This week we will take a look at what happened to cause the nation’s foundation principles start to fail. ‘Why the decline?’ How did our ‘ship of state’ find itself in such dangerous ‘shoal waters’ and its ‘nav crew’ seem almost helpless in coming up with an ‘extrication course’? It was our core institutions that upheld the foundations that produced the ways of life that we came to enjoy and have pride in. Why, though, are those values, morals, and political behaviors changing so dramatically now? Our institutions are dissipating so rapidly and dramatically that we are losing the ability to sustain the greatness that once characterized America. In order for society to remain stable and developing, its institutions must be trusted. It would seem that our trust has shifted from institutions to individuals…from “them” to “me”.
The transition began in the 1950’s. A small percentage of the population, primarily young adults, began to question rules and authority and to cut corners, changing traditions, customs, and even morals ever so slightly. Cultural change is a war that is won or lost after millions of tiny, sometimes imperceptible battles have been fought to a conclusion. By the time anti-war rallies of the mid-sixties took flight, young people around the country were being regularly accosted with alternative philosophies. University professors and drug enthusiasts argued that young adults should never trust anyone over thirty. Feminists pecked away at male-female relationships, marriage, modesty, sexuality, vocational rights, and more. The civil rights movement highlighted the bigotry and injustice that resided in the hearts and lifestyles of millions. Protestants belittled Catholics, with the presidential nomination of John Kennedy. Last time I checked, protestants and Catholics are both Christians. Churches were denigrated for being out of touch, while new religious perspectives and practices were borrowed from pop culture and Eastern mysticism. Battles over same-sex marriage were birthed during the same era, with the ‘gay liberation movement’ paving the way for LGBTQ community victories in the early twenty-first century. The meaning of life was redefined with ‘infant murder’ called ‘choice’ or ‘women’s health’, thus making it more acceptable. What were some of these ‘little battles’ that worked to diminish trust in our venerable institutions?
> Family was in a shambles. Cohabitation, communal living, serial marriage, no-fault divorce, sexual liberation, ‘open’ marriages, birth outside wedlock, civil ceremonies…all of these new approaches began their march toward being adopted as normative.
> The stature of the presidency was diminished by disgraceful events…’Watergate’, Carter’s well-intentioned but four disastrous years of incompetent leadership, a president who questioned the meaning of ‘IS’ while disgracing the Oval Office, and a Supreme Court that was lambasted by Conservatives for allowing abortion and eliminating school prayer. Congress began its spiral of not responding to much of anything.
> Christians began to question all manner of religious tradition and purpose. The emergence of the ‘Jesus’ movement led to further questioning of the institutional church, upsetting the sense of ritual and stability that had for so long been a feature of organized Christianity.
> Business owners and businesses were derided as capitalists, traditionalists, tax avoiders, and greedy.
> Banks were accused of being institutions of corporate greed, racism, and manipulation, exploiting the poor through discriminatory practices.
> People employed in the police or military were deemed warmongers, violent, unjust, and heavy-handed.
Everything that had been held dear and sacred regarding the world’s greatest modern civilization had been attacked and ravaged during the past half century. The greatest carnage was the tarnished trust and confidence that people had in institutions that had made the nation great. It was as if Pandora’s box had been opened. Luke 11 describes what happens when an evil spirit leaves and the person who has been freed from that bondage does nothing to reclaim the spirit’s former territory and prevent its return. The evil spirit returns with a team of other spirits more vicious and riled up than ever. The result is an even worse catastrophe. But has too much damage already been done? Has the ‘bad course’ that put this ‘ship of state’ in ‘shoal waters’ driven us to the point that there is no turnaround? Just how bad is it? We will look at that next time.
– Bob Munsey
P.S. – “It is easier to preach ten sermons, than to live one”