Christian religion, and of morale, which is lost when one is obliged constantly to apologize for the fact of one's existence...
During the centuries when the sensate worldview was active primarily in the realm of ideas -- motivating people to think less in terms of spiritual and divine super-sensory realities and values, and more in terms of this world, human reason, and material things -- the churches could struggle against it in the intellectual arena on more or less equal terms and could continue to influence believers, win new converts, and maintain an idealistic element in an increasingly degenerating sensate culture.
[But] a crucial change came in this century... The sensate culture has passed beyond the realm of philosophies, ideals, art, and music, and has taken firm hold of morality and personal conduct. The ambient culture lives for its pleasures, denying and ridiculing the Christian concept that after death comes judgment. It easily seduces multitudes from paying attention to super-sensory realities and spiritual values. In a situation in which many leading representatives of the Christian religion have lost the conviction necessary to argue against this trend, the attraction of hedonistic indulgences will not be widely resisted...
The progressive dismantling of the principles and ideals that have created Western culture has reached a point where the society will soon cease to be self-sustaining. If that happens, either the social fabric will unravel, plunging the culture into chaos, or a complex system of controls will have to be instituted to preserve order at the expense of freedom."
I wish I could also share his insightful take on the influences of Marxism in leading to the present situation, and how it has all lead to religious and cultural Syncretism. But selections that are too long lose people before they even start reading! This one was pushing it -- though I hope not.
I trust you might pick up a copy of his book. The chapter on "The Final Stage of Sociocultural Disintegration" is worth the price of the book. Part of seeking to love the Lord with all our mind, or all the powers of the intellect, is to be well-informed, and then use what we learn to further Christ's saving and redeeming purposes in this world.
In the Bonds of the Gospel, Pastor Jeff