Thursday, June 6, 2019

Things Are Different Today, But What Changed?

Once upon a time, things weren’t like they are today. In some respects, that’s very good. When I was growing up, polio hadn’t been eradicated. And the open-heart surgery I underwent more than 12 years ago probably hadn’t even been envisioned. TVs had only three channels; to select you had to manually change with a dial on the set – no remotes back then. “Late night TV” after midnight was a test pattern.

Telephones had handsets cradled on bases. Many of us shared “party lines” (which had nothing to do with festive events). The notion of phones to take with you in the car seemed like science-fiction.

Air conditioning was a luxury most people didn’t have. Front porches were popular – it was too hot to stay indoors. And people flocked to a new restaurant called “McDonald’s” to buy hamburgers, French fries and milkshakes without having to wait for five minutes. But believe it or not, dinosaurs weren’t still living.

The list could go on and on, but without question things were very different back then. As a whole, western society had made many strides. But not all have been good.

Take, for example, our schools. When I was in elementary school (we called it “grammar school”), we started each day with the Pledge of Allegiance, a brief reading of a Bible passage (usually from the Psalms), and a recitation of the Lord’s Prayer. Today this happens only in parochial and private schools. 

I even recall participating in a classroom discussion with our teacher about God, but don’t remember anyone suffering emotional distress. I doubt that exchange left psychological scars on anyone.

In the mid-1960s, however, our U.S. Supreme Court deemed it necessary to evict such things as Bible reading and prayer from public schools, reasoning those were violations of the so-called separation of church and state. Freedom of religion was redefined to mean “freedom from religion” by the Left-leaning judiciary.

Although it wasn’t a one-for-one exchange, the most besetting problems in classrooms of the ‘60s – running in hallways, chewing gum, and throwing harmless paper spitballs – have been replaced by violence in many forms, drug use and abuse, and often chaotic environments where students, not teachers, seem in control.

This academic anarchy has advanced to the highest levels of education, again very unlike what I experienced at a public university during the late 1960s and early ‘70s. Yes, there was campus unrest, but all-out rebellion remained decades in the future.

Gun violence in schoolhouses or college campuses were virtually unheard of in the days when mentioning God wasn’t deemed illegal or counter-cultural. Things were far from perfect, without question, but evil seemed to be held at bay.

I don’t need to recite a litany of societal woes, but the breakdown of traditional family structures and the advent of an “anything goes” perspective on life seem at the heart of these problems. Many centuries ago the Scriptures addressed such circumstances for those times as well as ours today. 

Proverbs 29:18 asserts, Where there is no [prophetic] revelation, people cast off restraint (run wild); but blessed is the one who heeds wisdom's instruction.” I generally prefer more modern translations that express the Scriptures in contemporary language, but I’ve always liked how the King James Version states it: “Where there is no vision, the people perish.”

It seems that beginning with the 1960s, our nation systematically turned its back on the foundational values and principles that helped to establish the most prosperous society in the history of the world. We clung to the material prosperity and strived to expand it, but snubbed the God who enabled our country to flourish. We became like the people described twice in the Old Testament book of Judges: “In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes” (Judges 17:6, 21:25).

God wasn’t “forced” from our schools and the public square. But when we as a people made it clear He was no longer welcomed there, He graciously withdrew. Now perhaps the Lord is asking, “So, how’s that working out for you?”

This is why the promise of 2 Chronicles 7:14 is crucial for our future, maybe more than ever: “if My people, who are called by My name, will humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”

Are we willing to do this? We wring our hands, bemoaning the many evils and ills that afflict our homes, our communities, our nation and our world. It’s time to humble ourselves, pray, seek the Lord, and reject our rebellious, sinful ways. Maybe it’s not too late.

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