After France lost the battle of Rossbach in 1757, the mistress of Louis XV, Madame de Pompadour, attempted to comfort the King by saying, “Après nous, le deluge.”
“After us, the deluge.”
[Or, if Louis XV said it himself, as some contend, it would be “Après moi, le deluge.”]
The idea was that it mattered little what had happened. After all, it could flood tomorrow and all will be gone. So eat, drink and be merry. An alternate reading of the phrase is even more telling. “After this, the flood will come.”
Either reading would make the observation prescient.
Louis XV is widely credited for the severe weakening – internally and externally – of France. And then, fifteen years after his death, the devastation of the French Revolution broke out.
Like many, I have been stunned by the rapidly changing moral landscape; the floodgates that have opened through our culture’s recent moral freefall from earlier understandings of right and wrong, particularly of a sexual nature. And not even of right and wrong, but the obliteration of even the most basic of sexual constraints.
This is more than the legalization of gay marriage or the onslaught of “call me Cait.” Consider those symptoms of a much larger, and more deeply rooted, disease.
Consider the influential statements by outspoken celebrities such as Kristen Stewart, Miley Cyrus and Cara Delevingne. For example, Stewart, when asked about her sexuality in an interview said:
“I think in three or four years, there are going to be a whole lot more people who don’t think it’s necessary to figure out if you’re gay or straight. It’s like, just do your thing.”
And from Miley Cyrus:
“[I don’t] relate to being boy or girl, and I don’t have to have my partner relate to boy or girl.”
And they are not alone.
For example, a recent U.K. study revealed that nearly half of all young people don’t think they are exclusively heterosexual. The YouGov survey revealed that 49% of people between the ages of 18 and 24 identified as something other than 100% heterosexual. This despite the repeated findings that only about 4% of the entire adult population are actually homosexual.
What is being revealed is an increasing “sexual fluidity” that refuses either the homosexual or heterosexual label. The idea is that both labels are repressive. Sexuality should be set free of any and all restrictions and allowed to follow its desire, moment by moment.
This isn’t a slippery slope. It’s something more substantive, more …
I cannot help but think of the telling phrase cited not once, not twice, but three times in Paul’s opening manifesto to the church at Rome. In speaking of, and to, the depravity of humanity, Paul’s prophetic words thundered:
“Therefore God gave them over” (Romans 1:24, NIV).
“Because of this, God gave them over” (Romans 1:26, NIV).
“… since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over …” (Romans 1:28, NIV).
Three times the idea was reiterated: God gave them over.
And to what did God give them over to?
It was the same in each instance:
“… [to] the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another” (Romans 1:24, NIV).
“… to shameful lusts” (Romans 1:26, NIV).
“… to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done” (Romans 1:28, NIV).
In other words, God turned them over to their sin, letting their choice for sin run its natural course as an act of judgment.
Many look at the cultural landscape of the West and either call for, or fear, God’s judgment. But what would the nature of such judgment be? Perhaps it will be nothing more, but nothing less, than being given over to our own choices.
As C.S. Lewis once observed, in the end, there will only be two verdicts: Men and women who said to God, “Thy will be done.” Or men and women hearing from that same God, “Thy will be done.”
“Après nous, le deluge.”
Perhaps that is the greatest judgment of all.
James Emery White
“Nearly half of young people don’t think they are heterosexual,” by Helena Horton, The Telegraph, August 17, 2015, read online.
“Kristen Stewart, Miley Cyrus and the Rise of Sexual Fluidity,” by Eric Sasson, The Wall Street Journal, August 17, 2015, read online.
James Emery White is the founding and senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, NC, and the ranked adjunctive professor of theology and culture at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, which he also served as their fourth president. His latest book, The Rise of the Nones: Understanding and Reaching the Religiously Unaffiliated, is available on Amazon. To enjoy a free subscription to the Church and Culture blog, visit churchandculture.org, where you can view past blogs in our archive and read the latest church and culture news from around the world. Follow Dr. White on twitter @JamesEmeryWhite.