Why are people attracted to ruin? (A beautifully decaying world)

In the beginning, God created a perfect universe, the beautiful stars, and a habitation for His people, humans. Earth was perfect. Rivers were sparkling and drinkable. Trees and flowers were lush and abundant. And Adam and Eve were His triumph, people with whom to have fellowship with Him. I can't imagine how beautiful it all was, but I know He is going to restore it. (Revelation 21:1; Ezekiel 47:1-12).

When Eve and then Adam sinned, God cursed the earth. (Genesis 3). Thorns sprung up. Animals turned to carnivores. Sweat and blood and labor and toil became the characteristics of man's life.

Despite the present despoiling of the earth after all these thousands of years, it is still beautiful in many places. Like this-

Photograph by Ireena Worthy on Flickr

Photograph by Mario Neumann (scuba.hamburg on Flickr)

Photograph by Nick Lippert (via Komo News)

There are many more beautiful photographs here: Top 100 photographs of the year 2012

I've said over an over that this present time, and every day thereafter, draws humankind closer to the moment when there will be a final dividing line. The middle ground that the Lord has graciously allowed is disappearing day by day. After Revelation 13 when humankind is forced to choose between the beast or the Lord (Rev 13:16-17), the final destinies will be set. Every day we go forward in time is another day that widens the gap between believer and unbeliever. it all is drawing down to that.

And each day we go forward widens the gap between believers and unbelievers. Every day, more apostates are unmasked. Every day more and more false prophets and preachers infiltrate pulpits. Every day more thousands fall for satan. It widens, until the earth is a battleground of them versus Jesus. (Revelation 16:14-16).
"It's a bizarre, post-apocalyptic landscape that captures a traumatic moment in time."Therefore the curse is proceeding apace, also. Amid the beauty of those scenes above, and many, many more, we have scenes of ruin.

Strange Geographies: The Mojave Desert's Airplane Graveyard

Submerged ghost town comes up for air
In this May 7, 2013 photo, birds fly over the village of Epecuen, Argentina. Epecuen village was once home to 1,500 residents before it started flooding on November 10, 1985. After heavy rains the lake Epecuen burst its banks. It only took 20 days for the town to submerge beneath almost 10 metres (30 feet) of water forcing everybody to leave. As the years passed slowly the water started to recede. Nowadays the town that was never rebuilt, and was famous for therapeutic salty waters that surrounded it, is once again becoming a tourist destination but for the ruins that have been left. (AP Photo/Natacha Pisarenko)

Tank graveyard on Afghanistan
Photo: Ilya Varlamov

I thought these next two photos were eerily similar. Pompeii was the Roman-era vacation seaside resort town of about 20,000 people, that was covered in ash in 79AD when Mt. Vesuvius erupted, obliterating the town in ash in just a few days. Before the curse, volcanoes didn't erupt. After the curse, earth became our enemy. The town was submerged under ash for 1500 years, and re-emerged after it was re-discovered in 1748. Excavations have been ongoing ever since. Today, Pompeii is a huge tourist draw with 2.5 million visitors arriving each year to view the ruins.

The photo below that is of the Argentine lake resort town of Epecuen, formerly home to about 20,000 people that was suddenly submerged with water when the lake overflowed its banks in a violent rainstorm. Within days the town was obliterated.

"It's a bizarre, post-apocalyptic landscape that captures a traumatic moment in time."

"I came to see the end of the world!"

Why do people travel 6 hours to the town of Epecuen from Buenos Aires to view ruins? What attracts people to the post-apocalyptic visions? The NY Times examined the whys and wherefores of what it is about ruin and blight that attracts tourists. Detroit is the UN capital of ruin porn, a visual genre that not only photographers and artists explore, but tourists to also, coming to the city specifically to stare at ruined buildings. People are simply fascinated by it, as they demonstrate by driving to Epecuen over rough country roads. The NY Times article states,

"Meditation on ruin is a long and noble tradition. In Renaissance Italy, antiquarians like Leon Battista Alberti and Poggio Bracciolini began to promote the study and preservation of Roman ruins, which, to that point, had been unsystematically pushed aside as the city expanded. According to Alberti’s biographer, Anthony Grafton, they also “made fun of those who became too depressed” about the ruins, like poor, oversensitive Cyriac of Ancona, who “seemed to mourn the fall of Rome with excessive emotion.” "

We think nothing of viewing the Colosseum in Rome, a ruin, but ponder the whys of people driving to Detroit to look at falling down buildings. Perhaps the ancient has more mystique, and thus pondering the ruins of today is just plain morbid? A Paris family flew to Detroit to see the ruins of the once-beautiful Packard Plant, and when asked what appealed to them about Detroit, "One of them gleefully exclaimed, “I came to see the end of the world!”

In this article titled the Psychology of Ruin Porn, ruin photographer Matthew Christopher said, "I'd like the viewer to step back just a bit and to see the horror story that's implicit in the image," he says. "These pictures document physical conditions that are the direct consequences of failed economies."

I agree with his assessment but would edit it to a biblical stance. When people are drawn to modern ruin, either in images or to places, it is to personally interpret not just the physical conditions that are the direct consequence of failed economies, but to document physical conditions that are the direct result of sin and the curse.

See, all people respond to the creation. All. People.

"For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse." (Romans 1:19-20)

Romans 1:18 says tough that people deliberately suppress the truth. The feel it. They know it. They suppress it. Yet their fascination with it peeks out in trips to ruins, to ponder the explosiveness of a long-dormant volcano, a once-placid lake becoming a killer, weapons of ear dying in the desert. The earth is blighted by disease,war, and cataclysms, and we cannot help but ponder the power of it all. The fascination with ruin, pure and simple, is people pondering their eternity, thinking they have escaped such a ruin themselves. But they have not.

The same is true for people who travel far and wide to view the beauty of the earth. They are responding to God's eternity set within their hearts.

The Lord has dominion over all. As we see in this verse from Ezekiel 21:27, it is prophesied of Israel--

"A ruin, ruin, ruin I will make it. This also shall not be, until he comes, the one to whom judgment belongs, and I will give it to him."

Yet the Lord's dominion extends also to the church and the whole world. Wesley's notes explains, "Shall be no more - Never recover its former glory, 'till the scepter be quite taken away from Judah, and way be made for the Messiah. He hath an incontestable right to the dominion both in the church and in the world. And in due time he shall have the possession of it, all adverse power being overturned."

Ultimately, all earth will be a ruin before the Lord renews it. That is why we do not cling to the cities of today, nor do we exult in their passing, for that means the unsaved people within them are passing into eternity of hell. The writer of Hebrews said, "For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come." (Hebrews 13:14)

Other essays on this topic:

Things Fall Apart

Ruin porn


  1. Thank you, Elizabeth. I think you have really nicely summed up why people are attracted to decay, and beauty.
    I have been wondering about the Millennium. The earth (not to mention made made things) is already damaged in so many ways. It seems that during the Tribulation this will only get worse. Some think it might involve nuclear war, or accidents. So prior to the new Heaven and Earth, during the Millennium, how will the earth still be a nice place to live? Will the Lord repair it at the start of that time do you think? I think of Genesis 18:14 "Is anything too hard for the Lord?" and think if He decided to grow trees, create animals, and build cities in no time, I would not be surprised.

    1. Hi Kevin. Your question is a good one. I haven't found anything specifically that says how the Lord will renew the earth. I think he begins the renewal process during the Tribulation and finishes it by the time He sits down to reign. There are a few clues that it occurs this way, and that it occursbe at the outset of the Millennium Kingdom reign.

      One clue is that Ezekiel 39 shows the Israelites engaged in a process where they are cleaning up after the Gog Magog war during the Tribulation. The process involves something that in our day for all the world looks like hazmat cleanup after nuclear or biological war. Men specifically trained for the task will almost literally comb the earth, looking for bones and fragments. When they find a body or part of a body, they flag it for special cleanup and burial will be in a special cemetery. (Valley of Hamon Gog Ezekiel 39:15).

      We also know that the carrion birds eat the bodies of the dead after Armageddon. I've looked at the number of birds that will be available for the task, here http://the-end-time.blogspot.com/2012/03/bird-watching-in-israel-and-great.html

      and the speed with which they accomplish the task, here.

      I do not know what happens to the billions of dead around the world that are racked up during the Tribulation pestilences and wars, but it seems likely that the huge quake that happens at the end may swallow them. And also the dead on every island will be sunk below the sea, anyway. So it seems the dead bodies may be taken care of that way.

      Also, the Tribulation itself re-forms the geography of the earth, islands flee away, rivers dried up (Euphrates and Nile) and mountains are flattened etc. The Tribulation itself re-shapes the earth. In Ezekiel 47 we read that the Lord raises up mountains and literally moves Jerusalem, and makes a new river that flows to the Med Sea to the west and to the Dead Sea on the other side. There are trees that will be lining the river, so trees and grass will have grown back, and the river is full of fish, so the sea life has obviously returned after the Tribulation.
      You can read more about the Millennial River and its environs here http://www.middletownbiblechurch.org/proph/river.htm

      As we enter the Millennium Kingdom, there are no sinners. There is the body of Christ, glorified after the rapture, and mortal believers with a sin nature but declared righteous. Infants won't die and long lives are returned, as per Isaiah 65:20. There will be no war, (not until the very end of the 1000 years) and satan is locked away. Animals are tame. If I were to speculate, always a dangerous thing, it is my guess that the absence of sin for most of the millennium means that things rebound quickly from the outset.

      Here is the main reason I believe that the earth is somehow renewed quickly after the Tribulation ends. Matthew 19:28 NIV says "Jesus said to them, "Truly I tell you, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel." The KJV says "regeneration). So it seems the earth is renewed at the outset of the Millennium.

      In my opinion, either through God directly or through rapid growth due to a low sin count, the earth is renewed at the beginning of the Millennium, a process begun in actuality at the Tribulation and seems to be completed by the time the Lord sits on His throne at the temple and the Millennial River :)

      Does that make biblical sense to you? What do you think?

    2. Thank you, Elizabeth. That makes perfect sense! I think that is a very important point you make that this will be a period of renewal, and massive change in the created order, likely in a very short time frame. I often think how blessed we are to live today. It is easy to forget just what a different world it was prior to Jesus being here on earth. And at this point in the church age we are even more blessed with Bibles, abundant teaching, medical care etc etc. Yet, the people who live during the Millennium will no doubt look back on now as a rather dark period in history and (rightly) see themselves as very blessed indeed! Of course the Bible tells us that even on a renewed earth with Jesus ruling there will be a rebellion at the end, but presumably many will realize how blessed they are.


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