To anyone not in the know Brisbane is called ‘Bris-Vegas’ by southern states for various reasons. Some suggest it might be an ironic term since Brisbane is a far smaller capital city than others in Australia and more like a country town. That may have been true 40 years ago, but we have grown up since then. Others have suggested it stuck after we installed a casino in the historical Treasury Building in the city, yet others because of the reputation of the neighbouring Gold Coast for crime and fast living. I have never heard anyone from Brisbane refer to us as such and it is only a recent moniker. Frankly, it never made much sense to me and whoever coined it was probably drunk at the time.
The reason I chose this title, apart from its catchy post-modern connection to the novel by Hunter S. Thomson (irony alert), was because of what the Spirit of This Age is producing in our fair city. Like the novel, which I have never read by the way, I was chasing a dream and at the same time recognising that the world is not what I thought it was.
There was no drug-induced haze involved in my own coming-to-terms with my own generation’s failure to make a difference. What I have seen, clearly and without prejudice, has been that the world around me is becoming a maelstrom of immorality, insanity, harsh attitudes, and a marked lack of the kindness of strangers which used to occur as a matter of course when I was a child. As a mature woman, what I see frightens me, yet as I cling ever more tightly to my God and my faith in Him. I know He will provide protection and guidance as I seek His wisdom to face an uncertain future.
Over the last ten years in particular I have come to the conclusion that it is indeed a spirit which is producing the changes we are seeing. There are of course a number of different spirits affecting the world. Every man is accountable for his own actions, and I don’t believe we are being brain-washed or controlled irresistably by some outside force which compels us – other than the force of the law of sin and death of course. But the changes which are happening are very specific, and they have been documented by many others on the internet. What I wanted to do was give it the benefit of my own perspective which is perhaps unique to some degree.
Since I really only have my own neighbourhood to gauge real-time changes I figured I should stick to what I know. Of course I can compare it to what the Google monster knows, but even he doesn’t tell me everything. I can also compare the changes in Brisbane to those I have seen in places like New Zealand, my husband’s country, and in other states in Australia. Overall, I think, there has been a shift, seismic in proportions, but slow to move like a creeping flow of magma, bubbling and steaming and grinding down everything in it’s path.
So what is the Spirit of The Age?
I believe it to be the Spirit of Lawlessness which of course has its genesis and seat of power in the purposes of Satan himself. ( 2 Thessalonians 2:7 and 1 John 3:4). There is no ‘spirit of the age’ mentioned specifically in Scripture either by Jesus, Paul or any of the prophets. The closest we can get to this is in 1 Corinthians 2:6: “However, we speak wisdom among those who are mature, yet not the wisdom of this age, nor of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing”.
It is a phrase which, according to Wikipedia (not a reliable source but it will do for the purposes of this post), is taken from the German word ‘zeitgeist’ or time spirit, and has been attributed to the philosopher Hegel, from whom we get the very interesting ‘Hegelian Dialect’ theory of politics and social reform. Hegel was a contemporary of Karl Marx but apparently did not actually use the term ‘Spirit of the Age’, he used the words ‘de Geist seiner Zeit’ or the spirit of his time. He is echoing other philosophers such as Voltaire and Thomas Carlyle.
In Christian terms, the phrase became popular when in the 80s the Christian singer Michael Card wrote a song entitled ‘Spirit of the Age’ in a song about abortion. Some of the lyrics read:
Now every age has heard it, the voice that speaks from Hell
“Sacrifice your children and for you it will be well”
The subtle serpent’s lying, His dark and ruthless rage
Behold, it is revealed to be the spirit of the age
The Spirit of the Age is most definitely an evil spirit. It is not the Holy Spirit, because scripture tells us that ‘The whole world lies under the sway of the evil one”. (1 John 5:19). And while some worldly philosophers may generalise and say that each ‘age’ has its own spirit or culture in which certain actions and thoughts are encouraged, in a global and also an eternal sense, all is overseen by Satan himself. God is over all and controls everything of course. But He has allowed Satan power over the air and power over men. The ‘Spirit of The Age’ is the embodiment of the effects of the machinations of the principalities and powers which have been unleashed before the final return of Jesus Christ the King. We are not in the tribulation, there will be no doubt as to what triggers that event, and no Antichrist has yet arisen, so we can be sure that we are simply in the labor pangs. We all want to know how long it will be, whether in our lifetime or not. Since I have been through three labours, I can tell you that it always takes longer than you think. I was always the last one left in the labor ward while everyone else had given birth. In my oldest child’s case, it took three days, in and out of hospital, before he finally arrived. So, I know what it’s like to be groaning in anticipation of the end.
Paul warned us that in the end times:
“……….perilous times will come: 2 For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, 3 unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, 4 traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, 5 having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away! 6 For of this sort are those who creep into households and make captives of gullible women loaded down with sins, led away by various lusts, 7 always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth. 8 Now as Jannes and Jambres resisted Moses, so do these also resist the truth: men of corrupt minds, disapproved concerning the faith; 9 but they will progress no further, for their folly will be manifest to all, as theirs also was.
2 Timothy 3 1-9 (NKJV)
I have only really recognised this spirit in the last few years. It may have something to do with turning 50, or it may be that times really have changed more rapidly in the last ten years or so. It may also have something to do with exiting a cult in which we were immersed for 15 years. 15 years is a long time to be asleep, and when you emerge from your slumber, Rip Van Winkle-wise, you realise that everything around you has changed. It is this wakening which gives the effect of seeing everything for the first time. The changes are more marked because of the time lapse. In one sense it gives you a unique perspective, but is that perspective true or is it a perspective warped by memory? Is it the clarity of vision which God gives to those who haven’t been embroiled in the pot slowly being killed by the steadily rising temperature or is it that we are outsiders now who will never truly see things the same way again? I think that we have recovered enough, and had our minds transformed enough, to realise that it isn’t just us. If you look on the internet, you will find many Christians from many countries and many walks of life who are all commenting on the rapid demise of our societal morals and standards and concepts of right and wrong.
I should point out that the quote from Timothy was talking about the church. If in the last days, and we are in the last days, things will get that bad in the kingdom of God how much worse will it be on the earth?
I wanted to cover a lot of ground with this discussion and so I thought I would break it up into different areas. The Spirit of The Age affects relationships, work, church and issues such as morality and worldliness. Christians have been just as badly affected by this as the unsaved, and while we can’t change the world, we can be aware of what it is that is stirring in the universe. It has been there since creation and it will continue until the end of the Age, but its activity is increasing and I believe if we take the time to look and ask God to open our eyes, we will be able to recognise its effects in our lives and pray for wisdom and discernment.
The Spirit of This Age affects everything we do and everywhere we go. You can’t drive down the freeway without encountering dangerous driving and hostile attitudes. When I first went for my licence at the age of 19, over 30 years ago, there were rules which everyone abided by. Things like the ‘give way’ rule for example. If there was an intersection and you didn’t have the right of way, you had to wait for oncoming traffic to clear before you either drove across the intersection or turned left or right. Nowadays I have noticed that driving down a main road is more like negotiating a synchronised driving team. People will wait until you are seconds away and then suddenly pull out in front of you and drive across the intersection. There will be nobody behind you, and all they needed to do was wait a few seconds for you to pass, but this is apparently too much to ask. The life-threatening nature of this kind of behaviour is breathtaking, and it isn’t just the young who are driving like this. I have seen more middle-aged and older-aged men driving huge 4WD vehicles taking these kinds of risks. And quite a number of women in the same types of cars. You would think they would be more careful rather than less, having passed the age of reckless abandon, but it is no longer the case.
The same thing applies in shopping centres or when walking down the street. People who, I am absolutely convinced, a few decades ago used to walk in such a way as to get out of other people’s path or at the very least be aware of other people’s presence and avoid bumping into each other now walk as though they were the only ones on the planet. They simply fix their eyes on the middle distance and walk expecting that everyone else will get out of their way. I have encountered very few people who walk around aware that they are one of many, and look up and try and avoid bumping into others. It is almost as though a simple walk through a shopping mall now becomes a dodgem car ride in which you must protect yourself and walk defensively.
I could go on about the rudeness of people out in public, or the complete lack of civility encountered from public servants or shop assistants. There seems to be a corresponding lack of general common sense in the population at large.
There is something else I have seen grow in intensity over the years, and that is the prevalence of something psychologists call narcissism. Some suggest that narcissism is a trait which we all possess to some degree, but I am talking about a set of characteristics which comprise an actual personality disorder called Narcissism, or in extreme cases Malignant Narcissism.
Narcissism is a disorder which causes the individual to act in very unpleasant ways. It is more than ordinary selfishness, there is something which even worldly psychologists have described as evil. In fact, this disorder has encouraged many in the mental health world to discuss the very nature of evil. There is a great deal of debate about the nature of Narcissism; whether it is genetic in origin or whether it is a result of abuse in childhood. The thing is, many people have been abused as children but not all of them become Narcissists.
Narcissism is described as having a grandiose image of self. Narcissists see themselves as special, beyond the lot of mere mortals. They create in their own minds a fantasy of themselves and then genuinely expect everyone else around them to act as though it was true. Narcissists are characterised as having no empathy for others and wanting all the attention of everyone they know all the time. But there is a great deal more to Narcissism than the clinical diagnosis. Narcissists have destroyed their own families and children and even continuing generations. They are destructive and sadistic and find great glee in being the centre of chaos which erupts around them. They happily watch as those closest to them fall into despair trying to deal with the pain of the trauma which the Narcissist has created, and are at their worst when everyone else is happy. To have to grow up around a person like this, or worse, to be raised by one as a parent is the most debilitating childhood anyone can have. These children become neurotic and panic-stricken adults who never develop into maturity and until the Narcissistic parent dies they are tied to their whims and needs for the rest of their lives. It is commonly held by victims and psychologists alike that Narcissists don’t change. The trouble is, in order to change they must first acknowledge their actions. Since a Narcissist thinks that they are perfect they can’t recognise their problem. Or worse, if they do go to a psychologist it will be to use the information they gain from the visit in order to cause further havoc in their interpersonal relationships. Of course a one-on-one visit with a therapist is the perfect way to talk legitimately about onseself at length.
If you read stories from victims or children of these people you will wonder if they are all talking about the same person. Narcissists vary in their style and presentation, some quieter and more subtle, others obnoxious loud and aggressive, but they all use the same tactics. Often they employ such behaviours as ‘gaslighting’ which uses all kinds of tactics to mess with the heads of others. They will cause the other person to think something is wrong with them when it is the Narcissist who is causing all the trouble and playing dumb. So good is the Narcissist at projecting the image of the caring saint that their victims will often have nervous breakdowns believing themselves to have real mental problems or even think they are going insane. These people are the closest I have ever seen to being demon possessed, yet there is no picture in Scripture of somebody being possessed and acting like this. Narcsissists are the most self-possessed and confident people I have ever known. They convince everyone else around them that they are the nicest and friendliest people around, yet if you know their language and behaviour, it doesn’t take much to be able to detect that they are not quite right. It is hard to describe, but if you have been raised in a home with a Narcissist, you will know what I am talking about. I have encountered many Narcissists, and in fact the man who ran the religious cult we were part of was a fully fledged Narcissist. He was probably closer to being a psychopath in fact, since there appears to be something of a sliding scale with this sort of behaviour. Psychopaths are generally considered to be capable of criminal activity such as mass murder etc. Yet studies have shown that there are psychopaths in the community who present as successful likeable people who act normally and seem perfectly sane.
The thing with these sorts of people is that they are not insane at all. They are perfectly in touch with reality in the sense that they can interact with others and say and do all the acceptable things. In their own minds, there is something else going on. They are special, extraordinary, and great. So everything that happens to them is construed with this in mind. In a Narcissists family, if a child is successful it is because the Narcissist has made it happen that way. If the child is unsuccessful the Narcissist makes it all about them and how the child’s actions affect them and their unblemished record as a great parent. The Narcissist will punish indiscriminately and disproportionately and arbitrarily. A man I knew in the religious cult spanked his very small child of less than 2 years for some minor indiscretion. My husband and I were in the living room and we heard him lay into the child. He didn’t just spank his child once or twice, he kept going. In fact, I can’t remember the number of times he hit him, and we were way beyond uncomfortable when he decided to stop. It could not have been construed as anything but excessive force, yet this father, a Narcissist, was so sure of his right to do what he wanted with his own child that he was not to be reasoned with. Not even his own wife would have been able to stop him. Narcissists often choose partners who are compliant and come from abusive backgrounds themselves and have low opinions of themselves as a result. These ones will be overawed that they were chosen for marriage by anyone let alone such a person as a Narcissist and will therefore be involved in a kind of cultish relationship before they even reach the point of having children. Once they are there however, little can be done to discuss the matter with them. There is a kind of mental trap which is sprung in which neither partner is able to see the damage that is being done.
I have come across a great many ‘christian’ narcissists and I remember having a conversation once on a blog on narcissisim in which I debated whether it was possible for a narcissist to even become a chrsitian. I say again what I said there, and that is that with God all things are possible. If God opens the Narcissist’s eyes and allows them to see the depths of their depravity, then of course they will be able to repent and be saved. However, in practicality, I have not seen any Narcissist ever admit to being wrong in any way whatsoever, and therefore the ability to repent of their sin becomes academic. It seems to me that whoever becomes enmeshed in this hideous character deformity enjoys being there and sees no need to change.
I have read articles in which Christians who have recognised the Narcissism trait then go on to describe it as being the spirit of Jezebel. I am wary of calling any spirit by a name, and there is really no biblical precedent for this other than a few incidents in the book of Daniel when titles such as the Prince of Persia are called into play. No actual names are used to describe demonic entities, and while I agree that there are principalities and powers at work, I don’t believe it is wise to become to sure of one’s footing when going into great detail describing demonic powers. The name Jezebel is mentioned in the Old Testament, and in Revelation but this name is used to describe a person whom God is angry with for their rebellious behaviour and use of witchcraft. There is a great deal too much made of the ‘spirit of Jezebel’ which is then used to refer to women in general. In one church I attended, the ‘prophet’ who preached at the church used to go on and on about the ‘Jezebel spirit’ which produced controlling and manipulative women. He claimed that unless every woman in the place had been delivered of a ‘spirit of Jezebel’ then they were under it’s power. Since control and manipulation are really the fruit of the flesh and can manifest in anyone, male and female, then it is really drawing a long bow to suggest that firstly women are the only ones who are affected and that every woman is therefore being influenced by an evil spirit. I have seen far too many controlling and manipulative men who were clearly narcissistic in nature using this ‘spirit of Jezebel’ to control the women around them. It is a common ploy in churches. What amazes me is the numbers of women who will flock to men of this type and sit in thrall as they speak about their fellow sisters with such ignorance and disprespect. They mouth the words of these so called ‘prophets’ and believe God has given them ‘words’ to confirm the nonsense which is preached. They truly are an example of the 2 Timothy verses above where men like this creep into households and make captives of gullible women. I am afraid I have been one of those gullible women at one time, but fortunately I grew up and out of the gullibility. I suspect that the misfortunes I have experienced were actually the means by which God helped me to change and become a tad wiser.
To be continued…