The following is the last in a three part series on the topic of, what I've called, "Progressive Depravity".
Speculative Dialogue on Progressive Depravity
Level Seven- Mockery of Sin
This is probably the most readily observable level in our society today. At the high school lunch table, students joke about cheating on a test. In the work break room coworkers joke about who woke up next to who. In the theater, patrons watch movies which consistently re-draw the line of morality. On T.V., sitcoms make fidelity and compassion in a marriage seem extremist. Late night shows entertain us with sin in skit form. Children’s movies are laced with innuendos. The blurring tears of laughter function as a welcomed distraction from the burdensome task of determining right and wrong.
Level Eight- Antagonism of Righteousness
At this level, not only is there mockery of sin, but there is an attack upon righteousness. The teenager who hasn’t had sex before age 16 is no longer viewed as good, but as gay. The adult who doesn’t smoke or drink is no longer viewed as wise, but as weak. The husband who doesn’t lust after other women is no longer viewed as faithful, but as freakish. The person who doesn’t swear is no long viewed as innocent, but as immature. The person who loves playing with children is no longer viewed as parental, but as pedophilic.
Those at this level, by killing the messenger, have successfully eliminated anyone who would have attempted to help them at this point. This is the extreme danger, and hardness of this level. Anyone who could have brought the truth is picked off by the sniper of antagonism from miles away.
Level Nine- Taboo Experimentation
This level manifests it’s boredom with righteousness and love of evil, not by antagonizing the former, but by experimenting with the latter. This is when normal sin no longer carries with it the same thrill. Perverse forms of sin must be manufactured (e.g. bestiality, genocide, necrophilia) in order to keep up with the demands of a perverse heart.
Fortunately, this level is often viewed by the public as depraved. When we hear of this type of thing in the news we generally use words like sick, twisted, or perverse etc. The fact of unnatural experimentation is recognized by the choice of vocabulary. Experimentation is, in fact, the key word of this level. The seriousness of this level isn’t due to the presence of sin, but rather to the intensity with which it is invented. When you pervert the foundations of reality, oughtness becomes less and less of a tangible reality, and more and more of a distant memory. Depravity cannot help but fill the massive hole created by the vacuum of jettisoned morality.
Level Ten- Publicized Experimentation
This level is merely the broadcasting of the former. What was once done in secret, is now done on stage. (I debated for a long time whether or not to mention a semi-recent event as an illustration of this level. Since I am not sure what age groups may read this, and due to the explicit nature of the topic, I will not include the section I wrote for level 10.) This is the end, there is no greater possible expression of human depravity.
A Step Back
One must pause and take a deep breath after such a long look at the capability of humanity. But is it really all so bad? Is all hope really lost? Where does this evil come from? What is the explanation for these types of atrocities? Who is to blame for these massive human blunders? Is there hope that the evil inside of our hearts will be eradicated through the avenue of human achievement?
A Step Inward
Often times, a "who's who" list of names is brought up as evidence for the depraved nature of mankind. Names like Adolf Hitler, Jim Jones, Warren Jeffs, Joseph Fritzl, Osama Bin Laden, and Ted Bundy are presented as the epitome of evil (and all of these men are examples from just the past 100 years!). Jesus however, speaking on the topic of ethics, took a different approach. He directed one’s gaze away from the gross sins of others (You have heard that it has been said, “Do not murder”), and directed it inward (I say unto you, “Do not hate“.). I'm convinced that simple, honest, observation of ones own heart is all the evidence necessary to establish our depraved nature. We’ve all felt it. That queer propensity within ourselves to do what we know we shouldn’t. The potential for evil is strongly felt in each one of us, and frankly, it is unnerving. It has been said that the depravity of man is one of the most existentially verifiable, and yet most vehemently denied anthropological realities.
A Step of Inquiry
Jesus Christ came to this earth and accused it of sin and evil. Yet, while we were sinners, He loved us, died for us, and provided a way of escape. Could it be that we need a Savior, not at the end of the road of depravity, but at the beginning of the road of life? Could it be that all stages of depravity share the common thread of a heart alienated from God? Is there not a hypocrisy in each one of us that condemns the sin of others, and yet ignores our own pilgrimage into the same? Where do we go from here? Do we need a Savior?