It was Shakespeare who opined, “All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players.” These famous words from the pastoral comedy, “As You Like It,” serve as the first two lines of a monologue depicting the seven acts experienced by every human on the journey from birth to death. However, in our age of reality television where newsrooms have been hijacked by shameless ideologues and provocateurs of sensationalism, the relevance of these lines extends beyond the individual to include all who have become objects of the public eye. Most disturbing is the fact that in the area of American politics, we are trapped in an era where elected officials have become so serious about their stagecraft that the characters they play have hijacked their sense of moral responsibility.[i]
The most recent act in this serious soap opera involved the sensationally named “fiscal cliff.” Scare tacticians in the newsrooms kept the American public—yea the world—on edge by dreaming up doomsday scenarios depicting what could happen if Congress and the White House failed to agree on a deal by January 1, 2013. As the bells tolled at midnight, the dreaded day came upon us, and the gulf between the warring parties was as wide as ever. Nonetheless, enduring the heat of the director’s spotlight, the actors in the Senate patiently toiled while seemingly unconcerned revelers in New York’s Times Square partied. Two hours after the famous ball dropped, tolling in the new year, the Senate reclaimed the headlines by passing a compromise bill with overwhelming bipartisan support.[ii]
But it was far from a done deal. The house had not yet spoken. Given the fact that the majority of Senate Republicans had endorsed the bill, it would appear as if there would be no problem getting it through the house. However, this wouldn’t have made good television. I’m not sure how many were surprised when the House decided to delay their vote as their spectating audience waited with baited breath for a resolution. Finally, at 11:00 p.m. Eastern Standard Time, one hour before the fiscal Armageddon was predicted to occur, the elected officials in the House of “Representatives” saved the proverbial day. Or did they?
Think about it. Ending the George W. Bush tax gift to the wealthiest Americans will add an estimated $620 billion to the economy over the next ten years—that’s an average of $62 billion a year. However, the national debt is reportedly in excess of $13 trillion, the interest on which is at least $1.5 billion amounting to a whopping $547 billion annually! It seems to me as if we have already gone over the cliff and are in denial about our free fall in the pit of national bankruptcy. The question is, “Is there a bottom to this pit, and if so is there a way out?”
The erosion of the economy can be attributed to the broken government, which has been charged with the nation’s financial stewardship. Somehow, our elected officials view actual and anticipated tax revenues as a no limit credit card. They have forgotten the fundamental principle behind efficient budgeting: outgo must never exceed income. As a result, there has been no serious attempt to revamp entitlement systems to ensure their longevity. Further, in order to live up to the myth of American impregnability, there is little opposition to increased military spending as technology companies fatten their coffers from contracts secured through the efforts of congressmen whom they will hire as consultants when they are no longer “serving.” All this is done in the name of democracy, and the reckless decisions of “democratically” elected leaders have negatively affected the entire nation.
Skilled actors, those who claim to serve us have done an impressive job in making us believe that we have the best democracy in the world. They have learned to effectively articulate President Lincoln’s socialist sounding championing of “a government of the people, by the people, for the people.” However, while they repeat this adage, they know full well that election to office has elevated them to a privileged place on life’s expansive stage. As they engage in an endless round of campaigning for the next election, they are fully aware that ours is not a democracy but a plutocracy where—in the spirit of the Holy Roman Empire—a few rich people function as the real electors. It’s only a matter of time before the masses are awakened from their democratic delusions and demand that their voice be heard. I wonder how the government will respond?
Our decadent democracy has directly affected societal morality. Think about it. How can men and women who are beholden to special interest groups provide the type of moral leadership that should be inherent in their office? How can a body of people who have yielded their wills to a party platform serve as exemplars for the youth who look to them for leadership? Furthermore, how can ideologically skewed federal justices adjudicate precedent setting cases with unbiased fairness? Ironically, while American politicians criticize government corruption in China, they could learn a lot about how “not” to govern if they heeded the ancient advice of Confucius. Instead, as they play their part in the assigned script, those controlling the institutions charged with our national welfare have hurled us into the storm of societal confusion.
Our societal confusion is manifest most in the active efforts to outlaw morality. In the name of the First Amendment, the entertainment industry promotes promiscuity, blasphemy, parental disrespect, offensive language and any number of vices that find shelter under the broad umbrella of recalcitrant hedonism. Under the same amendment, activists have effectively lobbied to outlaw the teaching of creation in public schools while duping the masses into believing that the theory of evolution is as scientific as the law of gravity. Further, under the guise of the second amendment, bloodthirsty mercenaries are stockpiling assault weapons that are manufactured for the sole purpose of killing a lot of people within a little time. Even the Civil Rights Act of 1964 has been used as a manipulative tool to moralize the sexual acts of gays, lesbians, bisexuals, transgendered and others whose sexual behaviors violate biblical norms. As I witness the sullying of society, I’m forced to ask, “How bad will it get?”
Conclusion: Spoiler Alert
When viewed through spiritual lenses, it is not difficult to see that our society is fast approaching a cliff more precipitous than the one anticipated by the climax of the Aztec Calendar on December 21, 2012. We are on a runaway train with faulty breaks that is traveling downhill towards the apocalyptic cliff at breakneck speed. While the train heads to sure destruction, Satan is doing his best to distract us with creature comforts, hollow entertainment, seductive fashions and irrelevant debates. The pleasant meadow we think we are viewing through the front of the pilot’s window is an intricately painted mirage to hide the reality of the train’s fateful destination. This is just one of many props the devil uses to lull us into a sense of complacency. He wants us to believe that there is no end; no second coming; no reward; no judgment, but there is.
The fiscal cliff, damaged government and immoral society are all reminders that we are moving closer to the culmination of all things. Jesus is soon to come and the world, as we know it now, will be no more. Only those who have chosen to be a part of God’s kingdom will escape the coming calamity and be included among the redeemed who experience the New World Order. I don’t know about you, but I am determined to be a part of that kingdom and am assured entrance by the blood of Jesus. As we seek God’s help in traversing the tenuous trail that lies ahead in 2013, let’s never forget that “a tree is known by its fruit.”
Keith Augustus Burton is coordinator of the Center for Adventist-Muslim Relations at Oakwood University. He also teaches in the Oakwood University School of Religion and tries to hold at least one evangelistic meeting each year.
This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/4998