When I was a teenager, the older generation was very upset about our modern music! And the movies that Hollywood was producing that we loved, they were sure was ruining our lives and causing us to be violent or promiscuous or rebellious? Sound familiar?
So, the question is does music and movies and video games cause violence and rebellion or do they simply reflect the violence and rebellion? And the answer is a resounding “YES!” A culture’s “entertainment both reflects and reinforces the action of that culture. It’s both/and, not either/or. So, how do we confront this reality?
We start by confronting the brokenness in our own hearts.
Look in our lesson today in Isaiah 3:1-14:
For, behold, the Lord, the Lord of hosts, is taking away from Jerusalem and from Judah stay and staff, the whole stay of bread, and the whole stay of water; the mighty man and the soldier, the judge and the prophet, the diviner and the elder, the captain of fifty and the man of rank, the counselor and the skillful magician and the expert in charms. And I will make boys their princes, and babes shall rule over them. And the people will oppress one another, every man his fellow and every man his neighbor; the youth will be insolent to the elder, and the base fellow to the honorable.
When a man takes hold of his brother in the house of his father, saying: “You have a mantle; you shall be our leader, and this heap of ruins shall be under your rule”; in that day he will speak out, saying: “I will not be a healer; in my house there is neither bread nor mantle; you shall not make me leader of the people.” For Jerusalem has stumbled, and Judah has fallen; because their speech and their deeds are against the Lord, defying his glorious presence.
Their partiality witnesses against them; they proclaim their sin like Sodom, they do not hide it. Woe to them! For they have brought evil upon themselves. Tell the righteous that it shall be well with them, for they shall eat the fruit of their deeds. Woe to the wicked! It shall be ill with him, for what his hands have done shall be done to him. My people — children are their oppressors, and women rule over them. O my people, your leaders mislead you, and confuse the course of your paths.
The Lord has taken his place to contend, he stands to judge his people. The Lord enters into judgment with the elders and princes of his people: “It is you who have devoured the vineyard, the spoil of the poor is in your houses.”
Remember what we said about the prophet Isaiah. He ministered to Israel in the 8th century B.C. before the Israelites were sent back to Jerusalem after the Babylonian captivity. Their nation was in ruins and they set out to rebuild their country and culture.
But what brought Israel to this sad state of affairs? Their own unfaithfulness. And guess what made things worse for them? Their leaders were a reflection of the people’s own unfaithfulness and inattentiveness to God’s wisdom. Their leaders led them badly because their leaders came from a sick and unfaithful population!
In fact, it had gotten so bad before Israel fell to the Persian Empire they were so desperate for someone, anyone to lead them, they chose weak and unwise leaders. And that weakened the nation even more!
Sound familiar? Yeah, there really is nothing new under the sun! Nations really are like people, we reap what we sow.
And what was the epitome of this poor leadership and sick culture? How Israel treated the poor! How Israel treated the faithful. That symptom alone was proof positive that the leaders of the society were just as sick as everyone else.
No wonder in another place the scripture declares “righteousness exalts a nation but sin is a reproach to any people.”(Proverbs 14:34) When the leaders of a society are unfaithful, immoral, and unfit, they are proof the society itself has lost its way. We cannot escape the simple truth that a nation gets the leaders they deserve. And here, during Great Lent, we are asked to consider this passage to confront the truth that our leaders are a reflection of our own hearts. And it is only through repentance and honest confession of my own culpability in the weakness of my nation’s leaders that will begin the remedy for the whole nation!
Today, are you upset at the state of your nation’s culture? Look in the mirror. We each participate in the relative health AND illness of our society. It is only by embracing this truth that sets me on the path of repentance and being Orthodox on Purpose.