How did we get into this ‘fine mess,' and how do we get out?

Unsplash/Jordan Beltran
Unsplash/Jordan Beltran

“This is a fine mess you’ve gotten us into this time,” said Ollie Hardy to Stan Laurel every time the hilarious 1920s movie duo got snared in some impossible entanglement.

Many today are wondering about the “fine mess” we humans have gotten ourselves into “this time.”

Not long ago, on a late-night drive from Dallas to Houston, my wife and I encountered a sudden “fine mess.” The interstate highway we were traveling on was littered with dead and dying deer. An entire herd had tried to cross that roaring road.

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The tangle of bodies, body parts, and blood was a mess beyond description. And so now our national, international and local mess is likewise indescribable.

How did we get into this chaos?

For one thing, a kind of drunkenness has seized us. The Apostle John writes of the “Pharmacia”— the intoxicating addictions of the Babylonian world system that keep us from thinking reasonably — or thinking at all.

I believe it happened as we uncritically took in — and continue to — the propaganda of the age. That brew has dulled our capacity to critique and lured us to mindless acceptance of the new mythologies contrived by the consensus establishment: the elites of entertainment, information, academia, governance and corporations.

Sam Leith, a British commentator on society and culture, may not agree that our problems are spiritual, but he does think that modern economies “are built on addiction,” and that they “seek to “exploit bad behavior.”1

How did get into this “fine mess”? Perhaps the history of Old Testament Israel shows the route.

There is a historic pattern of stages in ancient Israel, seen in the books of Joshua and Judges. In the Ratification era, the influential groups that form cultural consensus agreed that the Lord who has revealed Himself to Moses and the prophets is the Lord of their nation and its society.

Then a new generation arises that rejects those old values, and the society slides into a Relapse (of memory) period when the consensus shapers and people at large forget God and the worldview of the previous generation.

This sparks an age of Rebellion when the contemporary generation willfully casts off and turns away from the old values.

The Refiner’s Fire period soon envelops the society when the people and their institutions experience the consequences of the Rebellion stage.

But there is hope because now comes a season of Remembrance, when thinking people within the society begin to wonder what went wrong ... what was lost ...  what has to be recovered.

Prophets rise in this era, and are renounced and marginalized, but not before a remnant of society embraces and acts upon their declarations.

Then comes an era of Repentance when many in that remnant portion of the culture turn away from Rebellion and seek a new consensus based on revelation, and thus lead the society back into the original Ratification stage.

This describes America and much of the West in this age. The “consensus establishment” has often led the assault on the old worldview and its values.

The answer to this “fine mess” is awkward for many on the “flat road” of a culture that has lost the meaning and sense of God’s transcendence. The “flatness” has come about as people forgot the vertical. When we do that, all we have left is the flat world of existentialism and immanence.

Yet the hunger for another world is in us because we were made for the Kingdom of God. When we deny that, we start trying to create new worlds. In the present moment, that new world is virtual, in the form of the Metaverse, which, according to one tech executive may already be beyond restraint 2:

“That’s because virtual reality plunges people into an all-encompassing digital environment where unwanted touches in the digital world can be made to feel real and the sensory experience is heightened,” says the report3.

Last year a Meta chief technology officer told his team that moderating or restraining how people use the metaverse is “practically impossible" at any scale4.

So, as we ask how we got into this “fine mess” it’s even more important to ask how we get out.

The full view of the transcendent and the immanent is expressed by God through Isaiah:

“For thus says the high and exalted One, Who lives forever, Whose Name is holy, ‘I dwell on a high and holy place, and also with the contrite and lowly in spirit in order to revive the spirit of the lowly and to revive the heart of the contrite ...” (Isaiah 57:15).

The way out of this “fine mess” is to get a clear vision of Who God is and who we are before Him, and walk in that reality, which is definitely not “virtual.” For many, it will be like C.S. Lewis in his conversion — dragged in “kicking and screaming”.

But come we must, because on the present route we will be like the deer on the interstate — not a “fine mess” but an abhorrent mess of carnage, the wreckage of entire nations, societies, cultures and civilizations.

[1] The Modern Economy is Built on Addiction - American Moment
[2] metaverse: Metaverse is unsafe for women already! Reports of groping, harassment rising in VR games, Telecom News, ET Telecom (
[3] The Metaverse's Dark Side: Here Come Harassment and Assaults (
[4] Content moderation in Metaverse is 'impossible': Andrew Bosworth (

Wallace Henley is a former White House and Congressional aide. He is now a teaching pastor at Grace Church, The Woodlands, Texas. Wallace is author of more than 20 books, including God and Churchill, and his newest, Who Will Rule the Coming 'gods: The Looming Spiritual Crisis of Artificial Intelligence

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