Be not afraid of sudden fear, neither of the desolation of the wicked when it comes. For the Lord shall be thy confidence, and shall keep thy foot from being taken.
Proverbs 3-25-26 KJV
In the days immediately after World War II, Germany was in ruins. An estimated 500 million cubic meters of rubble had to be cleared. 45% of all dwellings were destroyed. Millions were homeless and lived transitory lives, moving from one temporary place of existence to the next. They slept just off the roads, under bridges, or in blown-out buildings, despite the danger of collapse. This picture of Dresden, known as “A Sculpture Accuses,” shows the extent of the damage.
As we look under the hood, there are striking similarities to the desolation of post-war Germany to our world today.
Crime and Theft Exploded.
Crime by theft soared 800%. The real numbers were undoubtedly higher as many saw little reason to report them. “The phenomenon of crime in Germany,” the criminologist Hans von Hentig wrote in 1947, “has reached a level and forms unparalleled in the history of western civilization.” In his book Aftermath, Life in the Fallout of the Third Reich, Harald Jahner writes,
“For Hentig, the general breakdown of laws and norms seemed to introduce a new phase of the collapse of civilization.”
Fast forward to 2022. There were 647 mass shootings in the US (a mass shooting is where four or more persons are killed). That’s an average of a little under two per day. For its fiscal year in 2021, Walmart generated 559 billion in revenue. Just recently the CEO of Walmart said they may need to close stores because of runaway theft. Walmart’s estimated losses due to “inventory shrinkage” are in the billions. And in November 2022, Target CFO Michael Fiddelke said “shoplifting has jumped about 50 percent year-over-year, leading to more than $400 million in losses in this fiscal year alone.”
A nation at war with itself.
Harald Jahner writes of the post-war Germans: “Now everyone was fighting everyone else. It’s a phrase that we read time and again in eyewitness statements from the period. ‘After the war we really go to know our fellow men,’ many Germans said. They spoke of the period as a “time of wolves,” of the threatening collapse of any sense of law or justice.”
In recent years, we’ve watched as Americans have continue to tear each other, and the country, apart. We see it everywhere, in social media, bumper stickers, politics, and the church. The capitol riot of January 6, 2021 was a traumatic sign of a nation that is destroying itself.
Men were devastated.
At the end of World War II, 6.5 million German men were held in Western prisoner of war camps. 2 million were starving in Soviet camps. At least two-fifths of all young men didn’t come back from the war. When they finally came home, their spirits were broken.
Jahner writes the following of those who returned:
“Returning men… generally had a neglected appearance. But appearances were easily dealt with. Harder to overcome was the inner devastation that was clear to all soon after their arrival…
Hunger led to an introverted egoism that then became a habit. Those suffering from dystrophia were not capable, even later, of thinking of anything other than themselves. The shame of defeat was in no way diminished by the fact that many wives made it quite clear to their husbands that they thought their soldiering skills left much to be desired. Many soldiers only really grasped that they had lost the war when they returned to their families.”
It didn’t take long for German women to lose faith in their men.
There were an estimated 2 million rapes of German women after World War II, most by Russian soldiers. In many cases, men watched as their wives or others were raped in front of them.
Marta Hillers, who was raped repeatedly and was the anonymous author of A Woman in Berlin, wrote: “Deep down we women are experiencing a kind of collective disappointment… Among the many defeats at the end of the war is the defeat of the male sex.”
“During the war years women had learned that a city could be run without men. They had driven trams, cranes, and bulldozers, cut screw threads and rolled metal plates, they had taken parts of public administration and the management of companies, although it was forced laborers rather than the women themselves who did the hardest work.”
Sexual promiscuity and adultery exploded.
In the emotional and physical absence of their husbands or boyfriends, many German women turned to their French, American, and British occupiers for sexual comfort. Sexually transmitted disease became so widespread that billboards were posted all over Germany warning of venereal disease. One billboard proclaimed, “You wouldn’t bet against loaded dice… don’t gamble with VD!” Jahner writes that “The German women were universally known as “Veronika Dankeshon” (Veronica Thank-you) a play on the abbreviation VD for venereal disease.”
And, divorce rates doubled what they were compared to their pre-war levels, hitting a peak in 1948.
Does all this sound familiar?
Similar to the post World War II era in Germany, the men of the modern era have been devastated, but with different weapons. Research and books have been warning that pornography, video games, and other forms of entertainment have been crippling masculinity for years.
Porn hollows out a man’s soul (and that of many women). I’ve talked to men who’ve been addicted to porn for years, if not decades. In the early stage of recovery, many have a numb, defeated look on their face. It’s even more heartbreaking when I’m meeting with a couple and they haven’t had sex in years. The man is so lost in a world of fantasy that when I tell the couple we need to work on restoring their sexual relationship, he looks confused, as if he doesn’t know how to make the transition from imaginary sex with porn to marital sex with his wife.
I’ve heard the sorrow of wives who are struggling to understand why their husband is little more than an angry, self-absorbed, emotionally stunted shell, not unlike the German men of 1945.
I’ve been in those guy’s shoes who are trying to find their way to healing and have had a venereal disease myself. I couldn’t help wondering if the nurse who gave me two shotgun-barrel sized injections (the standard treatment in 1981) for recovery from gonorrhea enjoyed it and was thinking I had it coming.
No man who’s addicted to porn, video games, sports, or other forms of entertainment can say they have a close walk with God. His ability to fill his role as a husband, father, and leader is crippled.
But there’s another weapon that has softened and blunted the hearts of men.
It’s called the Church of Nice, and it creates lukewarm believers.
John Eldredge shares the following:
“Initially, Gary and Jill had come to me because their marriage had become merely functional. No major issues – no one was throwing dishes, neither was having an affair. As I realized later, that would have been better, at least a sign of life. Their marriage had all the passion of yesterday’s oatmeal… It didn’t take long to see why. Gary had checked out. He was still going to work, paying the bills, and cutting the grass, but that was it. There was no emotion, no investment, no reaction to anything. The more vital parts of him were shut down… As the weeks rolled by, I learned that he had been a faithful church attendee, never missed a Sunday. He served on a committee and offered help to those in need. But obviously, something was missing…
After months of getting nowhere, I asked the obvious: “Gary, why are you a Christian?” He sat in silence for what must have been five minutes. “I don’t know. I guess because it’s the right thing to do.”
“Is there anything you’re hoping to enjoy as a result of your faith?”
“No… not really.”
“So what is it you really want, Gary?”
An even longer silence. I waited patiently.
“I don’t desire anything.”
Our sessions ended shortly thereafter and I felt bad that I was unable to help him.
You cannot help someone who doesn’t want a thing. All his life, Gary had been a good boy. A gelding. And geldings, nicer and much more behaved than stallions, do not bring life.”
What’s even more insane is that the modern church, which is packed with devastated men and wives who are frustrated with their husbands, won’t touch topics like sex or the moral desolation that’s all around us. At least the Germans of 1945 immediately jumped into clearing the rubble and rebuilding their country. We’re watching it fall apart as if we were in some sort of bizarre reality show.
Yet, the light shines brightest in the darkness. The darker our times get, the greater the opportunity the church has to shine. We can rebuild just as the Germans did, if we’re willing to make changes.
The first step is to take ownership of the moral desolation we’re immersed in. The signs of destroyed lives and moral depravity everywhere, in and out of the church. Masses of porn addicted men, coupled with churchgoers hitting the exits in waves (including 75% of youth) should be enough to show we have serious issues that must be confronted. Status quo Christianity has failed; we can’t continue to do church as we have been and expect the same result. This requires the boldness to admit that the modern church is missing the mark.
This past week I interviewed Alysa Plummer, the station manager of KKVV radio in Las Vegas. She’s the one who texted me the sign in a strip club nearby that boasted of “destroying marriages for 30 years.” During our interview, Alysa told me that few churches in Las Vegas talk about sex or porn in spite of being surrounded by it. We have lost our way. The church in Las Vegas is little different than that in the rest of the country. Much responsibility for today’s moral desolation lies with a church that has lost its salt.
Without a clear understanding that we’ve failed and need to rebuild, there will be no change other than to continue a descent into darkness.
So here’s what a rebuild looks like. God’s word shows us that:
* After Jesus’ ascension the early church spent 7 days in prayer meetings.
* From those 7 days of prayer, they were anointed with power from the Holy Spirit. We’re not talking head knowledge here, but power. Prayer is the source of the church’s power.
But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.
* In Peter’s first message, which you can read in several minutes, he said, twice, that his listeners “had crucified Christ,” and he urged them to “be saved from this crooked generation.” Not one word was said about grace or the love of God. Salvation must begin and continue by turning from sin. We must rebuild on repentance and restoration; the only way we can do that is to dive all the way into the sins God’s people are in bondage to – including sexual sin.
Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified. Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?”
The fruit of Peter’s straightforward, minutes long, no holds barred, prayer-powered message was that 3,000 came to Christ. I’ll take a prayer-powered, Holy Spirit fired message that’s several minutes long over most of today’s 45 minute messages every time.
“If your religion does not make you holy, it will damn you. It is simply painted pageantry to go to hell in.”
– Charles Spurgeon
* The early church was also built on the fear of the Lord, which produced holiness and the reverence of God. After God killed Ananias and Sapphira for lying to the Holy Spirit in Acts 5, we read:
And great fear came upon the whole church and upon all who heard of these things.
We must warn people of the dangers of playing games with sin.
* In addition to prayer and teaching, the early church was devoted to fellowship (Acts 2:42). This is one of the great failures of the modern church, with upwards of 90% of Christians being isolated. Isolated believers fall into sin more easily than those who are a part of a tribe, and even when they do stumble their community can restore them. At least 99% of the men I’ve talked to who have been in bondage to porn are isolated. Isolation is one of the key drivers to the porn epidemic in the church. This is easily overcome just by giving people time to share and pray for each other in small groups of two to three at church every Sunday morning.
* We are a church at war in a time of moral desolation. We must equip our people to understand the times we’re in and equip and challenge both men and women to be overcomers and prayer warriors. Every believer should strive to spend an hour a day in prayer, and our churches must become houses of prayer. Every believer has a part to play, men and women. In the sexual arena, my experience has been that women are more apt to jump in quickly and make a difference than many men are.
So I will leave you with the need to equip the men of the church.
Men need far more than sermons on how to be really nice, theologically correct, milk duds. We need to equip and disciple them to be the warriors, fighters, and leaders they’re called to be. They must be shown how to step into their God-given identity as sons of God, challenged to face their sin, pride, fear, and shame, and make their lives count for eternity. A part of this includes setting aside or greatly decreasing the time spent in mind and spirit-numbing entertainment-including Christian entertainment. We must challenge them to be prayer warriors.
No church can equip their men if that church is so spineless they won’t talk about sex or the other hard issues of life at a deep level.
My friends, what’s so dangerous about the current moral desolation we’re in is that we live in a time of prosperity. We may be one or two steps away from economic desolation, and then the freefall into darkness will accelerate with increasing velocity. It doesn’t take an economic genius to figure out that a 32 trillion dollar deficit isn’t sustainable, and they’re trying to add to it because they can’t pay the bills without borrowing more.
My friends, we must rebuild.
Then I said to them, “You see the trouble we are in, how Jerusalem lies in ruins with its gates burned. Come, let us build the wall of Jerusalem, that we may no longer suffer derision.”