Posted by: ritagone | March 24, 2010

“Empire of Illusion”

I just finished reading a pretty upsetting book called “Empire of Illusion” by Chris Hedges, in which the author predicts the end of the United States as we know it within a very short time.  His premise is that we are experiencing the “undiluted narcissism of a society in precipitous decline.”  We are an illiterate people (that means we don’t read, since, being illiterate, we also might need definitions of those big words) who accept professional wrestling and reality shows as intelligent events in which to  participate by watching like voyeurs.  “We are chained to the flickering shadows of celebrity culture, the spectacle of the arena and the airwaves, the lies of advertising, the endless personal dramas, many of them completely fictional, that have become the staple of news, celebrity gossip, New Age mysticism, and pop psychology.”

Whew!  That’s pretty bad.

“The wild pursuit of status and wealth has destroyed our souls and our economy.”  Pretty much.  But hey, Jesus told us this would happen over 2,000 years ago, so Mr. Hedges is a bit late with the reporting.

“One-quarter of total daily search-engine requests, or 68 million, are for pornographic material.”  As if by this time we need more persuasion that we are a society ready to collapse.

“We accept the system handed to us and seek to find a comfortable place within it.”  These pithy comments on the U.S. run rampant throughout the book, as if he’s reinforcing his point that we are mostly unread, unintelligent beings who can’t manage and process more than one sentence at a time.

“The old America is not coming back.”  Well, by the time I got to this point in the book, I was sort of hoping that the old America WAS coming back, that Hedges was wrong.  Because I am mighty depressed by now.  There is no help, no cure, no savior.  We created the monster that is attacking us, and we will not survive.  “There is a vast and growing disconnect between what we say we believe and what we do.  We are blinded, enchanted, and finally enslaved by illusion.”

You know, a hot fudge sundae is sounding pretty good by now.  After all, if I’m so blinded and enchanted and enslaved by illusion, I might as well indulge in something that brings me tactile and tasty joy.  Apparently nothing else will assuage the pain I and the rest of his readers are feeling.

“These are the debauched revels of a dying civilization.”  Whatever you are doing, you are only going to lose.  You are battering your head and your heart against something that is impenetrable.  You are doomed to failure.  In fact, you are plain and simple doomed.

Now here’s the interesting part: Hedges thinks Christianity is also participating in the decline of Western civilization as we know it.  He doesn’t believe in miracles, he turns his back on any kind of moral absolute, and he feels that hope is good if it’s placed in the right thing…although we never quite know what that “thing” is.  There is no place for Jesus in his philosophy.  Jesus, in fact, has led people astray, and those “extremists” who believe in Him are in turn leading others astray.

You know, I do believe civilizations as we know them are failing and fading, because the Bible tells me this is true, not because Chris Hedges wrote about it.  I do believe also that without Jesus Christ, we are moored to the wrong dock, or we are drifting and adrift in choppy seas.  So although some of what Hedges wrote about is spot on, he misses the mark completely because he leaves the reader floundering…floundering and depressed.

W.H. Auden said: “We would rather be ruined than changed.”

Do you agree?  I think there’s much truth to Auden’s comment, because it’s more comfortable – even when we look around and see the need for drastic change – to remain the same.  It’s almost always our default position: the status quo.

Unless you and I are forces for change, and unless that change consists of a relationship with Jesus that grows and thrives, there is going to be ruin, in both personal lives and society as a whole.

So look around you, whatever culture you happen to be immersed in at the moment.  And recognize that that culture is dying, as surely as you and I are dying (unless Jesus returns first).  It’s a bit scary, granted.  But ultimately there is waiting for us the glory of a place that will eternally be flawless, perfect, and full of consummate joy because it will be filled with the presence of Jesus and God the Father and the Holy Spirit.

And that’s not an illusion.

Enjoy the rest of the week and your weekend.

Regards,   Rita

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