‘If the foundations are destroyed … ‘ ­- Living with an echo

Peter Barnes Rev Dr Peter Barnes is a Presbyterian pastor who lives in Sydney, Australia. He has served on the mission field in Vanuatu, ministered on the Nambucca River in northern NSW, and is currently pastor at
01 April, 2011 4 min read

Continued from Undermining the Foundations

Cicero defined a people as an association brought together by a common sense of what is right and by shared utility. Augustine took this up and wrote: ‘A people is the association of a multitude of rational beings united by a common agreement on the objects of their love’ (Augustine, The City of God, XIX, 24).

That is now lacking in Western society. With Christianity supposedly discredited and largely abandoned, alternative schemes of salvation were concocted. Utopian hopes have been embraced, but sweet dreams have not been matched by any translations into reality. As Hamlet lamented, ‘the time is out of joint’.


The Christian duty to love one’s neighbour has now been replaced by the command to tolerate all lifestyles. In 1900 European man thought that society was at the beginning of a ride of unending progress. By 2000 that hope was in tatters – or it should have been.

Theodore Dalrymple has written: ‘The fragility of civilization is one of the great lessons of the twentieth century’ (Theodore Dalrymple, Our culture, what’s left of it, Chicago: Ivan R. Dee, 2005, p.ix).

Communist dictators have headed so-called peoples’ republics, and wielded power that Louis XIV of France could not have dreamed about. Two world wars have decimated Europe; the Cultural Revolution in China saw millions murdered; the Soviet Union was established on a platform of falsehood and brutality; Rwanda has witnessed genocide on a massive scale; and Islamic terrorism has struck a sense of fear and incomprehension into the hearts of secular-minded liberals.

The West has sunk deep into its own corruption. Moralism co-exists with amorality. Binge-drinking, drug-taking, and sexual promiscuity are the norm in many places. It is the age of instant gratification, yet little satisfaction. Raunchy magazines reveal the shallow level of popular culture.

A television set is provided for each hospital bed, so even the dying can enter eternity without missing any episodes of Home and away or Deal or no deal. Parents love their children so much that they cannot bear to smack them, but the right to abort them is regarded as sacrosanct.

In the severe but all too accurate estimation of Theodore Dalrymple: ‘The upbringing of children in much of Britain is a witches’ brew of sentimentality, brutality and neglect, in which overindulgence in the latest fashions, toys, or clothes and a television in the bedroom are regarded as the highest – indeed only – manifestations of tender concern for a child’s welfare’ (p.251).


Divorce has torn the family unit apart, and it has become easier to get rid of a spouse than a troublesome employee. The world has so lost its way that it regards the acceptance of homosexual ‘marriages’ as a proof of its tolerant and broad-minded views.

Sex without moral significance has not led to a golden age of consummated contentment. David Kupelian reported in 2005 that 12 per cent of all websites are pornographic. (David Kupelian, The marketing of evil, Nashville: WND Books, 2005, p.129).

Back in the fifth century, Augustine of Hippo complained of ‘the immolation of all human modesty’ in the theatre (cited in F. Van der Meer, Augustine the Bishop, trans. by B. Battershaw and G. R. Lamb, New York: Harper Torchbooks, 1961, p.51). He could be thankful that he missed Hollywood.

The legal system is overloaded with laws, many of which are unenforceable – or enforced only arbitrarily. The delusion has been embraced that world peace may be obtained through world law. In Measure for measure Shakespeare described Vienna where laws were not enforced: ‘… in time the rod, becomes more mocked than feared … And liberty plucks justice by the nose’.

As morality slides, more laws are passed, but the situation does not improve. What matters to politicians and the media – who feed off one another – is the appearance of doing something when actually nothing useful is being done.

Art is represented mainly by films, but these have contributed to the widespread distortion of ethics. Life in the West has become increasingly banal and coarse, even in our language. It has become the age of crude publicity seekers.


Taboos are being broken when there are very few taboos left. Sensationalism has become conventional in the world of the liberal establishment. Obscene lyrics, accompanied by a repetitive ‘rap’ beat, are presented as music.

John Lennon imagined a world of brotherhood without religion, and then was himself assassinated. As a result, he was virtually canonised by a world desperate for alternative saints.

Something similar happened to Princess Diana – whom Tony Blair labelled ‘the people’s princess’ – after her tragic death in a car accident in 1997. Her funeral was so vacuous that the song Candle in the wind – initially dedicated to Marilyn Monroe – was hastily rewritten to eulogise the princess.

Britain wallowed in sentimentality to the point where the princess’ funeral looked increasingly like Britain’s funeral. The whole vacuous ritual was repeated in the United States in July 2009 when the so-called ‘King of Pop’, Michael Jackson, died. It seemed like an entire culture was living in Neverland.

The re-emergence of the homosexual culture has been nothing less than remarkable. Under intense political pressure, the American Psychiatric Association removed homosexuality from its list of mental disorders in 1973.

In Canada and parts of Scandinavia, criticism of homosexuality is forbidden. Homosexual ‘marriages’, with the right to adopt children, are now seen as right and proper in much of the decaying West.


In 1987 Andres Serrano produced a crucifix submerged in a glass container of human urine. In certain fashionable circles this was acclaimed as a work of art, although Serrano did not live long to received many worldly accolades as he died of AIDS in 1989.

In 2004 Britain’s Royal Navy allowed the worship of the devil on its ships. Universities are dominated by resentment studies. All is predictable once the now dominant mantra is learnt. Social criticism is fierce, and all designed to call for more experts of a similar ilk, who can continue the tradition of public-funded social criticism.

Head-shrinkers from New Guinea receive a better press than the missionaries who brought the gospel to them. The West has become the home of the secular jihad.

The flapping of butterfly wings may not set off tornadoes on the other side of the world, but it remains true that disastrous consequences may come from seemingly inconsequential beginnings.

Alfred Kinsey was a zoologist who was interested in the gall wasp, and Charles Darwin’s entry into the world of publishing was a four-volume work on barnacles.

Their initial contributions were thus harmless enough, but their later works undermined science, theology and morality.

People have come to think it scientific to believe that one species can somehow evolve into another despite the lack of evidence; that homosexuality and other perversions are natural; and that the Bible is contrary to all reason and decency.

Peter Barnes

 To be continued

Rev Dr Peter Barnes is a Presbyterian pastor who lives in Sydney, Australia. He has served on the mission field in Vanuatu, ministered on the Nambucca River in northern NSW, and is currently pastor at
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