The word “decadence” is from the Latin decadere, “to fall down or away, hence to decay.” Webster defines it as “a process or state of decay or deterioration.” A recent essay in TIME Magazine entitled “The Fascination of Decadence” explores the concept. It notes that the word can be used to mean many different things. “They use it to describe a “50 dollar bottle of Margaux, a three-hour soak in the tub, a 40-hour-a-week television habit, the crowds that tell the suicidal to jump, a snort of cocaine.”

And yet, the essay, maintains, “Americans mean something by it.” “Decadence, like pornography, may be hard to define, but most people think they know it when they see it.” And see it we do in our modern day society. Consider only the following:


In a recent article in U.S. NEWS & WORLD REPORT it is reported that communities once noted for good schools and quality education are being scandalized by physical assaults and threats against teachers and students. Handguns, ice picks, explosives and other weapons are turning up increasingly at schools in many wealthy suburbs.

“The National Institute of Education estimates that 5,200 junior and senior-high-school teachers are physically attacked every month and 6,000 are robbed by force. About 282,000 junior and senior-high-school students are assaulted and 112,000 are robbed at school every month… Students carry blaring portable radios into classes, roughhousing and obscene language are commonplace in hallways, food fights break out in cafeterias, and there is constant noise. Besides this atmosphere, many schools experience frequent outbreaks of brutal violence, some with deadly results.”


Another recent magazine article entitled, “Where War and Rebellion Are a Way of Life” highlights 23 different areas over the globe that are plagued by conflicts. According to the article, “war, rebellion, and terrorism are almost a way of life in the developing Third World.” But even in some richer nations, political, religious, and economic tension is triggering bloodshed.


A recent interview with famous film actor Charlton Heston provides a very telling commentary upon the dangers of the film arts and their grievous effect upon our society. According to this movie star, film is “the most potent social tool and social weapon ever devised.” He states: “It can speak more eloquently all over the world than any politician, any ambassador, any diplomat, any arm of government. This has challenges as well as terrible, terrible dangers.” According to Heston, our society is becoming increasingly film-orientated. The result? “Very few people can read – really read; even fewer can write.”


According to a recent article to TIME Magazine entitled “Sinfully Together,” the Census Bureau has spotted the change in what used to be called “living in sin” but what is now simply called “living together”. A recent report disclosed that the number of couples living together has more than doubled since 1970. “Now the bureau lists 1.1 million ‘illicit’ couples, with the sharpest rise occurring since 1977 in the under-25 category.”

The report added that divorce is now so common “that nearly half of all children born today can expect to spend a meaningful portion of their lives before age 18 in single-parent families.”

What about the future? One Bureau of the Census study projects that unmarried people living together and people living alone will account for 30 percent of the nation’s households by 1990 – a 20 percent rise over current levels. Present trends will continue: a movement of mothers from home to job, a high divorce level, and a low birth rate.
A recent TIME article describes a pagan wedding ceremony. No, it wasn’t taking place in the deep jungles of Africa or South America, but the bizarre ceremony was performed in a campground outside Demotte, Indiana. It was one of the highlights of the Third Annual Pan Pagan Festival, “a four-day conclave that brought together a witches’ brew of 325 paganists, occultists and well, witches from 26 states and Canada.” In the past decade there has been a rather rapid spread of neopaganism around the country. According to J. Gordon Melton, an Evanston, Ill., Methodist minister who heads the Institute for the Study of American Religion, there may be as many as 40,000 practicing pagans today.


The use of illegal, mind-bending drugs is rampant today. According to an article entitled “The Colombian Connection” in TIME, 42 million Americans have tried pot, making smoking it the most widely accepted illegal indulgence since drinking during the Prohibition. Americans now consume about 130,000 lbs. per day, quadruple the 1974 consumption, and they spend $25 billion per year on this “pleasure.” The article points out that although marijuana is its main product, Columbia is also America’s chief cocaine supplier. Americans pay $20 billion annually for 66,000 lbs. of the stuff and Columbia provides about 80 percent of it. This is true despite the fact that there is growing evidence that these drugs result in severe physical and psychological damage.


We could speak of the recording industry with its current hits emphasizing rhythmic beat and sexually explicit lyrics. We could mention the violence within the home, the fact that as many as 8 million Americans are assaulted each year by members of their own families. We could describe the almost unbelievable statistics regarding shoplifting, arson for profit, employee pilferage, embezzlement, insurance fraud, and tax evasion. We could make reference to that most vile of sins, homosexuality, which is advocated openly today as an acceptable alternative lifestyle. We could point to legal abortions and the pervasive custom of contraception that suggest a society that has lost its will to perpetuate itself.
British author Malcolm Muggeridge states: “What will make historians laugh at us in how we express our decadence in terms of freedom and humanism. Western society suffers from a largely unconscious collective death wish.” One is reminded by that statement of the judgment wrought by the sounding of the fifth trumpet in Revelation 9. We read in verse 6: “And in those days shall men seek death, and shall not find it; and shall desire to die, and death shall fall from them.”


We see in these examples of decadence, signs of the times which Jesus revealed in Matthew 24. We see the perilous times of the last days as described by Paul to Timothy in II Timothy 3:2ff: “For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God.”

And what is the result of this decadence in society? Is the world improving, becoming a better place in which to live? Quite to the contrary, the world becomes ever more steeped in iniquity. And the judgments of God come upon it. The wicked are hardened. In the words of Revelation 9:20,21: “And the rest of the men which were not killed by these plagues yet repented not of the works of their hands, that they should not worship devils, and idols of gold, and silver, and brass, and stone, and of wood: which neither can see, nor hear, nor walk: neither repented they of their murder, nor of their sorceries (literally, using of all kinds of poisonous drugs, MDV), nor of their fornication, nor of their thefts.” Their end will be in the lake of fire.

Keep your garments clean! Defile them not in the decadence of this evil age. Have no communion with the idolatry and murder and theft and fornication and corruption of the wicked. The world will hate you, but Jesus says: “Be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”