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Where Have We Been? And What's Next?
Looking at society, can we say we have made a great deal of progress over the past number of decades?

From time to time it benefits us to contemplate where we have been, as well as where we are going, as a society and as individuals.

… our culture still reflected the Christian consensus of our forbearers and founders.

As much as we would like to think that all forward movement is progress, this is not necessarily the case. It all depends on the goal we have in mind.

We hear a lot from our political leaders about how "progressive" our nation is, but what are we progressing toward? If we measure progress only in terms of the economy, material prosperity, our social welfare system, educational opportunities, international peacekeeping efforts, transportation systems, etc., we may think we have something to boast about. But are these things truly significant measure of progress?

My mind goes back to a simpler epoch in history and to the closing lines of a memorable radio broadcast by His Majesty King George VI on Christmas Day in 1939. Britain and most of Europe were already deeply engaged in the Second World War. The future looked uncertain—even precarious. Listen to what he said:

" … I feel that we may all find a message of encouragement in the lines which, in my closing words, I would like to say to you: 'I said to the man who stood at the Gate of the Year, Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown. And he replied, Go out into the darkness and put your hand into the hand of God. That shall be to you better than light and safer than a known way.' "

None of us back then thought of the King's words as being untoward. No one raised the issue of separation of Church and State. It was the most natural thing in the world that a leader should call upon God for help. In a word, our culture still reflected the Christian consensus of our forbearers and founders.

Is it mere coincidence that back then we rarely locked our front doors or our cars, or even the front doors of our churches? That kids could walk a mile to school alone, even in our cities, without any fear? That practically the only places that boasted burglar alarms were banks and jewellery stores? That chastity before marriage was the norm, divorce was largely confined to Hollywood and high society and broken homes were few? Shoplifting was rare, muggings more so. Home invasions and road rage were unknown. The annual homicide rates, even in our cities, seldom went into double digits. I could go on and on.

Society was not perfect back then, of course. Inborn selfishness was still alive. People were still people, and people fail. There were still thieves, burglars, pimps, con men, etc. There was still graft in the political realm and fraud in business. And, of course, there were still wars. But by and large we were more law abiding. Most everyone believed that after death we would face a final tribunal before a Higher Power. As a result, conscience, that internal "policeman" in each one of us, left less work for the cop on the beat. We trusted one another more. Often times a handshake was enough to seal a deal. So what about our "progress?"

We have taken great strides forward in the material and physical realms. We live longer, more comfortably, but often not more happily. Why? Because we have forgotten that "man shall not live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God." We resent God's moral laws, break them with impunity, then wonder why the result is emptiness.

Blaise Pascal, the eminent French Physicist and Philosopher [1623-1662], said it well: "There is a God-shaped vacuum in the heart of every man which cannot be filled by any created thing, but only by God, the Creator, made known through Jesus." If you do not know Jesus as your Saviour and Lord, may you seek Him and find Him in 2006. That will be progress indeed.

Bert Warden is a freelance writer and retired Christian & Missionary Alliance pastor. He is a member of Sevenoaks Alliance Church. E-mail: blwarden@shaw.ca

Originally published in Abbotsford/Mission Times, January 13, 2006.

 

 
 
 
 

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