I’ve lived through a lot of history in my time on this earth. I’ve also seen significant societal changes take place as well. I suspect that in some ways our country would seem somewhat strange and different to somebody coming back from the 1930s, 1940s, and even the 1950s. Think of the Michael J. Fox movie “Back to the Future” or Rip Van Winkle. Many of these societal changes had their roots in those decades. Some of these changes are either good or troubling, depending on your perspective.
I’m giving you the major changes (including changes in attitudes, behaviors, new threats and technology) that have been transforming this country over the last 70 years. I’m doing this for at least four reasons:
First of all, I find these things interesting and I hope you will too. At the end of this series I even list the technological changes my grandmother witnessed in her 102 years.
Second, I want you to have an appreciation of the significance of the changes that have taken place in the last 70 years. If you are under 40, you may not realize how much we as a society have changed. If you are over 40, you’ll recognize most of these changes because you’ve lived through them.
Third I want to provide an historical context for where we are today as a society and a culture, as well as strive to understand today’s attitudes. I’ll do that by listing what I believe are the driving factors behind these changes. You may disagree with some of these, but at least hopefully you’ll see how much our society has evolved over the years and appreciate the magnitude of these changes. Knowing this will help you with the third purpose.
Fourth, I want to give you possible action items. By “action items” I mean that I want to make you aware of these changes over time so that you can either consciously embrace them and actively promote them, or go against the tide if you aren’t happy with some of them. Just because society is moving in a certain direction doesn’t mean you, your family, or your children have to go along with it if you disagree with certain trends.
Below are the changes I’m aware of over the past 70 or so years in no particular order. While I provide some commentary and opinions on each item, I ask that you be the judge of whether these are good or not so good trends, and then act accordingly.
More civil rights for minorities and some lessening of racism and sexism
Note I said “some lessening” because we aren’t where we as a society should be, but we’ve made progress. I remember watching the Civil Rights struggle on TV and seeing peaceful American citizens being knocked down by powerful fire hoses and being terrified by police dogs. Unfortunately we still have classism and sexism, although women have made good progress. Women are participating more fully in the workplace, and some are even CEOs and generals in the military. In churches we have women clergy and women bishops. There’s still the “glass ceiling” in business, and sadly, sexism is strong in the military, with rapes, harassment, and cover-ups. Over 50% of college and seminary students are female.
The early feminist movement was focused on opening up long overdue opportunities for women, but there are some today who engage in man bashing (what is the female equivalent of misogynistic?) Moreover, Political Correctness tries to control what you say so that you don’t “offend” women. For example, in seminary and in public discourse I’m discouraged from using the masculine pronoun for God. PC also dictates that you shouldn’t use certain words such as “girl” or even “lady”. I’ve heard speeches and read articles that denigrate men to raise up women. Those who do that should realize women don’t need to put down men to raise themselves – they can do just fine without resorting to such tactics.
Cheapening of human life by widespread abortion
We’ve seen something that was illegal become a “constitutional right” in 1973. Sadly, I believe readily available abortions cheapens human life, especially late-term abortions in which a fully-formed baby’s life is terminated. Can euthanasia be far behind?
Normalization and acceptance of behaviors hitherto considered immoral or socially unacceptable
Homosexual behavior is the key example of something that was considered a “perversion” but is now so accepted that we have same-sex “marriage” now legal in a number of states. Depending on your viewpoint, this is either enlightened progress and long overdue, or further evidence of the decline of western society.
Entertainment has become more provocative (Miley Cyrus, twerking), and both sex and violence are more graphic and more frequent in movies, TV, and games. Profanity is more widespread, even during the so-called “family hour” on TV. Back in the 1950s and 1960s, TV generally portrayed positive values and showed men and women as good role models. If there was any sex in a movie, it was discreet (the camera either faded or panned away). You knew what was happening but it wasn’t in your face like it is today. I know what it looks like, and I really don’t need to see it every time I go to the movies.
Decline of the Family
While opinions may differ regarding same-sex marriage, few would disagree that heterosexual marriage has its problems. I’ve seen divorce go from a rare occurrence (except for Hollywood types) to something close to a 50% rate. This is disturbing because the nuclear family is the basic building block of society, plus divorce adversely impacts children and women (financially and psychologically). I blame this increase in divorce on three things:
(1) No-fault divorce, which has made it easy to break up a marriage;
(2) Irresponsible fathers (and increasingly mothers), who care more about themselves than they do their spouse and children;
(3) Bad attitude on the part of people getting married in that they have little or no sense of commitment and feel that “if it doesn’t work out, we can always get a divorce.”
More on societal changes in a future post