The words Sodom and Gomorrah have become standard terms in everyday conversation, even though referring to events which occurred many thousands of years ago. What took place back then, as recorded in Genesis 18-19, was some pretty nasty stuff: perverted sexuality and gross immorality. Such evil called down the just judgment of God.
The sin of sodomy is still occurring of course, as are other blatant cases of immorality and rebellion against God. Of interest is the fact that the Apostle Paul uses sodomy as the one sterling example of men in callous rebellion against God, and that which calls down his wrath (see Romans 1:18-32).
So what took place way back then – and even today – is no small thing, and this behaviour is the epitome of sinful, fallen man’s propensity to gross evil and defiance of God. There are of course plenty of other sins and evils which are also incurring the judgment of God, and one can ask just how much longer the West has before it too meets the same fate as Sodom and Gomorrah.
This website obviously is full of examples of our racing toward Gomorrah. We seem to be on the same path to self-destruction as these cities were. And I have certainly not been the only one warning about this. Many other voices have issued clarion calls, although most seem to fall on deaf ears.
One such cogent and perceptive alarm came in the form of a 1996 book by American law professor and judge, Robert Bork, who passed away late last year. His volume was a powerful warning and wakeup call to not just fellow Americans but all Westerners. Entitled Slouching Towards Gomorrah, it remains a very important volume indeed.
In fact, I have just pulled it off the shelves, blown off the dust, and reread lengthy portions of it. It is not only just as vital a read today as it was 17 years ago, but probably even more so. Most notably, the slouching he was so concerned about has now turned into a full-fledged hurtling.
We are racing to oblivion, and each new day gives us further ominous examples of this. So it is worth revisiting this incisive volume, and offering a smattering of quotes from it, in the hopes that if you have not yet read it, you will do so – and that if you have already read it, you might reread it again.
There is so much solid meat and sensible material to be found here, that I can only feature a few tantalising bits from his introduction and conclusion. He begins by saying that his book is “about American decline. Since American culture is a variant of the cultures of all Western industrialized democracies, it may even, inadvertently, be a book about Western decline. In the United States, at least, that decline and the mounting resistance to it have produced what we now call a culture war.”
The trouble with all this decline is, with “each new evidence of deterioration, we lament for a moment, and then become accustomed to it. . . . So unrelenting is the assault on our sensibilities that many of us grow numb finding resignation to be the rational, adaptive response to an environment that is increasingly polluted and apparently beyond our control.”
So who or what is the culprit here? “The enemy within is modern liberalism, a corrosive agent carrying a very different mood and agenda than that of classical or traditional liberalism. That the modern variety is intellectually bankrupt diminishes neither its vitality nor the danger it poses. A bankrupt philosophy can reign for centuries and, when its bankruptcy becomes apparent, may well be succeeded by an even less coherent outlook.
“That is what is happening to us now. Modernity, the child of the Enlightenment, failed when it became apparent that the good society cannot be achieved by unaided reason. The response of liberalism was not to turn to religion, which modernity had seemingly made irrelevant, but to abandon reason.”
He continues, “Modern liberalism is powerful because it has enlisted our cultural elites, those who man the institutions that manufacture, manipulate, and disseminate ideas, attitudes and symbols – universities, churches, Hollywood, the national press (print and electronic), foundation staffs, the ‘public interest’ organizations, much of the congressional Democratic Party and some congressional Republicans as well, and large sections of the judiciary, including, all too often, a majority of the Supreme Court.
“This, it must be stressed, is not a conspiracy but a syndrome. These are institutions controlled by people who view the world from a common perspective, a perspective not generally shared by the public at large. But so pervasive is the influence of those who occupy the commanding heights of our culture that it is important to understand what modern liberalism is and what its ascendancy means.”
He reminds us that any culture can slide into hedonism, unbridled individualism, and decay, but things like religion, law and morality have helped to keep that in check. But with so much recent increase in affluence, prosperity and technology, boredom has resulted, leading to even more thirst for hedonism and pleasure.
“With the time and energy of so many individuals freed from the harder demands of work, the culture turned to consumerism and entertainment. . . . Sensations must be steadily intensified if boredom is to be kept at bay. A culture obsessed with technology will come to value personal convenience above almost all else, and ours does.
“That has consequences … impatience with anything that interferes with personal convenience. Religion, morality, and law do that, which accounts for the tendency of modern religion to eschew proscriptions and commandments and turn to counselling and therapeutic sermons; or morality to be relativized; and of law, particularly criminal law, to become soft and uncertain.”
For the next 300 pages he offers us plenty of examples of how all this is playing out in so many areas. That makes for incisive yet discouraging reading. But he concludes with at least a hint of hope: “There is ample room for pessimism, but there may be room for hope as well….
“The imperative question is whether there is any possibility of avoiding the condition of Gomorrah.” He continues, “We must, then, take seriously the possibility that perhaps nothing will be done to reverse the direction of our culture.”
He finishes this magnificent tome with these words: “I end where I began, contemplating burnt books. Though I did not suspect it then, the charred law books on the sidewalk in New Haven were a metaphor, a symbol of the torching of America’s intellectual and moral capital by the barbarians of modern liberalism. We have allowed that capital to be severely damaged, but perhaps not beyond repair. As we approach its desolate and sordid precincts, the pessimism of the intellect tells us that Gomorrah is our probable destination. What is left to us is a determination not to accept that fate and the courage to resist it – the optimism of the will.”
I for one do not and will not accept that fate. I will continue to fight. Will you join with me?