It is not scientific doubt, not atheism, not pantheism, not agnosticism, that in our day and in this land is likely to quench the light of the gospel. It is a proud, sensuous, selfish, luxurious, church-going, hollow-hearted prosperity.
- Frederic D. Huntington, Forum magazine, 1890, as quoted in Crazy Love.
Prosperity hardens the heart.
- William Wilberforce
A satisfied soul loathes the honeycomb,
But to a hungry soul, every bitter thing is sweet.
Because I have such a sweet tooth and tend toward an addictive behavior with regards to sugary treats, I can readily relate to a feeling of overdoing it.
It's like a chocolate hangover, if you will.
It's this feeling of not wanting to see another sweet thing for 100 years, because your stomach is so cross at you for taking in too much, it has a terrible stale, sick feeling. Part of you wishes you could puke and get rid of it, just to bring an end to the gross feeling of excess. The only thing in the world that sounds good at this point is lettuce or water or maybe black tea. Something clean, clear, clarifying, and thin, to counter all the thick, rich, creamy excess.
I've had so much of a good thing, that is has become unpalatable and distasteful.
The thing that I loved became repulsive to me.
I believe we as westerners are sick on comfort in this same pattern. In so much as is in our power, we so strive to, and by and large have successfully polished, perfected and crafted our lives to serve the god of our choice, our comfort.
In years past when I was less in-tune to my body, I remember feeling the need to counter too much sugar with too much salt. For example, craving chips after a bowl of ice cream. It was unsuccessful, of course, as a solution, and only created a self-perpetuating cycle. One kept leading to the other and my poor body was an innocent victim of my mouth and my folly!
I find that it is the same with comfort. We so satiate ourselves on comfort and ease, that we keep having to push the envelope toward edginess and ugliness to bring back some feeling of reality or balance since our lives are too sickeningly sweet and ultra-clean.
Everything seems to reflect this pattern of unbalanced excess swaying from one gluttonous pendulum swing to another. We are manifesting it in all our expressions of life.
Genres of music have developed that are mostly fuzz and static and chaos, grinding, war-like grunting grating screaming. Visual art depicts mess, more chaos and aggressive black scribbles. Simple beauty when depicted in art now, is seen as unpalatably cheesey and even mocked by many published art writers and critics. Hobbies have developed to include jumping out of planes or off of bridges tied to an elastic, trying one's luck with wild and/or poisonous animals and many other daredevil adventures of which I don't even know. Here's a quick google top 10 list of some of the edgy danger some call fun.
The entertainment industry is certainly doing all it can muster to push the outermost limits of sensationalism. Sex can't simply be sex anymore - it must be twisted to involve and include almost anything you can think of and many you never would have, including pain and suffering.
I realize the last sentence is not a new development- there have been sexual abuses as long as there have been societies of people. I would argue, however, the prevalence, general acceptance and degree of perversion has increased in recent times.
The degree and frequency of violence in all entertainment media is well known. I just received a notice from Anna's school regarding a certain popular video game, to raise awareness. The description that was shocking to me, reads as follows:
This is a first-person shooter in which players control a U.S soldier who
works for the C.I.A. and participates in both well-known and secret events
during the Cold War (including assassinations and interrogations
involving torture). Players use a wide variety of weapons such as pistols,
rifles, machine guns, and explosives to kill/injure enemies.
Combat can generate pools of blood and dismembered limbs. Players can
use enemy bodies as human shields and execute them at close range.
In one sequence, broken glass is placed in the mouth of a man while
he is repeatedly punched, causing blood to spill from his mouth.
(Descriptive and graphic language plays a large role in the game.)
We're bored with anything less.
Did that sound good to you? Sounds like the opposite of true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent or praiseworthy - what Philippians 4:8 commends to us as what should fill our minds and thought life.
(The game was Call of Duty: Black Ops, by the way.)
I see where idea of a God of comfort becomes undesirable when you don't know real suffering nor have suffered any lack. We have a growing appetite for the ugly and twisted. Have you seen the movie 300? I've only seen glimpses, but to me, it was such a dark glorification of freakish perversion, pain, and power, through violence and fornication. Don't go see it just to find out, if you haven't. No really, please don't. Remember Philippians 4:8!
I had the happy opportunity to see a few clips from a documentary film that showed some of the underground church in China, as well as rural ministries in Africa. The kinds of things they face day to day, year after year are things we in the West as a whole have never encountered outside of digital media. There was real suffering. Not a delay in a pleasure (Shoot! My wireless connection is SO slow! Och! What is their PROBLEM!??).
I mean actual suffering. The kind where you suffer.
Not the kind where you are inconvenienced.
Many had seen family members massacred in front of them, been victims of brutality themselves, lived in fear of imprisonment, and much more.
So much of the West is numb to this reality, in part because of the glorification and use of misery as entertainment.
An offer of comfort and joy to those in those real-life situation would be the most relieving, refreshing and life-giving salvation to them. They can see more tangibly the meaning and value of the Gospel. It absolutely has no less value to the affluent Westerner! We just can't see it or feel it. Nor do we particularly want it.
We're good, thanks.
Nothing could be further from the Truth.
We are not good.
We have od'ed ourselves so grossly on counterfeit pleasures that we have cultivated addictions to them; our appetites have been corrupted to favor them, turned toward them. It happens in the physical as well as emotional and spiritual. 9 out of 10 people reading this probably have physical appetites out of sync because of abuses and gluttony. When you eat too much sugar, you are initially sickened by it. (that might have happened when you were too young to remember it) But then it creates the appetite for more... and more and more. You seek that pleasure experience repeatedly, and don't self-control it. You will find eventually that you are eating it out of habit even more than pleasure, if you pay close enough attention, but you can't seem to stop. You've created a habit to perpetuate the excess. The same could be said of excessive quantities, salt or any excess. It creates imbalance that is self-perpetuating.
When a ball bearing in a car becomes damaged, it can no longer spin in its perfect groove. The bearing will eventually seize up from the damage and uneven wear. The misaligned groove that the imbalance creates just keeps getting deeper and bigger. The initial damage kept perpetuating itself.
Like I said, folks, I was there. I so so so get it.
It can change. I'm still working on it, but I have come a long way.
What are we going to do about it?
God save us from our gluttony of comfort and our riches.
Jesus provides the only true salvation.
The broken and contrite heart He will not deny.
Come, Everyone who thirsts,Come to the waters;
And you who have no money,
Come, buy and eat.
Yes, come, buy, without money and without price.
Why do you spend money for what is not bread,
And your wages for what does not satisfy?
Listen carefully to Me, and eat what is good,
And let your soul delight itself in abundance.
Incline your ear, and come to Me.
Hear, and your soul shall live;
from Isaiah 55:1-3