"None are in so great danger as those who apprehend no danger, and are impatient of caution and counsel." These words, from the servant of the Lord, describe the attitude of thousands. Although in peril, many in the church of God today are careless and unconcerned about their situation. This condition grows almost imperceptibly upon us all, leaders and laity. We are in the enemy's land, and the great archfoe is relentlessly vigilant in his efforts to ensnare us. By a multitude of deceptive and delusive arts, he endeavors to bring us under his power, leading us first into one small digression or indiscretion, and then from one supposedly small disobedience or neglect to another. This artful foe, like the serpent of old whose name and nature he still retains, labors to bring men, women, and youth under a spell that fascinates and bewitches.
Worldliness is extremely insidious, ever awaiting a chance to ensnare us. Like the termites that eat out the heart of the timber, leaving but a veneer of paint and an outward shell, so worldly practices eat out the inner experience and the spiritual life. The rata vine, of New Zealand, spreads over large trees from top to bottom, completely covering them. The branches of the vine in turn take root in the ground, fastening their tendrils over the entire tree until its life is choked out, and the vine has taken the place of the tree. So do worldly amusements attach themselves to us. Left to grow, the roots go deeper and the tendrils grow stronger, until the Christ life of love and sacrifice is dead. All that is left is a name. For has not the Scripture said of some, "Thou hast a name that thou livest, and art dead"?
The apostles and disciples had scarcely been placed in their graves before their successors in ministry had consorted with their heathen converts with a view to reconstructing the gospel plan so as to appeal to a worldly-minded church. Begun in Constantine's day when she openly joined hands with the world and surrendered to human devisings in the Christian church, this went on till the darkest period was reached. Two principles which were inherently and unavoidably antagonistic became joined together.
Worldly amusements, our specific theme, are summed up in the Bible under three heads: the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life," or sensuality, covetousness, and vainglory.
The greatest danger point today is in the relationship between the sexes, under the conditions of our congested and overwrought modern civilization. And the devil has arranged matters to suit his purposes. Upon this point the servant of the Lord has this to say:
"The inhabitants of the world are fast becoming as the inhabitants of the world in Noah's day, who were swept away by the flood, and as the inhabitants of Sodom, who were consumed by fire from heaven. The powers of Satan are at work to keep minds diverted from eternal realities. The enemy has arranged matters to suit his own purposes. Worldly business, sports, the fashions of the day—these things occupy the minds of men and women. Amusements and unprofitable reading spoil the judgment. In the broad road that leads to eternal ruin there walks a long procession. The world, filled with violence, reveling, and drunkenness, is converting the church."—"Testimonies," Vol. IX, pp. 43, 44•
The sports and fashions of the day, the eating and drinking, the pictures and reading, all lead to worldliness. Every great civilization of the past has decayed and gone down precisely at this point, and now the danger signals are flashing forth in our very own movement. This is no light matter, and we are exceedingly unwise to blind our eyes to it, or deny it. The very life and integrity of our work is at stake in these tremendous issues. The danger is so great, and we have already become so permeated with the pleasure lust, that as leaders we need to seek God most earnestly for divine help for the situation. We all take pride in our denominational statistics. God has helped us to grow mightily, but we sometimes overlook a cancerous segment of our body, fast being eaten into by immorality. I am alarmed by what I personally know—the loose home life of many, easy divorce, and actual sensuality of the lowest type. This cancerous growth cannot be corrected by passive measures of a soothing-syrup type. Sin must be more vigorously met and some meaningful discipline applied.
Some factors responsible for much of the evil are, mixed bathing at swimming pools and sprawling on bathing beaches among the lecherous throngs, patronizing skating rinks where so-called Adventists choose their partners and dance as they skate to the accompaniment of music, and movie attendance. It is well known that many of our young people attend the movies. Here pictures of crime and suggestive scenes of immorality are exhibited. Doctor Wise, Jewish rabbi, referring to the prevalence of sex appeal spread by the movies, terms it the "moral leprosy" of our civilization. Dramatic films have sometimes been presented in our churches and institutions. We fear that this provides our young people a sought-for excuse to go where these and other productions are exhibited in their own environs—the moving picture theater.
In 1928, the writer, as union president, called attention to some of these amusements and follies, and published an appeal in the Pacific Union Recorder. We did not send this to the Review, but the editor copied it in his paper with an editorial endorsement. It was, therefore, stamped with denominational sanction. But there were individuals who gave no support to the appeal, and allowed their influence to remain on the other side. The ten years that have intervened have verified the prediction made concerning the demoralizing effects that these low standards would bring about.
Workers who fail to protest are in essential conformity—drifting with the current. If by word or action we preach smooth things, we are indulging in a very flabby kind of preaching. Such preachers are poor examples of the ancient prophets, or of the Master who lashed the money-changers from the holy temple and cried out against sin. If such preaching and discipline were needed then, it is most certainly needed now.
I am especially alarmed at the drift toward worldly amusements in portions of our own Pacific Union, but it should fill our hearts with concern that so many people of prominence seem to condone the sports and amusements I have mentioned. Is it not a fact that the "line of demarcation" between the Seventh-day Adventist Church and the world is fast becoming obliterated? Has not the time fully come when the appeal of the Lord should sound in clear and certain tones, "Come out from among them, and be ye separate"? I plead that something definite be done to safeguard our work from the danger besetting it from commercial sports and worldly amusements. Our drift worldward calls for more than passing resolutions.
*Presented at Pacific Union session.