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How Should We Then Live

Francis Schaeffer was a leading Christian writer in the 20th century who has since gone to be with Jesus. In 1976 he wrote a book entitled "How Should We Then Live". Schaeffer was criticized by some concerning this historical based book because he was more of a philosopher than a historian, yet this book has profound and even prophetic significance for today’s western world.

Here’s one quote that I’ve never forgotten after first reading it 31 years ago. Taken from page 227, I find this statement strikingly relevant. "Edward Gibbon (1737 - 1794) in his Decline And Fall Of The Roman Empire (1976 - 1988) said that the following five attributes marked Rome at the end; first, a mounting love of show and luxury; second, a widening gap between the very rich and the very poor; third, an obsession with sex, fourth, freakishness in the arts, masquerading as originality, and enthusiasm pretending to be creativity; fifth, an increased desire to live off the state".

Gibbon notes that these five attributes "marked Rome at the end", suggesting that they led to Rome’s fall. Schaeffer quotes Gibbon to show that these same attributes can be seen in today’s western civilization, suggesting that the west is facing the same fate as the Roman Empire.

If Francis Schaeffer was still alive I believe he’d shake his head in amazement to see how far we have moved down the road in relation to these attributes. Three of these attributes can be easily seen through the window to the west, which is television. I don’t watch much TV, and I don’t have to in order to see the emphasis the west places on "show, luxury, sex, and freakishness in the arts".

I like being informed and watching the news, so when I turn on a news channel to see the latest news I’ve got to wade through all the show and glitter that passes for news and information. This is especially true in U.S. based cable news channels. More attention is given to the sensational and "hottest" videos as CNN calls it, than real news. "Show" sells.

Many entertainment style programs zero in on the lives of the rich and famous’ superfluous lifestyles, whetting our lust for the same. CNN promotes their entertainment program as the "most provocative on television", and this from a self proclaimed news network. "Sex" sells too.

When it comes to sex and freakishness in the arts, you only have to watch a music channel for a few moments to see that music videos are more about sex and freakishness than they are about music. The more sexual and freakish the content, the more popular the video.

A brief glance at the world, and even the community you live in shows us that the gap between rich and poor is widening, and the dependency on government subsidies, for both the individual and corporation is prevalent. I could go on with example after example showing Schaeffer is right in these things, but if you think for a moment, I‘m sure you can come up with your own examples.

Here’s another quote from the same page as the above quote. "With such values, will men stand for their liberties? Will they not give up their liberties, step by step, inch by inch as long as their own peace and prosperity is sustained … I believe the majority … will sustain the loss of liberties without raising their voices as long as their own lifestyles are not threatened. And since personal peace and affluence are so often the only values that count … politicians know that if they are to be elected, they must promise these things."

Schaeffer is saying that the western world will gladly give up personal and state liberties for which they fought so hard for as long as their personal peace, prosperity and affluence remains in tact. Our hedonistic and material values have clearly replaced traditional Judeo Christian values that our freedoms and liberties were based on. From an outsiders standpoint, I can especially see this happening in the U.S. since 911, although the freedoms Americans are presently losing are in the name of national security.

I just can’t help think how relevant Shaefferr’s words are, even though they are 31 years old. It might just be something for us to seriously think about.

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