“Because of the increase of wickedness…” (Matthew 24:12a, NIV 1984).
My Musings – In many respects, civilization is more advanced today than it has ever been. Paradoxically, the advancement of civilization has not led to a corresponding advancement in civility, as even a casual survey of “traditional” and “social” media will attest. Some may even argue that civilization (or at least civility) has retreated rather than advanced.
But how does one accurately measure the decline in morality and the increase in wickedness when the standard of measurement is constantly being redefined by society? As it stands, things that a generation ago would have been universally condemned or considered abnormal are now tolerated or considered praiseworthy and acceptable. This phenomenon was illustrated quite eloquently in the following invocation.
We come before you today to ask Your forgiveness and to seek Your direction and guidance. We know Your Word says, “Woe to those who call evil good,” but that is exactly what we have done. We have lost our spiritual equilibrium and reversed our values.
We have ridiculed the absolute truth of Your Word and called it Pluralism. We have worshipped other gods and called it multiculturalism. We have endorsed perversion and called it alternative lifestyle. We have exploited the poor and called it the lottery. We have rewarded laziness and called it welfare.
We have killed our unborn and called it choice. We have shot abortionists and called it justifiable. We have neglected to discipline our children and called it building self-esteem. We have abused power and called it politics. We have coveted our neighbor’s possessions and called it ambition. We have polluted the air with profanity and pornography and called it freedom of expression. We have ridiculed the time-honored values of our forefathers and called it enlightenment.
Search us, Oh God, and know our hearts today; cleanse us from every sin and set us free. Guide and bless these men and women who have been sent to direct us to the center of your will. I ask it in the Name of Your Son, the living Savior, Jesus Christ.
The prayer is represented to be a fairly accurate transcription of the actual prayer delivered before the Kansas House of Representatives by Central Christian Church Pastor Joe Wright on January 23, 1996. It has circulated continuously on the Internet ever since, although sometimes erroneously attributed to either Paul Harvey of Billy Graham.
That prayer was delivered over twenty years ago. Can we honestly say that things gotten better, or like “the beginning of birth pains,” have they gotten worse? Like birth pains they may seem trivial, inconsequential or even mistaken for something else (false labor) in the beginning. But as they occur more frequently and become more intense as the labor continues, there is soon no mistaking what is taking place. James, in his epistle says that “after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown; gives birth to death” (James 1:15, NIV 1984).
To further illustrate and underscore the unmistakable increase in wickedness and man’s inhumanity to man, the following is a list of seven of the worst genocides that have taken place in just the last 100 years, or so.
- Rwandan Massacre (1994) – Civil war broke out in Rwanda in 1990, a result of deep-seated ethnic conflict and corrupt political schemes. The sudden death of Rwandan President Habyarimana ignited the spark for the Hutu majority to lash out against the Tutsi minority. “Extremist Hutu groups,” states EndGeonocide.org, “killed between 800,000 and 1 million people across the country in only 100 days,” making it one of the highest-volume genocides in history.
- Armenian Genocide (1915-1923) – Under the rule of Enver Pasha, between 1 and 1.8 million ethnic Armenians and other non-Turks were massacred, deported, or starved to death in the Ottoman Empire during and at the end of World War I. Turks have explained it as an attempt to rid the empire of any people who associated with the Russians. The mass extermination is considered the first large-scale, orchestrated genocide of the 20th century.
- Khmer Rouge Killing Fields in Cambodia (1976-1980) – The Khmer Rouge took over the Cambodian government in 1976 under Pol Pot’s Communist Regime. Declaring a new era of a peasant-oriented society, the Khmer Rouge evacuated Cambodian cities and “forced these residents to labor without adequate food or rest.” Those who could not keep up with the demands were often executed. In these ‘killing fields,’ the Khmer Rouge killed between 1.7 and 2 million Cambodians.
- The Holocaust (1939-1945) – The most well-known and meticulously documented genocide in history, the Holocaust was Adolph Hitler’s attempt to exterminate all “undesirables” from his Third Reich. The murderous effort spanned over 35 European countries throughout World War II. The Holocaust is responsible for the lives of more than six million Jews, Roma, Slavs, homosexuals, the physically disabled and religious dissenters.
- Stalin’s Communist Regime (1929-1953) – Though a lesser-known evil, the horror committed under Joseph Stalin’s rule of the Soviet Union claimed between 23 and 50 million lives. Examples of Stalin’s murderous outbreaks include the Great Purge, which targeted political dissenters, and the Ukrainian Famine, a forcibly induced mass starvation that committed entire Ukrainian populations to a slow death.
- United States’ Abortions (1973-2011) – In 2011, approximately 1.06 million abortions took place in the U.S., down from an estimated 1.21 million abortions in 2008, 1.29 million in 2002, 1.31 million in 2000 and 1.36 million in 1996. From 1973 through 2011, however, it is estimated that nearly 53 million legal abortions occurred in the U.S.
- Mao Zedong’s Regime (1949-1976) – Throughout his rule of Communist China, Mao Zedong terminated anywhere between 40 million and 70 million people, a number equivalent to the entire population of the United Kingdom. Mao’s atrocities came in two waves: “The Great Leap Forward” and the “Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution.” The “Leap” was Zedong’s agricultural development plan, which ended up starving more than 30 million farmers to death. The “Cultural Revolution” was a purge of “anti-government elements” and sent many to their death in prison camps.
To put these atrocities in perspective, the estimated victims in the last one hundred years approximates the low-end of what the estimated total world population was two thousand years ago at the time of Christ’s Olivet Discourse. Yet we may not yet have reached the beginning of the “birth pains,” sin is not yet “full-grown,” and “the end is still to come.”
My Advice – It is in the darkest part of the night that the stars shine the brightest. Not necessarily because they have grown in brilliance, but because of the contrast to the increased darkness.
As Christians we must be vigilant to keep the wicks trimmed, oil reservoirs full and shades removed. “You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead, they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men.” (Matthew 5:14–16, NIV 1984).
Let us do our best to give light to everyone in our sphere of influence. But if “the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!” (Matthew 6:23, NIV 1984).
borgenmagazine.com/worlds-worst-genocides (News Reports on February 7, 2014 World News – Mallory Thayer)
abort73.com/abortion_facts/us_abortion_statistics (Guttmacher Institute).