Is the world getting worse? Is society becoming less and less moral?
Christians often wrestle with the tension of being “in the world but not of the world.” And when people live contrary to the way of Jesus, Christians develop an angst towards a society seemingly without God. History is simply spiralling into...well, you know where. I’ll call this view the “worseness theory” - each generation’s belief that the world is the worst it has ever been.
Perhaps you can relate to this cultural commentary from a Christian leader:
“The world has proclaimed freedom, especially of late, but what do we see in this freedom of theirs: only slavery and suicide! For the world says: ‘You have needs, therefore satisfy them, for you have the same rights as the [wealthiest people]. Do not be afraid to satisfy them, but even increase them’--this is the current teaching of the world.”
Individualism and hedonism abound along with a whole host of other "isms" describing our wayward world.
“Yes!” you may be thinking. “That’s definitely our world and it’s only getting worse. Sound the alarms!” The worseness theory, it would seem, is proving itself true.
But this quote was written in 1880.
The words come from a devout religious leader, Elder Zosima, in Dostoevsky’s novel, The Brothers Karamazov.
I often wonder if each generation of Christian leader risks overemphasizing the worseness of their time and their place. Instead of bringing light, they bring alarm. Instead of being salt, they are smoke. And the result? Grumpy, world-denying Christians whose only service is judgement. “Judge not” falls on deaf ears with each generation - this dire warning is met with more of the religiosity Jesus meant to counter. Each generation affirms the worseness theory for themselves.
Where have you seen the worseness theory at work in your circles?
Does anyone else find this trend troubling?What alternative is there to the worseness theory?