I was listening to a radio talk show on Sunday morning, when I heard this well-worn phrase. The caller said, “I want to make sure that my children don’t have to go through the struggles I went through.” While this may seem noble on the surface, it can be very misguided, and I believe this attitude is at the root of some of the worst social evils in our country. If you think about it, all those fathers and mothers that raised the babyboom generation, having lived through the Great Depression and World War II, were probably so intent on protecting their children from adversity that they ended up raising a generation of kids who knew very little about want and subsequently had a very loose moral compass.
You would be hard-pressed to argue that our generation was a wild success. It was our generation that introduced the sexual revolution, the wild and wooly 60s and 70s complete with rampant drug experimentation, the introduction of abortion on demand, no-fault divorce, socialism as the default philosophy in most of our universities, the sarcastic and pessimistic worldview of postmodernism, deconstructionism that amplified flaws in everything and left us with a bleak outlook on life, etc., etc. I could go on for several more minutes, but you get the drift. It wasn’t just the abolition of prayer in schools. That was a symptom of deeper ills as we rejected God and opted for the emptiness of secularism in all of our institutions. And I probably don’t need to remind you that all of those institutions that embraced secularism and rejected the Judeo-Christian viewpoint are now greatly damaged, diminished, or broken seemingly beyond repair. This is what happens when you tell God that you don’t need Him. He simply steps back and lets you fall on your face.
It’s just my opinion, but I believe our downfall came when we divorced ourselves from dependency on God, thinking that our incredible success and wealth had come to us because we were special people fated for success. We forgot all of the struggles that brought us to success, making us a hardy people, as we overcame gargantuan obstacles in our history by leaning on our God and pushing doggedly through. In our success, however, we did what people have done since the dawn of human history whenever they became successful. We became proud and started trying to go our own way, do things our own way, telling God, “thanks, but we’ve got it from here.” Perhaps a good way to illustrate this would be a metaphor that God brought to my mind of a family on a walk through the woods, with one or more of the younger children gradually getting farther and farther out front of the group as their adventurous spirit compels them down the path. They get further and further until they can barely be seen. Eventually, they go around a bend in the trail. They no longer have eye-sight of their parents and probably are not even within earshot. At this point, they are no longer under the control nor of the protection of their parents.
This is what happens when societies become successful. They get further and further separated from God, thinking that they no longer need Him because they think they know the way. Soon, God is nowhere near. His guidance is gone, and His protection is gone. Wanting to be on their own, they foolishly achieve their desire only to find that being alone is not so glorious and that their success was not due to their power and intellect. It was only possible with the hovering, frequently intervening presence of God as He worked both individually and corporately to stave off the devourer, to inspire us with important ideas when needed, and to bless the increase of our work. Without God’s protection, the normal order of our sinful world sets in complete with all of the risks, dangers, and decay. Moreover, if the influence of sin and the dog-eat-dog environment of our world do not take away everything, we have the more active presence of Satan and his demons that tirelessly work to develop, nurture, and encourage trouble in our world.
As America rejected the struggles of life and dependency on God in favor of our blandly secure lives, we came up with ways to supposedly insure our future, control our world, and to even out the bumps so that our lives would be uneventful. This is the moral equivalent of the builders of the tower of Babel as, according to tradition, they had built the tower primarily to put themselves beyond God’s grasp, beyond God’s power of destruction, beyond the flood. They thought that they could build a building high enough to be above the waves should another flood come. In the intervening years between that point and our current world, man has repeatedly tried to achieve this protection from God, knowing that God has control over all the processes of life, including nature.