A number of economic observers believe San Francisco is caught in a “doom loop.”
Doom loops start with a triggering event often tied to a major industry, such as when manufacturing jobs began evaporating in Detroit during the 1970s. Naturally, tax income shrinks, services do too, businesses close, and social disorder rises. This causes residents to leave, commuters and shoppers to bail, and the cycle spirals downward.
Which is precisely what’s happening in San Francisco.
John Chachas, who owns one of the city’s most well-known department stores — Gumps — paid for ad space in a print edition of San Francisco’s Chronicle to run an open letter decrying the state and moral decay of the city’s downtown. In her article applauding Chachas’ editorial, Erica Sandberg’s way of summing up San Francisco’s problem really caught my eye.
The city has a “let people do whatever they want problem,” she said.
So, I have a question: if people are allowed to do whatever they want in San Francisco, why don’t they want to do good things instead of bad? Why isn’t the city a blessed and happy utopia instead of a dark and mangled dystopia?
The Babylon Bee answers this amusingly in one of their satire pieces saying, “A newly released report has revealed that people are following their hearts at record levels, with remarkably disastrous results. 'People are just being true to themselves! Why is everything so terrible?' said lead researcher Tim Scottsdale. 'It's almost like there is some innate depravity in the heart of man. It's very surprising.'”
Except, of course, that it’s not surprising. Well, at least not to those of us with a Christian worldview.
That’s not to say non-Christians haven’t noticed the problem. The 18th-century philosopher Jean Jacques Rousseau diagnosed the issue by saying that we’re all born as “innocent savages” but we get corrupted by society.
A prickly fact escaping Rousseau was that societies are composed of people who are supposedly born innocent.
Others turn a blind eye to the problem like psychologists Abraham Maslow, who said, “As far as I know we just don't have any intrinsic instincts for evil” and Carl Rogers who stated, “I do not find that … evil is inherent in human nature.”
Oh, but it is. R. C. Sproul says, “If each one of us is born without a sinful nature, how do we account for the universality of sin? If four billion people were born with no inclination to sin, with no corruption to their nature, we would reasonably expect that at least some of them would refrain from falling ... But if everybody does it, without exception, then we begin to wonder why.”
Theologian Francis Schaeffer labeled our problem “man’s dilemma,” writing, “Man is able both to rise to great heights and to sink to great depths of cruelty and tragedy.” Schaeffer asked what hope we have, in and of ourselves, that we will get any better, especially since the 20th century was the bloodiest in human history.
Well, here we are in the 21st century where our current culture has never preached more about tolerance and morality, and yet it shows less acceptance, kindness, and moral respect towards others than in the past. Novelist Franz Kafka described our present situation long ago when he said, “The state we find ourselves in is sinful, quite independent of guilt.”
The Bible describes that as having a conscience, which is “seared” (1 Tim 4:2).
And when you have people with seared consciences running around doing whatever they want with no objective moral law constraining them, as in San Francisco, you experience what philosopher L. D. Rue called “the madhouse option,” which results in complete chaos and societal breakdown. The other choice in a secular-only culture, said Rue, is the totalitarian option.
And we’ve seen how well it plays out.
That plan delivers a horrifyingly brutal culture, which gets worse and worse. As C. S. Lewis said: “The more cruel you are, the more you will hate; and the more you hate, the more cruel you will become — and so on in a vicious circle forever.”
Sounds like a different kind of doom loop, doesn’t it?
Of course, there is another possibility other than the madhouse or totalitarian options — listen to what the Bible says about our brokenness and heed its plan on how to fix it.
In the Psalms, David writes, “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin my mother conceived me” (Ps. 51:5), with Jeremiah concurring: “The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick; who can understand it” (Jer. 17:9). This being the case we are “by nature children of wrath” (Eph. 2:3) and “dead in trespasses and sins” (Eph. 2:1) going “estranged from the womb” (Ps. 58:3).
John Wesley said about our condition: “Such is the freedom of the will; free only to evil; free to drink iniquity like water; to wander farther and farther from the living God and do more despite the Spirit of grace!”
Any honest observer of history would have to concur with Wesley. Maybe this is why Reinhold Niebuhr once remarked, “The doctrine of original sin is the only empirically verifiable doctrine of the Christian faith.”
It’s the one that’s constantly in our face with no way of denying it.
The biblical antidote for it will cure both San Francisco’s doom loop and each one of us: “Be saved from this perverse generation” (Acts 2:40). That’s strong, life-changing medicine, which has proven effective 100% of the time, but few on the Left coast and other places like it seem willing to down the remedy.
Without it, there’s only one conclusion: “An end is coming; the end has come! It has awakened against you; behold, it has come! Your doom has come to you” (Ezek. 7:6-7).
Robin Schumacher is an accomplished software executive and Christian apologist who has written many articles, authored and contributed to several Christian books, appeared on nationally syndicated radio programs, and presented at apologetic events. He holds a BS in Business, Master's in Christian apologetics and a Ph.D. in New Testament. His latest book is, A Confident Faith: Winning people to Christ with the apologetics of the Apostle Paul.