Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Babes in Toyland, from Every Thought Captive, 2006

Babes in Toyland, Every Thought Captive Magazine, January/February 2006
By RC Sproul Jr.

It would be our expectation that a given culture would follow the pattern of the riddle of the Sphinx. You remember that Oedipus was asked this question: what begins on four legs, moves to two, and ends with three? Oedipus was allowed to pass on his way because he recognized this as man. We begin as babies, crawling on all fours. As we mature we move to walking. But as age comes, we require the aid of a cane to get around. Cultures do begin young and then they mature. But I’m not sure that the end looks like an old man with a cane. I’m afraid that we may go out less with a whimper than a whine. We will be wearing Pampers, not Depends, and drinking formula rather than prune juice. We will not die, culturally speaking, of too little energy, but too little maturity. We are going to baby ourselves to death.

When the future comes to dig among our ruins, what will they find? Not long ago it became something of a fashion craze for adults to wear pacifiers around their necks. They’ll find us buried in underwear by Sponge Bob Squarepants. They’ll find that we fashion our movies out of comic books and our favorite television shows from when we were kids. And then they’ll find us curled around our indestructible idols, Styrofoam cups from Starbucks, our bottles of choice.

Cultural decline is recognized less by gross moral failure, and more by movement away from the vestiges of the image of God in us. We are moving away from ourselves, for instance, when we move away from our calling. The dominion mandate not only abides for believers after the fall, but is essential to what all men are. But we, because we are children, no longer build. Instead we consume. This is true not only in terms of “work” as such, but in terms of culture as well. We are mining our pasts, consuming our parents. Our architecture copies order forms, at random, not to honor them, but to save the trouble of making any progress. Our visual art looks more like a child’s temper tantrum, than an adult seeking to see the world through God’s eyes.

Economically speaking, it is the same. Children, by and large, consume more than they produce. Which is exactly what we do. I spent years bemoaning the evil of government debt, only to discover that it is dwarfed by consumer debt in this country. It doesn’t take a government bureaucrat to be a fool, ordinary citizens do just fine. An adult labors to leave a heritage to his descendants; a child simply consumes. An adult is someone who delays gratification now, for the sake of the future; a child lives for today. We have an economy of McJobs because we have a workforce of McChildren. We have our meals cooked for us at the supermarket, and our entertainment provided through a co-axial cable. Even the “engine of growth” that is the internet is dominated by sites providing tools for juvenile behavior.

Our heroes are adults who play children’s games. Hollywood is a shrine to the fun of playing dress up. And every city of size has its skyline dotted with temples dedicated to men playing little league for pay. This year the biggest story in football isn’t a story of sacrifice and effort culminating in success, but the “time-out” given to T.O. for his petulant rants against his own team.

We finish school now in our mid-twenties, if all goes well. We marry even later than that. We begin, if we manage to do so at all, to save money in our thirties, after we have paid off the debt we accumulated along the way. And then, being the mature people that we are, we start plotting out early retirement so we can play more, sooner. Once we hit that age, we start clamoring to our Uncle Sam to take better care of us. From cradle to grave we long for the cradle and march inexorably to the grave. And all along the way we rush off to the gym, or the cosmetics counter, or the hairdresser or the plastic surgeon, all so we can hide what the Bible says we should be pleased with, that we are growing older.

Worse than all this folly that so infects the broader culture is that we in the church have drunk so deep in it. Our Book commands that we honor our fathers and mothers, but we treat them just like our neighbors treat their mothers and fathers, as burdens to be managed, rather than precious resources to learn from. Our Book tells us to honor the hoary head, but we cover it over with hair coloring. Our Book instructs us that we should seek out wisdom, that we should aspire to become patriarchs and matriarchs and we at best joke about and worst lie about our age.

This is an opportunity, a chance to be a city shining on a hill. If we would jettison the foolishness of our age and begin to honor age, we would not only stand out, but we would be blessed as well. Remember that our Father not only calls us to honor our fathers and mothers, but promises that if we will, it will go well for us in the land. If we would honor age, we would be blessed with wisdom from on high. If we would speak well of our fathers, if we would rise up and call them blessed, then our Father in heaven would speak well of us. He would rise up and call us blessed.

The call here isn’t to turn our backs on the exciting, flashy and new to embrace the drab and dusty. Instead it is to enter into riches, to a wealthy that is immune to rust and moth. When we honor those who have entered their golden years, when we long ourselves to enter into our golden years, then we will have a harvest of gold. Then we will have gold to pass on to our children, who will in turn cause us to stand in the gates.

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