Dose of Truth

Changing directions

Tim Richards

Harvard political scientist Robert D. Putnam and Harvard graduate Shaylyn Romeny Garrett wrote a fascinating book released on Oct. 13, 2020, entitled, “The Upswing: How America Came Together a Century Ago and How We Can Do It Again.” Dr. Jim Denison’s Daily Article for Dec. 16, 2020, observed the book takes a perceptive look at overall societal trends during the last 125 years.

First, their research chronicled six decades in America from the mid-1890s where progress was made… “toward greater economic equality, more cooperation in the public square, a stronger social fabric, and a growing culture of solidarity.” The authors concluded America consistently moved in a positive and mutually beneficial direction because, “over the first six decades of the 20th century Americans had become – perhaps more than ever before – demonstrably – indeed measurably – a more ‘we’ society.”

However, according to their research, after these six decades of general progress, America’s upward trend ground to a halt in the mid-1960s and reversed direction. Based on a wide variety of measurements, since that time America has experienced; “declining economic equality, a deterioration of compromise in the public square, a fraying social fabric, and a descent into cultural narcissism.”

Those of us who grew up in the 1960s remember that decade as a time when culture shifted abruptly from the shared values of the past to a philosophy suggesting, “if it feels good do it.” That focus was a major change from the morals and commonly shared values of previous generations. Denison observed; “the authors note that our earlier culture of solidarity was inspired and fueled by ministers and theologians who critiqued the ‘social sins’ of the age and called on people and institutions to change…”

I do not suggest every American value prior to 1960 was moral or right, it was not. The rampant racism of that time was as wrong then as it is today. However, most Americans shared a general respect for what scripture defined as right and wrong, even if they did not always choose to live by it.

The idea that we would sacrifice for others, especially for those with values different from our own, sounds strange today, but that concept is taught in scripture. The Apostle Paul encouraged believers in Philippi to live selfless lives when he wrote, “Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.” (Philippians 2:3-4, NLT)

At first glance, the concept of “…thinking of others as better than yourselves” appears hopelessly out of date, however, upon closer examination it is fundamental if society is going to repair itself. Sadly, when we focus primarily on ourselves and what we want, society becomes increasingly unstable. Only when we realize that we rise or fall together can we begin repairing the cracks in contemporary society that are becoming increasingly dangerous and self-destructive.

Tim Richards

has been a pastor for 37 years, serving five churches, including his current church, The Refuge in St. Louis, which he founded. He and the congregation minister to those who are hurting and do their part to expand God’s kingdom. Tim and his wife Kelly have five children. “A Dose of Truth” which he has written for more than 25 years appears in 13 newspapers. His book, “Thriving in the Storm: Discovering God’s Peace and Perspective in Turbulent Times,” is available from Amazon. Feel free to contact him at iamtimrichards@yahoo.com. Photography is another of his skills. Pastor Tim photos may be viewed at https://flickr.com/photos/pentaxpastor.

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