(Excerpted from the book, Revolution! The Call to Holy War)
By Dr. Michael L. Brown
I don’t want to be an alarmist, a sensationalist, or an end-times extremist. I don’t want to say the sky is falling unless the sky really is falling. If you’re like me, you’ve had it with ominous predictions that never come to pass, urgent warnings that seem to vanish into thin air, and fruitless speculation that never seems to produce anything constructive. I hate foolishness, and I assume you hate it too. We have better things to do than endlessly air our own opinions and excitedly exchange our latest “revelations.” Where is the reality in any of this?
Allow me to put this in perspective for you. I began preaching at the age of eighteen in August of 1973, and my thirteenth message, preached a number of months later, was the only one of those early messages that was recorded. A few years ago I listened to it – with considerable interest. The New York accent was heavy. (What has become of it?) The tone was a little harsh. (I was only a kid!) But the message was just about the same as it has been for almost thirty years: “America is in a mess! Look at the state of our society: It doesn’t take a prophet to know that we’re living in perilous times. Let’s wake up and go for it! Let’s make a difference for Jesus!”
Now, putting youthful enthusiasm aside, and discounting the old New York accent, I was really intrigued by that old message and I asked myself an obvious question: Was this just my own narrow perspective? Was I exaggerating things then and am I exaggerating them now? Or were things back then really that bad, becoming much worse ever since?
It’s true, of course, that almost every generation tends to get nostalgic and look back to “the good old days,” when, in fact, those days are sometimes the figments of our own imaginations. It is also true that almost every generation tends to regard the younger, upcoming generation as more rebellious, disrespectful, and out of control: “I wasn’t like that as a kid! I would never have treated my parents like that. Boy! Things have gotten really bad.”
But that perspective is not always accurate. Even considering where we stand today, we have to admit that here has been much progress in many ways in the last thirty years – at least among God’s people: Churches are experiencing more and more gracious seasons of visitation; desperate spiritual hunger is rising; New Testament patterns are being recovered (in worship; in leadership structure; in discipleship; in mission; in sacrifice; in prayer); and restrictive, denominational walls are coming down (this is not to say that all denominations are bad, but only that restrictive walls are falling). Among the youth in particular, standards that were all-but-forgotten are being recovered: Courtship has replaced dating for countless thousands (how many of us as teens thought of asking for parental permission and blessing before pursuing a relationship, and how many of us pursued a relationship only if we thought it could lead to marriage?); sexual abstinence before marriage is being recovered; holy militancy is rising; more and more young people are heeding the call to foreign missions. This is just a sampling.
Yes, the list of positive things happening in the church today, even here in North America, is substantial – which leads me back to my question: What about that message I preached many years ago? Was it symptomatic of the “Old Testament prophet in New Testament garb” syndrome? In other words, was it evidence of a negative, gloom and doom mentality that always sees the bad, Satanic side of things and ignores the good, divine side of things? More to the point, does the recurring refrain of, “Look at how bad things are!” mean that believers like me who claim that our society is in grave danger should simply be dismissed as spiritual hypochondriacs? Does it indicate that the sense of urgency we feel is really a projection of our own, personal struggles?
In the Summer of 1999, after speaking briefly at a major Christian rally attended by thousands, I returned to my hotel room and watched a riveting documentary on the worldwide rise of religious fundamentalism, beginning in 1979. (Generally, I don’t watch TV at all when I’m on the road, but this documentary caught my interest.) During the program, a respected national evangelist was seen addressing a 1979 Christian rally, a rally that ultimately centered on a presidential candidate named Ronald Reagan. To my shock, I realized that his words were virtually identical to the words I had spoken earlier that night. Both of us had basically said: “Homosexuals [and others] have come out of the closet. It’s time that Christians come out of the closet!” Yet he delivered his message twenty years before I delivered mine!
Of course, the thrust of our messages was quite different. His was more of a call for Christian involvement in politics; mine was a call to take the gospel to the streets at any cost. Still, the similarities in language were striking, causing me to ask myself again: What’s going on? What are we doing? Are we merely repeating the rhetoric of the previous decades? Are we making a lot of noise but only a little progress? Or, of even more concern, are we getting worked up about nothing?
Let’s face it: There were problems in Jesus’ day; there were problems in Luther’s day; there were problems in Wesley’s day; there are problems today. So why all the fuss? Given a certain perspective, things can always look pretty bad and someone can always make a case that serious judgment is near and great collapse is coming. But, the argument goes, those who are mature will have a more balanced outlook. They won’t panic all the time, and they won’t cause everyone else to panic needlessly. They will go about their business, preaching the gospel and helping those in need, and they will do it with balance. They will be stable and steady, not easily moved by the latest prophetic fad.
Who then is right? Where do we stand today? What is the biblical (realistic!) point of view, as opposed to the hopeless (too pessimistic!) point of view or the foolish (too optimistic!) point of view? What is the truth? What are the facts? What is God’s perspective on the state of our nation?
Since the 1980s, I have believed that revival was the only hope for America, believing at the same time that revival was a very real hope for America. I have never accepted the mentality that it was too late for our nation, nor have I held to an end-time theology of total defeat. No! The Church of the Lord Jesus will not end this age with a demonstration of the failure of the Spirit, nor has God completely cast America behind His back. Instead, in His mercy and grace, He has been pouring out His Spirit, beginning especially in the mid-1990s. But now, after several years of revival – not nationwide, to be sure, but certainly in pockets throughout the nation – the hour is more urgent than ever.
You see, while it is very true that God is moving in our midst, Satan is also moving, and all too many believers – really, most believers – remain asleep in the light. The present revival must become a revolution! The current outpouring must become an awakening! If it doesn’t happen soon, it may not happen at all.
What gives me the right to say this? What facts support these statements? Isn’t it true, you ask, that there have been many signs of positive, moral change in our midst? Yes there have, and for this we thank God. As William Bennett noted in his important 1999 study documenting the leading cultural indicators of America:
The decade of the nineties has seen progress in some key social indicators: reductions in welfare, violent crime, abortion, AIDS, divorce, and suicide. . . . Since 1994, for example, there has been a 46.5 percent decrease in welfare rolls. The murder rate it at its lowest point since 1967. Alcohol-related traffic fatalities are at their lowest level since the government began keeping such statistics. Since 1993, the number of AIDS cases has decreased by more than 50 percent. Near the end of the decade, there are 243,000 fewer abortions per year than at the beginning. . . .
This is certainly cause for great thanksgiving. There have been many positive developments in recent years! But at the same time, many other things are worse than they have ever been in our land (I’ll come back to this in a moment), while many other things sit like simmering volcanoes, ready to erupt at any moment. We have not yet paid the full penalty for the abortion holocaust in our land (we knew better than other nations, and to whom much is given, much is required); we have only seen the tip of the iceberg of the impact of rampant divorce on our society (the vast majority of criminals come from broken homes); we have not yet seen the unbridled aggression of the homosexual movement (when it is challenged, it will become violently aggressive); we have not yet reaped what we have sown.
The majority of sexual and violent crimes are committed by people who were raised without a father. According to Bennett’s study, “Seventy-two percent of America’s adolescent murderers, 70 percent of long-term prison inmates, and 60 percent of rapists come from fatherless homes.” Yet the generation birthed in the 1990s will be the most fatherless generation in our history, and only half of those raised in the first decade of the 21st century “will spend their entire childhood in an intact family.” What does this mean for our future?
The devil is turning up the heat of sin and pollution in our society, and we, like the proverbial frog boiling in water, hardly realize that the temperature is rising. And while we should rejoice over everything the Lord is doing in our land, we must not deceive ourselves. The percentage of church-attending Americans has actually decreased from 1965 until today, rising only slightly even within the 1990s themselves. Even more sobering is that, “In 1997, Gallup replicated a survey it originally conducted in 1947. It found that the same percentage of Americans pray (90 percent), believe in God (96 percent), and attend church once a week.” This means that we are just as religious today as we were more than fifty years ago, but we are far less moral! The frog is boiling but somehow thinks it’s bathing. It is simmering and stewing but somehow thinks it’s sunbathing and swimming. How pathetic.
Let me put all this in perspective for you. Please step back and consider the facts. In 1961, the beginning of one of the most turbulent decades in our history, things seemed relatively peaceful. Speaking of the day of JFK’s inauguration, Irwin and Debbie Unger wrote:
America, on that blustery inauguration day in January 1961, was still deep in the throes of postwar conformity. Skirts were worn below the knee, dresses were tailored, and women’s shoes had high heels and pointy toes. On prime-time TV, the favorite programs were The Flintstones, Ozzie and Harriet, One Happy Family, and The Bob Hope Show. In film, the 1961 Academy Award for best picture went to a musical fable about feuding new York gangs, but West Side Story was monumentally innocent despite its subject matter. On Broadway, My Fair Lady was still drawing crowds after 2,300 performances. Elvis had already stirred the rage of parents and moralists with his swiveling hips and suggestive phrasing, but the most popular recording artist in 1961 was Eddie Fisher, the quintessential boy next door. Sexual mores were strict. Illegitimacy was rare in the middle class, and most Americans considered homosexuality a sin, and drove its practitioners deep into the closet. . . . On college campuses, except for a sprinkling of the most “progressive” and cosmopolitan ones, fraternities and sororities, pledge week, pep rallies, dances, and “sandbox” politics were the dominant extracurricular activities.
Of course, by the end of the decade, things had changed radically:
The Pill, announced with little fanfare in 1960, had ended fear of pregnancy; penicillin had diminished fear of disease. Sex, in any position, in any form, was considered good; denial was bad. The new sexual liberation movement soon spread beyond youthful flower-child dropouts. All through middle-class and working-class America ran a new current of permissiveness.
By 1970, Woodstock was history, along with Stonewall (the watershed event in the homosexual movement). The feminist movement had been birthed and campus riots had drawn national attention. (Was any of this connected at all to the 1962 Supreme Court decision – hardly resisted by the church – that removed organized, public prayer from our schools?) The 1960s really did mark a turning point in our culture, sending us into a moral free fall. Promiscuity increased during that decade. Drug and alcohol use increased. Divorce increased. Juvenile crime skyrocketed. Yet the legalization of abortion on demand did not occur until 1973 – since which time we have legally snuffed out more than forty millioninnocent lives – while the incidence of teen sex, teen violence, and teen substance abuse was much lower in the late 1960s than in the late 1980s or early-to-mid 1990s.
Sadly, despite some significant gains, the moral climate continues to degenerate in our land, something that becomes clear when we look at the larger context. While violent crimes, for example, decreased by 17% between 1990 and 1997, the comparison from 1960 to 1997 is very negative: Violent crimes actually increased by 280% over those years. At the same time, our nation’s prison population has increased dramatically, growing from 196,429 prisoners in 1970 (representing 96 people for every 100,000 Americans) to 1,197,590 prisoners in 1997 (445 out of every 100,000). In fact, that number has risen most dramatically in the 1990s (from 297 out of 100,000 in 1990 to 445 out of every 100,000 in 1997).
Let’s take a closer look at America in 1961 as compared with America in the 1990s: There were popular, animated TV shows then and now. In 1961, The Flinstones ruled; today, it is The Simpsons. What a shocking contrast! In 1961, West Side Story was considered to be a violent flick; today, it’s Natural Born Killers. Americans then were entertained by Ozzie and Harriet and One Happy Family; today, they are enthralled with Jerry Springer and Jenny Jones. I wish it were not so! Even ten years ago, most Americans would not have tolerated such vulgar trash on major network TV. Yet it abounds today. Just stop and look around. The devil is putting his cards on the table.
In homes across America, during the afternoon – in broad daylight, so to say – TV screens glow with lively discussions about such topics as sex change operations, transvestitism, flagrant cheating on spouses (often with same-sex affairs), and prostitution, to name just a few. How can this be? (Of course, to brighten things up, you can always turn to the soap operas!) Profanity is also making its inroads on the airwaves, as standards drop year by year. And all this takes place on major network TV. What about shows and movies aired on Cable and Satellite TV? What about the availability of pornography or the increase in movie violence? What about the fact that the average ten year-old child today sees and hears things that the average thirty year-old adult rarely saw or heard one generation ago? (And I have not even mentioned the Internet!)
As noted in a 1998 Time magazine report on teen sex:
Even if kids don’t watch certain television shows, they know the programs exist and are bedazzled by the forbidden. From schoolyard word of mouth, eight-year-old Jeff in Chicago has heard all about the foul-mouthed kids in the raunchily plotted South Park, and even though he has never seen the show, he can describe certain episodes in detail. (He is also familiar with the AIDS theme of the musical Rent because he’s heard the CD over and over.) Argentina, 16, in Detroit, says, “TV makes sex look like this big game.” Her friend Michael, 17, adds, “They make sex look like Monopoly or something. You have to do it in order to get to the next level.”
As to the impact that TV and movie violence in movies have had on our society, even a secular Hollywood source had this to say: “It is not that violent pictures create more violence, but the constant litany of gratuitous violence is destructive to the fabric of the culture because it lowers our threshold for sensitivity to the issue.” How our threshold for sensitivity has been lowered! A recent crime report provided the following shocking statistic: “In 1995, handguns were used to kill 2 people in New Zealand, 15 in Japan, 30 in Great Britain, 106 in Canada, 213 in Germany, and 9,390 in the United States.” What do we say to facts such as these?
Have you seen how with each new act of violence and each new atrocity we become less shocked and more insensitive, less outraged and more uncaring, less grieved and more hardhearted? As the year 1999 wore on, Americans reacted with increasing indifference to the mounting wave of multiple shootings in our land, as the grim totals rose and rose. January started slowly: 1 dead, 1 wounded; by the end of March, we reached 3 dead, 1 wounded, and by the end of April, we were up to 21 dead and 28 wounded. By the end of June, the numbers were 24 dead and 32 wounded. By the end of July we reached 44 dead and 45 wounded, and by the end of September we were at 55 dead and 58 wounded. At the year’s end, we reached 69 dead and 61 wounded – all in multiple shootings. Some of these tragedies didn’t even hold our attention for a full day. Some of them – including the unprecedented shootings at the Wedgewood Baptist Church in Fort Worth – didn’t even make the top headline in some national newspapers.
Men of God have warned us for years, urging us to wake up from our stupor, yet still we slumber on. We are becoming so accustomed to filth that we hardly notice its stench. We have become so inoculated to evil that we are numb to its stinging bite. Do you hear the alarm? In the mid-1990s, when a major TV show introduced an openly lesbian character, there was an uproar. By 1999, more than thirty characters on network TV were playing homosexual roles. What is happening?
More than 300 years ago, Thomas Manton observed that, “First we practice sin, then defend it, then boast of it.” We see this happening before our eyes with the homosexual movement. First, the sin was practiced in secret, then it was defended as a healthy, acceptable lifestyle, and now anyone who objects to is to homophobic. There is something wrong with us if we reject the practice as ungodly! And things have only heated up with the beginning of the new millennium: Homosexual activists are fighting for government recognition of same-sex marriages, and in some parts of our nation, they are rapidly gaining ground. Don’t we see the handwriting on the wall?
Even Satanism is becoming more blatant and overt. Why should the devil hide in the shadows when he can freely come out in the open? Of course, I’m aware that we have had our horror pictures and Satanist movies for years, like Draculaand Frankenstein of old or The Exorcist and Rosemary’s Baby of more recent decades. But the increased interest in these ever-more-explicit themes is striking. In 1999 alone, at least six hit movies had strongly occultic themes, including The Blair Witch Project and The Sixth Sense.
Yes, the battle lines have been drawn, the enemy is taking ground, and many of us hardly realize that the war is on. The devil is moving forward with energy and aggression. What in the world are we doing?
In 1961, women and girls commonly wore skirts or dresses (rather than pants), always wearing them to school, and those skirts or dresses were worn below the knee. Yet today even women’s tennis players – we’re talking about athletes, not strippers or nightclub dancers – are often known for their skin-hugging, highly-revealing, sensual outfits. Do trends like this mean nothing? Or consider the look of magazine covers over the last forty years. Pictures of not-quite-nude women that were not seen as recently as ten years ago – I mean on the covers of weight-lifting magazines, not porno magazines – now “grace” many a magazine cover. What’s next?
Yes, the world pursues its agenda with very little spiritual or moral resistance from the people of God. And even in those moral areas where we have seen some progress (for example, in the recent decline in the abortion rate), there is bad news too, since one major reason for the decline in abortions is the increased use of condoms among unmarried, sexually active young people.
We live in a society today where students can wear Satanist tee-shirts to school but cannot pray in the name of Jesus at their graduation ceremonies, where teens can get abortions without parental permission but where teachers cannot read the Scriptures to those same teenagers without fear of parental prosecution. We live in a society where eleven-year-olds and thirteen-year-olds can be skillful, purposeful murderers – using schoolmates for target practice – and where favorite video games include Doom and Mortal Kombat and favorite cartoon movies include the South Parkseries. Gone are the days when the gyrations of Elvis stirred moral outrage. MTV has long since made its anti-moral mark and “gangsta rap” is here to stay – unless we have a moral and spiritual revolution.
So what are we waiting for? What else needs to happen? How many more massacres in our schools and massacres in our workplaces and massacres in our houses of worship do we need? At what point will we realize that now is the time to act? The hour really is later than we know!
When Congress must debate issues like whether it is ethical to “harvest” and sell aborted baby parts – spinal chords and skin and brains and limbs – what have we come to as a nation? Yet in November of 1999, such a debate took place:
On Tuesday, November 9, 1999, by voice vote, the House of Representatives passed a non-binding resolution calling for congressional hearings to investigate trafficking in tissues, organs and whole bodies of aborted babies. Representatives Joseph Pitts (R-PA), Tom Tancredo (R-CO) and Christopher Smith (R-NJ) introduced the resolution (H.R. 350). In the midst of debate concerning H.R. 350, Pitts said, “I wish this gruesome price list [of baby body parts] was a cruel Halloween hoax, but it is not. It’s the price list for human body parts from aborted babies. It’s almost like the bureaucratization of the Nazis final solution hammered out in conferences and committed to legal documents. Except now it’s in the form of a capitalistic price list, organized for commerce, sanitized for the grim reality, which it is.”
Pro-abortion House members believe those in favor of the resolution are “attempting to corrupt medical research with the politics of abortion.” They also challenged the evidence and stated that “no one is going out selling baby parts, arms or legs for any purpose.” Two weeks earlier, during Senate debate over the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban (PBAB), Sen. Robert Smith (R-NH) detailed carefully documented information concerning the harvesting of baby parts. Smith reasoned this was one of the terrible secrets behind the push to keep partial-birth abortions available to abortionists and offered a sensible amendment to the PBAB, providing for immediate regulation of the fetal tissue industry, but it was rejected by the Senate, 46-51.
Do you realize what you just read? It is unspeakably tragic that the Clinton administration vetoed the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban three times, helping to pave the way for the gruesome horrors just described. Yet such are the times in which we live!
With our president leading the way, we have learned that oral sex is not sex, that you can go to church on Sunday and lie to the nation on Monday, that you can be a very good leader and a very bad person – simultaneously! – and that homosexuality is acceptable while rejection of homosexuality is not. No wonder so many young people are so confused. And no wonder we adults don’t seem much more clearheaded. In fact, we have our own foolish obsessions.
Just think: We live in a time of moral madness and social uncertainty, a time when talk of a moral revolution should be everywhere. Instead, the best-selling “revolutionary” books are books about new diets! What does this say for us as a people? When we need to be talking about the call to die for the gospel, we are talking instead about the call to diet for good looks. What a sad indictment! And what does it say of our self-deception and lack of discipline when we are at one and the same time the world’s best-read nation on diet and nutrition and the world’s most obese? Even our pets are overweight. We need a revolution!
To quote William Bennett once again – in terms of our present, moral stupor:
The percentage of births to unwed mothers – already at the alarmingly high level of 28 percent at the beginning of the decade [meaning the 1990s] – is even higher today, at 32.4 percent. . . . Among men and women between their mid-twenties and mid-thirties, living together before marriage is far more common than not. . . . In 1998, 5.6 percent of high school seniors reported using marijuana on a daily basis – a 180 percent increase since 1991. In math achievement, American twelfth graders rank nineteenth out of twenty-one nations.
The United States boasts the highest percentage of professing evangelicals in the industrialized world. In fact – this is another shocker – according to polls, 36% of Americans consider themselves to be born-again (the higher percentage is in the Black American community, where 51% make that same claim). That means one in three Americans – more than 90 million people! – claim to be born again. Yet America has:
- The highest percentage of single-parent families in the industrialized world
- The highest abortion rate in the industrialized world
- The highest rate of sexually transmitted diseases in the industrialized world (the rates of syphilis and gonorrhea transmission are almost 500% higher than the highest rates in the other industrialized nations)
- The highest teenage birth rate in the industrialized world (by far!)
- The highest rate of teenage drug use in the industrialized world
As if this wasn’t enough, consider the fact that, “Twenty-one percent of American 9-year-olds watch more than five hours of television per weekday – the highest percentage in the developed world.” What a sobering statistic! Nine-year-olds watch five hours of television – so much of it poison - per weekday. We really are in a mess!
In our own, blessed homeland, “Between 1990 and 1997, the percentage of births that are out of wedlock increased 16 percent. Between 1960 and 1997, the percentage increased 511 percent.” This means that five times as many babies are being born out of wedlock today than in 1960 – and this is despite the fact that most aborted babies are conceived out of wedlock. If we add in these conceived-but-never-birthed children, the out of wedlock figure is all the more staggering.
Focusing in on this situation in Black America, we are faced with a paradox: While there has been an increase in Civil Rights over the last forty years — this was actually one positive development that came out of the 1960s -there has been a terrible deterioration in the African American family itself. Today, more than two-thirds of all Black children are born out of wedlock, and the rate of moral decline here has been steep. In 1960, 23% of all births to Blacks were out of wedlock; by 1965, that figure had risen only to 27.9%, while by 1970, it was up to 37.6%. But in the 1990s, it has averagedbetter than 68%, an increase of almost three-to-one from 1960. How can it be, then, that this very same segment of our population is the most religious, with 82% of Black Americans claiming to be church members, 43% stating that they attend church weekly, and 86% saying that they “view religion as a solution to today’s problems”? Truly, these figures are shocking.
Yet there are even more shocking figures than these. The percentage of White children born out of wedlock has risen far more dramatically! In 1960, out-of-wedlock births among Whites was only 2.3%, rising only to 4.0% in 1965, 5.7% in 1970, and 7.3% in 1975. But by 1997, it had reached 25.8% — amounting to an increase of more than 1000% — better than ten-to-one! — from 1960. All this means that, across America, almost one in every three children born is born out of wedlock. In fact, over the last forty years, the national birth rate has decreased within marriage and increased outside of marriage, to the point that, “In 1994, for the first time in American history, more than half of all firstborn children were conceived or born out of wedlock.”
This is all quite staggering, especially when you consider just how important a strong family unit is for the health of any civilization. Yet the family is unraveling:
Of the approximately 65 million children under 17 in 1996, almost 28 million (43 percent) spent time in a single-parent family. About 8.25 million were born out of wedlock, about 16.7 million experienced the divorce of their parents, and an additional 3 million or so children were born out of wedlock and experienced the divorce of their parents.
Satan is going after the youth! Consider these appalling statistics, quoted verbatim from William Bennett’s study:
Among women born between 1951 and 1955 [making them in their 40s in the 1990s], 23 percent were married to their partner at the time of first sexual intercourse. Among women born between 1971 and 1975 [making them in their 20s in the 1990s], 2 percent were married to their partner at the time of first sexual intercourse. [That means that in my generation, only one in four women waited until marriage to have sex with their husbands, which is hardly a statistic to boast over. But in my daughters’ generation, the number drops to one in fifty!]
The percentage of high school senior girls who think “having a child without being married is experimenting with a worthwhile lifestyle or [is] not affecting anyone else” increased from 33 percent in 1976-1980 to 53 percent in 1991-1995.
In 1997, roughly 3 million teenagers – about one in four who are sexually active – acquired a sexually transmitted disease.
Seventy-six percent of all births to teenagers occur outside of marriage.
In fifteen of our nation’s largest cities in 1995, the teenage out-of-wedlock birth ratio was greater than 90 percent. The cities with the highest out-of-wedlock birth ratio for girls under 20 are Baltimore and Pittsburgh [both at 96.5%!].
In 1996, 8,000 children under 6 years old were using one of three commonly prescribed antidepressants – Prozac, Zoloft, or Paxil. That number rose 400 percent, to 40,000, in 1997. [Yes, this took place in just one year!]
Words truly are inadequate to express how deeply we have fallen. This is reality, my friend. Still, there is really only one thing that matters, and there is only one thing we must ask: Is there any way out? Can America be changed? The answer, I say, is absolutely yes. Our country can be changed. But it will take a revolution, and that revolution must begin now. Can we count you in?