Culture, Clogged Courts, and God
Anyone old enough to remember the 1950s and 1960s cannot help but observe that the moral and spiritual condition of America has changed dramatically in the last 50 years. One stark contrast between then and now pertains to the nation’s criminal justice system—which has shifted from protecting the rights of the victim to protecting the rights of the criminal. Since the 1960s, crime rates have steadily risen to historically all-time highs. Prisons are full to overflowing. A greater percentage of the country’s citizenry is engaging in criminal behavior. The administration of law has been significantly altered. Penal institutions have moved away from the idea that lawbreakers must be punished (not merely rehabilitated), that they should be exposed to harsh prison conditions to discourage a life of crime, and that they should be made to work in order to “pay their debt to society.” It was not uncommon for the prison system to use prisoners to build roads, grow crops, etc. Now, however, generally speaking, prisoners routinely enjoy air-conditioned, comfortable sleeping quarters, nourishing meals three times per day, recreation facilities that enable inmates to increase their physical strength, and lots of leisure time. Technically, the only real consequence of their crimes is simply—confinement. The judicial system allows criminals who commit acts that are “worthy of death” (Romans 1:32) to be spared the consequences of their own actions by sitting on death row literally for years.
The propaganda that asserted itself so forcefully in the 1960s regarding proper discipline (in both home and society) arose from mere human opinion—social theories concocted by those who rejected the spiritual reality depicted in the Bible. The social chaos that has gripped American culture is the direct result of this sinister silencing of God in the public sector. But the Bible is still here. It still provides divine insight into the human condition—for those who are willing to listen.
Touted to be wise beyond all others, Solomon recorded for all time, by inspiration of God, a nugget of insight sorely needed in view of America’s present predicament: “Because the sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil” (Ecclesiastes 8:11). The Hebrew term translated “speedily” refers to the need to be “in a hurry” and to act “quickly” (Holladay, 1988, p. 185). It refers to “haste” and “speed” (Kaiser, 1980, 1:492; Brown, et al., 1901, p. 555). Moses used this term on the occasion when God threatened to wipe out the congregation of Israel by means of a fast-spreading plague. Moses urged Aaron to “hurry to the assembly to make atonement for them” (Numbers 16:46, NIV). Delay would be disastrous and result in more loss of life. On another occasion, God instructed Joshua to use his spear to signal his soldiers who lay in ambush to attack the city of Ai: “So those in ambush arose quickly out of their place; they ran as soon as he had stretched out his hand, and they entered the city and took it, and hurried to set the city on fire” (Joshua 8:19-20). In order for the army to be victorious, time was of the essence. Another example is seen in the tormented psalmist’s cry to God to save him from his enemies: “Bow down Your ear to me, deliver me speedily; be my rock of refuge, a fortress of defense to save me” (31:2). The psalmist sought immediate relief from his anguished circumstances. So it is in Ecclesiastes 8:11. When citizens flaunt the laws of the land and commit crimes against their fellowman, a corresponding righteous response is demanded. Indeed, that response is critically indispensable to society’s survival. Crime must be met with a firm response and curtailed swiftly.
But what happens when a sizable segment of a society lacks commitment to right, truth, and compliance with moral standards? What happens when a culture embraces the ludicrous notion that “tolerance” is a virtue and that challenging deviant behavior is “judgmental”? The response to criminal behavior softens and diffuses. Destructive forces are allowed to flourish—forces that will contribute to the unraveling of the fabric of civilization. Indeed, the tendency to flaunt law will spread, gradually permeating the population, and hastening its dissolution. “Because the sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil” (Ecclesiastes 8:11). The only hope of America is to return to the moral principles of the Bible.
Brown, Francis, S.R. Driver, and Charles A. Briggs (1901), The Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 2004 reprint).
Holladay, William L. (1988), A Concise Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans).
Kaiser, Walter (1980), “mehera,” Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, ed. R. Laird Harris, Gleason Archer, Jr. and Bruce Waltke (Chicago, IL: Moody).