How thin is civilization’s veneer? What could cause average people to steal or turn violent? Learn how not to fear such chaos.
[Gary] In 2005 I worked as a volunteer at a shelter for people displaced by Hurricane Katrina. There was a lot of confusion as hungry, filthy, frightened people who were picked off the roofs of their houses in New Orleans, taken to an airport and flown to San Antonio, Texas, tried to comprehend what had happened to them.
One young woman sat on a cot staring aimlessly. The woman, in obvious shock, ignored the activity swirling around her. I finally stopped, leaned down and asked her if I could help. She looked up with eyes filled with despair and asked, “What happened to my baby?”
I never knew what happened to that woman or if she ever found her baby. Since that time I have often thought about how human life can be degraded by the destructive force of natural disasters. Even more disturbing is the reality of how easy it is for human beings to devalue each other.
On Beyond Today we’re going to discuss why civilization is walking the razor’s edge of anarchy with only “72 Hours to Chaos.”
[Announcer] Join our host, Gary Petty and his guests, as they help you understand your future on Beyond Today !
[Gary] Working in a shelter for victims of Hurricane Katrina was a study in how the veneer of civilization hides the possibility of chaos. There were many encouraging examples by scores of volunteers who simply showed up and worked, at times without supervision, to unload trucks of food and water, and to set up cots and assist the tired and hungry refugees.
There was no way to be totally prepared for the human tragedy that began to trickle into the shelter. Having lost their homes and personal possessions, the refugees were bused to the shelter, stripped of their filthy clothes, allowed to shower and pick through some donated used clothing, then given a bottle of water and a slice of pizza.
Underneath the attempts to supply basic human needs was a current of chaos. People were lost, confused, many were angry. “Where am I? Why did the levees fail? Why did the state and federal governments let us down? When will I get to go home? What happened to my baby?”
In one instance a policeman was guarding a room full of supplies including stacks of blankets. He had been instructed not to allow any refugees into the room. A small group of men demanded some blankets for their children who were cold. The policeman refused. The standoff was escalating before a volunteer worker explained that the blankets were used and needed to be checked for lice.
One day I received a call from a government worker who was working at another shelter in another city. Her voice trembled as she told me how some refugees had procured guns and they were in fear of a riot. It didn’t take long for civilized behavior to disappear when the basic benefits of civilization–food, water, clothing, shelter–disappeared.
How quickly would your neighbors turn against each other if there was no electricity for just one week? How quickly would people resort to stealing or violence if there was another international great depression like what happened back in the 1930s?
Natural disasters give a glimpse into the weakness of the veneer of civilization. Underneath the thin covering is a boiling pot of chaos. We see how thin that veneer is everyday in crime, violent entertainment, war, euthanasia–which are all examples of how human beings devalue each other. Under stress, the cheapening of other people can collapse into violent anarchy.
A study done a number of years ago in Britain concluded that they are a nation just “nine meals from anarchy.” An article in the Daily Mail reported that it would take only–listen to this, “three full days without food on supermarket shelves, before law and order started to break down, and British streets descended into chaos. A far-fetched warning for a First World Naion like Britain? Hardly. Because that’ exactly what happened in the U.S. in the aftermath in oder to feed themselves and their families.” (Nine Meal for Anarchy, Daily Mail , Rosie Boycott).
In other words, Britain, just like all civilized countries, is only 72 hours from chaos.
How quickly and how far would people go to devalue other human beings in order to justify taking from that person money, food, clothing, a blanket?
There are many historical examples of a group of people denouncing another group of people as subhuman to justify a philosophy of hatred and violence. The Nazi concept of the master race convinced rational civilized human beings that it wasn’t immoral to commit unimaginable horrors on what they saw as lesser human beings.
Now you might be saying, “Well, that couldn’t happen in our society. We’re too educated for that kind of devaluing of others.” The reality is that in spite of the social reforms and human rights progress, especially over the last 200 years in the Western world, the veneer is very thin. The looting and violence we see during a blackout or hurricane are symptoms of a society that already devalues others.
Here’s one example. I recently read an article, written in 1977 by Jesse Jackson titled “How we Respect Life is the Overriding Moral Issue.” He explains that slavery in the United States was only sustainable as long as white slave owners were willing to see blacks as subhuman.
He went on to write, “It was part of the dehumanizing process. The first step was to distort the image of us as human beings in order to justify that which they wanted to do and not even feel like they had done anything wrong.”
He then links the same process to the justification of abortion. He says: “Those advocates of taking life prior to birth do not call it killing or murder; they call it abortion. They further never talk about aborting a baby because that would imply something human. Rather they talk about aborting the fetus. Fetus sounds less than human and therefore can be justified.” (“How We Respect Life Is the Overriding Moral Issue”, Right to Life News , Jesse Jackson, 1977).
The logic in this article is undeniable. The atrocities of slavery can only be justified by civilized people through the dehumanization of the slaves. This is the same degrading of human life that must take place in order to make abortion appear civilized. By the way, Jesse Jackson has since changed his position on abortion.
How thin is the veneer of civilization?
Now here’s another news story, this one from Europe. Prostitution has been a reality in most civilizations throughout history. In the Western world it has been seen as an ugly side of human nature. Prostitution degrades both the institution of marriage and womanhood. It is devaluating for a woman to sell her body as a commodity to be used without consideration of her as a human being.
In November 2012 Zurich, Switzerland legalized drive-in sex boxes. The Telegraph reports that these “garage-like boxes will have roofs and walls for privacy, and easy access for cars.”
Michael Herzig, a representative of Zurich’s social welfare department announced, “The women will be better protected from attack, and it will also mean better business for them. With the women right the sex boxes there is no ‘travel time’ so they can deal with more customers. It’s a better business model than standing on the street.” ( The Telegraph , Matthew Day, Nov. 29, 2012).
A better business model? Switzerland is a civilized nation. Most Swiss take pride in their tolerance and humanity. Yet, for many people in Zurich it doesn’t seem degrading for a woman to sell her body in a government supplied sex box.
What does this matter to you? You may not be concerned with political issues like abortion and who cares about prostitutes in Zurich?
You should find both of these stories disturbing. Through movies, television, radio, music and 24 hour-a-day news you are being desensitized to the great moral issues of our time.
Now all great moral issues are concerned with God’s purpose for humanity and the value of each individual. All moral issues eventually deal with your value.
Now before we talk about the greatest moral issue of our time, I want to mention the short, easy to read booklet we’re offering on today’s program: What is Your Destiny? This 30-page booklet tackles the questions of the ages: Why does all human life have value? What eternal destiny does God have in mind for all human beings? Now to receive a free copy call the number on the bottom of the screen: 1-888-886-8632.
And we’ll give you more details in just a few minutes.
Why should you care about the greatest moral issues of our time? As long as people leave you alone, let’s all just get along and not judge each other.
Well for many people there is a general sense that the only evil is being intolerant of others. If you accept that view then there are very few evil acts, except maybe to promote that there is absolute good and evil which is seen as intolerant.
Here’s a trait concerning your human nature you need to understand. Now unless you are totally amoral, you want to feel that you are basically a good person. You want to experience high self-esteem about your moral decisions.
Now if you want to feel that you are a good person, what makes up your moral center? What criteria do you use to decide what is good and evil? Or let me put it this way, how hungry would you have to get before you beat your neighbor to death for a granola bar? In the midst of chaos how long would it take you to become barbaric? Seventy-two hours?
Let’s look at one more example then we’ll discuss the most important moral truth of all time. In California a truck filled with live fish on the way to market crashed and 1,600 pounds of bass spilled onto the highway and died. According to an Associated Press release, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals have asked for a memorial to be erected along that stretch of road, quote, “…in order to remind drivers that all animals - whether they’re humans, basset hounds, or bass - value their lives and feel their pain.”
Another spokesperson for PETA announced, “They [the bass] were on their way to slaughter, which is of course pretty hellish. To suffer an accident on the way and be left in the middle of the street is unthinkable.”
Now I tell you this story because for some people the value of the life of fish exemplifies one of the great moral issues of our time. I’m not supporting cruelty to animals, but honoring fish life as having the same value as human life originates in the same perverted moral center as those who support slavery, abortion, euthanasia and genocide.
Now that, I know, that may sound harsh. But it brings us back to the central moral question of all time: What is the value of the life of a human being?
Here on Beyond Today we believe in the God of the Bible and that that this Book was inspired by that Great God to teach human beings their moral center. Now this message is derided by secular humanists, the “enlightened” educational community and unfortunately in many of today’s pulpits.
The Creator God sent His Son to this earth to teach us the way of goodness and happiness. The New Testament book of Hebrews states, “Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself shared the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage” (Hebrews 2:14-15).
Notice that Jesus Christ came to earth as a human being because we are children. Children of whom? Children of God. The great moral truth of our time, of all time, is that God formed human beings because He is creating a family. That’s why you were born! This truth must guide all of your moral decisions.
You were created in the image of God. You were designed to have the same moral center as your Creator. When you have a right relationship with God you will experience a sense of goodness. Now listen to this, when you don’t have the proper moral center you will create your own sense of morality in order to feel good about yourself. When we make up a sense of morality in order to feel good about ourselves we’re just covering our barbarism with veneer.
Supporting a memorial for dead fish feels moral; it feels spiritual to someone who doesn’t understand the unique purpose for human life. Defending the rights of a woman to control her own body by aborting a fetus feels democratic and moral. Until you substitute the words “a child of God made in the image of God” for the word “fetus.” Young SS soldiers experienced very high self-esteem as they tortured and murdered Jews, Poles and Ukrainians because they believed they were subhuman. Many times what human beings make up as morality is the facade that hides our barbarism. God wants to develop in you, in us, human beings the real character that He calls love.
You can begin to understand the great moral center God wants for your life from two short biblical passages.
A man came to Jesus and asked Him, “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?” Jesus said to him, “ ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind,’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 22:36-40).
You will never understand who you are until you understand Who created you and why He created you.
Until you submit to your Creator God with all your heart, and soul and mind you will continue to create false concepts of right and wrong in order to feel good about yourself and your life will continue to be chaotic. You know, this commandment is the most ignored teaching given by Jesus Christ.
You may praise God, sing to Him and claim to be a believer, but… are all of your emotions, life energy and thoughts dedicated to obedience to God as your Father? Notice it’s a family relationship.
The second passage to help you begin to form a moral center is found in Exodus 20:1-17. These verses record the only time in human history that God spoke to an entire nation and explained basic morality. We call them the Ten Commandments.
Now you might be saying, “Oh, I agree with the Ten Commandments. Our church sent a petition to the mayor because he didn’t want a plaque listing the Ten Commandments, he wanted it removed from the courthouse wall.” Signing that petition made you feel very moral, very religious, didn’t it?
But you see the real moral question is not just about posting the Ten Commandments. Do you obey the Ten Commandments? Are you a moral person? Do you even know what is listed in the Ten Commandments? What about the Second Commandment (Exodus 20:4-5) that forbids the use of images in the worship of God? Do you bow down to statues of Jesus and Mary? What about the Fourth Commandment (Exodus 20:8-10) concerning the seventh-day Sabbath? If you observe Sunday as your day of worship you’re doing nothing more than making up your own sense of morality. What about the Commandment (Exodus 20:16) against bearing false witness? Are you totally honest in your business dealings? The Tenth Commandment (Exodus 20:17) forbids coveting? Do you even know what coveting means?
You see, the reason we live under a facade of civilization is because we live under a facade of religion. It is time for you–right now–to explore your moral center and discover God’s purpose in your life.
Now before we discuss this religious facade, and how you can replace a form of godliness with moral substance, let me tell you about today’s free offer.
Have you ever wondered if you have a purpose or a destiny? What is Your Destiny? is a short, easy to read booklet answering the most important question in your life–why was I born? Discovering the purpose and value of each human life is the basis for all moral issues and questions you have.
The booklet will show you how the Bible reveals that you can have a relationship with God as your Father. And to be a child of God transcends your present life with all its problems. The central message of the gospel of the Kingdom of God is about how you can be in God’s Family for eternity.
You can read What is Your Destiny? online at BeyondToday.tv where you can also watch scores of Beyond Today television programs and BT Daily– a daily commentary to help you make sense of a chaotic world.
Now, you can have your free copy of What is Your Destiny? sent to directly to your home if you want to by calling: 1-888-886-8632. That’s 1-888-886-8632.
Now let me also tell you about our free magazine, The Good News . If you are not a subscriber then its time you order it and begin using it as a guide to prepare for your destiny. This magazine is an invaluable aid to use in gaining insight into the Bible. It is a magazine of understanding and you can get a free subscription. It is also by the way, available as an iPad app if you prefer to read it on your tablet.
I’m joined by fellow Beyond Today hosts, Darris McNeely and Steve Myers.
[Gary] Why is understanding God’s plan for humanity really at the center and core of moral decision making?
[Steve] Well I think when you begin to realize that God is in charge, God is in charge of this universe, that means He needs to be in charge of my life as well. And when God has a plan and we understand what that plan is, we realize the importance that God places on all human life. And as that standard to live by, I have to order my life by God’s standards then so that I can be a part of that plan. And I think that’s so very important for all of us to realize.
[Darris] It also anchors us in a system of absolutes. Unless there is an absolute authority and an absolute moral code in this world, then everyone is an authority and a power unto themselves. And that’s the starting point. That has to be a starting point for understanding how a universe can work, how a society can work to keep us out of chaos.
[Steve] In fact that goes against culture though when you think about it because we are our own decision makers. We are the authorities in our life but God says, wait a second. The way of man is not in himself is what Jeremiah says. It says that we don’t know the godly way, the right way to order our lives and so we’ve got to look to God for the right order in our lives, rather than take that authority to ourselves.
[Gary] Which just shows that if, you’ll never know who you are until you understand Who created you and why He created you. Now as pastors you deal all the time with people coming to you and dealing with the deconstruction of this veneer of morality and getting into a real core morality based on understanding God. How do you help people go through that process?
[Steve] I think you’ve got to come to see yourself as you really are. If we are going to strip away what’s on the surface to really get down to the heart of the matter, the Bible says our hearts are deceitful. We kid ourselves, we can fool ourselves. And it also says it’s desperately evil. So we’ve got to get beyond the surface and realize that we’re nothing before God and we need Him to really make us valuable in His sight.
[Gary] He gives us value.
[Steve] He does give us value.
[Darris] You talked a lot about a veneer of society in your program today, Gary and really a veneer when it comes to us, down to our level as individuals, stripping away our own veneer and having it exposed. Veneer is really another word for identity. Which is actually our core belief, our core being and really who we are behind that veneer. This table has got a veneer on it.
[Darris] Strip that away and then you really know what’s underneath and that’s what happens with us. And you cannot really understand a true identity unless you understand that we are created in the image of God. It goes back to Genesis 1:26-27 where God says “Let Us make man in Our image.” And in God’s image we were all created. That is a spiritual process. That is a spiritual creation that is on-going and if that is not being done at the inner core of our life and at the basis of our identity then we will build our own veneers but it will be stripped away by time, by events, and it will be proven to be false and hollow.
[Gary] Well, you know we’re in a society that always talks about self-esteem. And you can’t build up people’s self-esteem as a veneer–underneath it’s still chaos. There reaches a point where we have to understand our value comes from our Creator, and that relationship and love we have with our God as Father and Jesus Christ as our Brother.
The basis for all moral decisions begin with understanding that there is a Creator and His purpose in creating humanity is to create an eternal family! That’s why you need to read What is Your Destiny? and share it with others.
You can read What is Your Destiny? online at BeyondToday.tv . Or request your free copy to be send to your home by calling: 1-888-886-8632. That’s 1-888-886-8632. Now let me also tell you about our free magazine, The Good News . The Good News will help you make sense of today’s bewildering news and events in light of biblical prophecy.
In addition, I really encourage you to visit the Beyond Today website where you can find daily video commentaries on breaking news and important biblical topics. Join us throughout the week for BT Daily and get additional analysis on prophecy, the Bible and God’s plan for your life and to give it value.
The shelter for survivors of Hurricane Katrina I mentioned earlier was set up in an abandoned department store. A week later the shock and exhaustion of the refugees was replaced with apprehension about their future. The shelter supplied three meals a day, along with abundant used clothing. Hundreds of people slept on cots, walked the streets around the shelter or watched football on donated television sets. Many displayed a growing sense of boredom.
The week after that first night in the shelter I was walking through a different kind of department store. It was an exclusive shop celebrating a grand opening. Violinists played music while well-dressed patrons received coupons for free roses and waited in line to pay $300 for leather purses. A perky clerk asked if I wanted a whiff of fashionable cologne. I couldn’t help but think of the odor of people who had been trapped in humid attics and thinking about how I was strolling through the facade of civilization–a razor’s edge from chaos.
The greatest moral truth of all time is the reality that the purpose for human life is that God is creating a family. Seek Him and His ways today and you won’t have to fear chaos because the Almighty God will be the center of your life.
Join us next week on Beyond Today as we continue to discover the gospel of the Kingdom. We also invite you to join us in praying, “Thy Kingdom come.” For Beyond Today, I’m Gary Petty. Thanks for watching.
[Announcer] For the free literature offered on today’s program, go online to BeyondToday.tv. Please join us again next week on Beyond Today!