The more decadent a culture gets, the more they have a need for what they don’t have at all, which is innocence, so you end up with kiddie porn and a perverse obsession with youth.” ― Joni Mitchell
I’m not fond of opinion polls, so you can imagine how I felt asking random individuals to describe something really decadent. I braced for salacious, risqué, or humorously indecent responses. Well, knock me over with a feather. The vast majority of the people I queried named things like, “Exotic cocktails, thick fudge brownies, berries with cream sauce, chocolate covered strawberries, key lime pie, or banana splits. Go figure.
Decadence is actually a fancy word for deterioration. The word literally means “1to descend from a higher order to a lower level in quality, character, or vitality: 2a period of decline.” A nation is said to be in the throes of decadence when its power and influence is slowly fading away.
Take the Roman Empire as an example. Many historians link their decline and ultimate collapse to social and political instability caused, in part, by corruption among the ruling classes. While the elite reveled in extravagances and unwholesome behaviors, the common citizens were provided numerous distractions and entitlements all funded by the national treasury. This eventually led to domestic insolvency, social anarchy (i.e. – lawlessness) and the collapse of their society.
But, the word decadent is more frequently used to describe spiritual and moral decay. And while not everyone agrees on just what characterizes decadence, most seem to agree that it involves gross intemperance, immoral sensual pleasures, and an inordinate love of money, fame, etc.
Decadence is a process; a slow and at times overlooked decline in the moral, cultural and political fiber of a society. Like an undetected termite infestation, the deterioration can go on unseen for a long time; eventually reaching a point where the damage produced is well beyond mending.
In the United States (and much of western civilization for that matter); words like honesty, decency, honor and ethics have lost a great deal of their significance. It appears that our present social order now operates in such a state of delusion that some people believe the culture is progressing for the better when in truth it is crumbling at its very foundations.
Have you heard this Proverb? When the good are in authority, the people rejoice. But when the wicked are in power, they groan. (Proverbs 29:2)
Excuse me while I groan…
Society has three stages: Savagery, Ascendance, and Decadence. They rise because of Savagery. They rule in Ascendance. They fall because of their own Decadence.” ― Pierce Brown
Whatever happened to individual responsibility, the notion that we are each accountable for our own actions and outcomes? There was a time when achievement came from hard work and authenticity. People once took delight in gaining knowledge; they acquired skills and strove for self-sufficiency. Today these qualities are being replaced by irresponsibility, and self-indulgence, as well as a sense of entitlement often funded by unsustainable public assistance. Promises of prosperity through forced economic equality, and a quasi-socialist approach to government are now regularly championed by the new progressive reformists who sometimes call their approach a “fundamental transformation” of the social order.
Postmodernists would argue that we are simply discovering new ways to look at life. In the so called Cultural Revolution, they view our society as progressing for the furtherance of the collective through extreme diversity. But many disagree. They see a new societal norm emerging where people are methodically stripped of real self-determination (i.e. freedom), and once cherished traditions like faith in God, the nuclear family, national pride, and individualism are openly maligned. Meanwhile, weighed down by endless rhetoric, muddled logic, and inconsistent morality, we are losing sight of the higher purpose of human existence.
Living in a world where people measure their happiness by self-indulgence and decadence, Is like watching a whole society being pushed into the abyss of perpetual decay and aberrations.” ― Husam Wafaei
I cannot speak for the nations of the world, but I can tell you that the United States of America is rooted in a Judeo-Christian belief system that has always been central to our well-being as individuals and as a nation. It was, in fact, this shared moral code and a belief in a “Divine Providence” which allowed our founding fathers to find common ground for mutual cooperation. The “great experiment,” (USA) as it is sometimes called, cannot survive the deterioration of the very endoskeleton of belief that brought it into being. If we lose the Judeo-Christian concepts, the culture it spawned will decay precipitously.
Nearly 2000 years ago, a man named Saul of Tarsus (who later become known as Paul, a follower of Liberator Jesus) waxed eloquent as he prophetically wrote these words,
18-21Now the holy anger of God is disclosed from Heaven against the godlessness and evil of those people who render the truth dumb and inoperative by their acts of wickedness. It is not that they do not know the truth about God; indeed he has made the truth quite plain to them. For since the beginning of the world the invisible attributes of God, e.g. his eternal power and divinity have been plainly discernible through the things which he has made and which are commonly seen and known by all, thus leaving these people without a rag of excuse. They knew all the time that there is a God, yet they refused to acknowledge him as such, or to thank him for what he is or does. Thus they became irrational in their arguments, and plunge their silly minds still further into the dark. (Romans 1:18-21)
The pure standards and justice of our Creator set against the irreverence of misguided defiant humanity is nothing new. The Architect of this biosphere that we call Earth will eventually put a stop to all human insolence. In the meantime, don’t lose heart. If you are a man or women of faith, take comfort in these words from the scriptures:
8 At one time you also lived in darkness. Now you are living in the light that comes from the Creator. Live as children who have the Divine light in them. 9 This light gives us truth. It makes us right with our maker and it makes us good. 10 Learn how to please the Creator. 11 Have nothing to do with the bad things done in the darkness of this world. Instead, show that these things are wrong. 12 It is a shame to even to talk about these decadent things. 13 All things can be seen for what they really are when they are in the light. Everything that is good can be seen is in the light. (Ephesians 5:8-13)
When the Liberator Jesus visited this planet, he promised that the vacant darkness of the human soul would end when the Spirit of our Creator comes to dwell within our immortal spirit. I remember all too well the days when my own life was a very dark and desperate place. Once upon a time, looking up from the depths of crushing inner despair, I saw the supernatural light of our Creator. He had come to rescue me. Today, I continue to walk in His supernatural illumination and that inner darkness grips me no more. In decadent times of debauchery and self-indulgence, when the world can be a very dark and lonely place, the children of light must shine brightly. Will you be a light in the midst of the darkness? I pray that you will.
Father of all life, we your people on spaceship earth respectfully call your attention to the promise recorded in the older covenant book of 2 Chronicles, 14 “…if my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and restore their land.” We put you in remembrance of your word today. And we ask you to watch over us, protect us and if it is not already too late, to heal our land. Thank you Sovereign Creator. Amen.
Joseph A. Cerreta, PhD., is a noted author, broadcaster, a popular Bible teacher and a rabid Coastal Junkie®
For additional information write to: Coastal Life Ministries, P.O. Box 1283, New Port Richey, Florida 34656