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Cannibalism, 'mommy porn' and sexting, oh my!

50ShadesofGrey.jpg

This combo made of book cover images provided by Vintage Books shows the 'Fifty Shades of Grey'; trilogy by best-selling author E L James.AP/Vintage Books

Forget the stagnant American economy, our severe debt crisis and the rapidly mounting financial troubles in Greece and Spain, at least for a moment. Consider what’s driving American headlines these days"

Pornography – The #1, #2 and #3 books on the New York Times fiction best-seller list, and on the USA Today best-seller list, and on Amazon for the last few weeks have been the "Fifty Shades of Grey," erotic novels by E.L. James that are being widely described as “Mommy Porn.” The sexually explicit trilogy has become an overnight, viral phenomenon among American girls in their young teens all the way up through grandmothers in their seventies and eighties and is making headlines across the nation. 

Cannibalism — Have stories about human beings eating other human beings ever been a major story in the United States, much less a series of headlines that lasted day after day? The Drudge Report and media outlets across the U.S. have been dominated in recent weeks by stories of six different instances of cannibalistic acts, some here in America and some around the world. Such stories are almost too horrifying to read, yet where is the outrage? People are almost treating these stories as bizarre but even a bit humorous, it as if it were no big deal, just another news story. 

"Sexting” – A teacher in Texas was arrested for “sexting” with a student only days after he was named Teacher of the Year. “Sexting,” sending nude photos or videos of oneself via cell phone, is on the rise in high schools across the country as students seek approval in the wrong places from their classmates and teachers. A recent survey shows that even among adults the practice is on the rise, with 1 out of 5 smartphone users admitting to “sexting.”

What in the world is going on? With a stagnant U.S. economy, more than $15 trillion in national debt, and some $65 trillion in unfunded federal liabilities fast coming due, America faces the very real possibility of an economic collapse in the not-too-distant future. But is it possible we’re already imploding culturally? Is there any hope of turning this around?

These are not normal times. Americans have been gripped by a widespread and deeply rooted pessimism in recent years. They are openly asking whether our nation can survive. A growing number of Americans fear that this period of our history is different and the crises we face today – and those coming up over the horizon – may be far worse than anything we have experienced in the past. Many Americans genuinely fear that God is preparing to remove his hand of protection and blessing from our country, or perhaps already has. 

We must not kid ourselves. The evidence suggests we may very well be aboard the Titanic, heading for icebergs and inexplicably increasing our speed toward disaster. So many on board are unaware of the dangers fast approaching and not concerned in the slightest. We haven’t hit the icebergs yet, but if we don’t make a sharp turn fast, we soon will, and we will sink. Who will serve as our captain and crew going forward? Will they understand the gravity of the threat and have the wisdom, courage and speed to take appropriate action before it is too late? What is our role as passengers? Are we to succumb to decadence, indulging ourselves in amusements and entertainment and alcohol with no regard for our own safety or the safety of others aboard? Or will we rise up, sound the alarm, and take action while we can?

The good news is that God has shown mercy to our country in the past. In the early 1700s we experience what became known as the first Great Awakening. In the early 1800s, we experienced the Second Great Awakening. These were massive, widespread, game-changing eras of spiritual revival. In 1770, for example, there were fewer than two dozen Methodist churches in America. By 1860, there were nearly 20,000. In roughly the same time frame, the number of Baptists went from under 200,000 to more than one million. 

These revivals were not a panacea. They did not save every soul or solve every social ill. No revival ever has or will. But the good news is this: the historical evidence is clear and compelling that many Americans found salvation during these periods, and American society as a whole was dramatically impacted and improved by both of these revivals. 

One piece of observable evidence in this regard is the explosive growth in the number of church congregations that were established in the wake of both Great Awakenings. At the same time, Christians during this period sought to put their faith into action to improve their neighborhoods and communities and the nation as a whole. They persuaded millions of children to enroll in Sunday school programs to learn about the Bible and pray for their nation. They opened orphanages and soup kitchens to care for the poor and needy. They started clinics and hospitals to care for the sick, elderly and infirm. They founded elementary and secondary schools for girls as well as boys. They established colleges and universities dedicated to teaching both the Scriptures and the sciences. They led social campaigns to persuade Americans to stop drinking so much alcohol and to abolish the evil of slavery. These Christians didn’t expect the government to take care of them. They believed it was the Church’s job to show the love of Christ to their neighbors in real and practical ways. They were right, and they made America a better place as a result – not perfect, but better.

Today, the central question of our time for Americans is this: Will the American people experience a Third Great Awakening? The Tea Party movement and to some extent the Occupy Wall Street Movement have launched a constitutional revival, returning to the principles of 200 years ago. 

Maybe it’s time to go back 2,000 years for a spiritual renaissance. If not, our days may be numbered and a terrible implosion is coming. There is no more middle ground. It is one or the other.

Joel C. Rosenberg is a New York Times best-selling author with more than 2.5 million copies in print. His new book, "Implosion: Can America Recover from Its Economic and Spiritual Challenges in Time?" is published by Tyndale House Publishers.