There is rightly much lamenting these days about the decline of American culture and Western civilization. Victor Davis Hanson writes about it almost every week.
There are many reasons for the social, moral, and economic weaknesses we are experiencing. But they all come back to one major root cause:
Turning away from the God of love.
What the world needs now is love, God’s love.
What the World Needs Now
During the the 1960s and 70s, a previous era of cultural decline in America, Doug Burleigh, a good friend and mentor, produced a powerful “slide tape” on the American nation.
(I know some of you are stuck on the words “slide-tape” This was state-of-the-art multi-media a generation ago using cassette tape audio and slides in a round tray to project a message. We took a slide tape presentation around the world in 1980, sharing about the Washington for Jesus story in fifteen nations and numerous cities.)
Doug’s inspiring slide tape contained the 1965 song “What the World Needs Now Is Love” written by Hal David and Burt Bacharach. Jackie DeShannon first popularized the song in 1965. Dionne Warwick knocked it out of the park in a 1966 rendition.
You might want to take a moment and enjoy the memory.
In Doug’s slide-tape, this beautiful song plays in the background while noises of riots, and the assassinations of MLK and Bobby Kennedy shatter the beautiful backdrop leading to a feeling of despair.
Doug ends the powerful message with a call to fill the world with love–not hate.
We live in a similar (and arguably) worse time period today which includes:
- Callously killing millions of babies through abortion.
- Racial animosity stoked by woke politicians and their media allies.
- An open border creating chaos, sex trafficking, and flooding the nation with drugs.
- Failing schools, cities, and families.
- The growth of lawlessness and disorder through permissive DA’s and policies.
- Sexual and gender confusion leading to a loss of identity and hope.
- Even a hate-filled mass murder at a Christian school by a psychotic former student.
Our fallen world has always needed love–a renewal of the life of God who is love (1 John 4:8). In some eras, we need it more than others due to the inertia of sin.
A recent Wall Street Journal poll, conducted by NORC at the University of Chicago, finds that many things that Americans used to “love” or support has dropped roughly twenty points in the past two decades.
The Covid debacle made it worse.
Whereas most Americans used to see hard work as a important, that number is now down to 67%–especially among young people. Only 38% see patriotism as valuable. When it comes to faith in God and having children, the numbers crater to 39% and 30%.
Also, only 25% of Americans in 2023 think community involvement is important in our society. That’s a radical change in twenty-five years.
Most Americans used to appreciate hard work, love their country, respect God, cherish the idea of marriage and family, and enjoy serving others in their neighborhoods, towns and cities.
That love is now receding in our culture.
Katrina Trinko, Editor-in-Chief of the Daily Signal, believes the destructive Covid mandates speeded up the decline:
Wide swings [in changing values] occurred between 1998 and 2019. In those 21 years, America experienced a recession, increasing social liberalism, the horrors of 9/11, and the advent of smartphones, among other things.
Yet in three and a half years, the latest poll indicates, America seemed to change more drastically than it did in the prior 21 years.
What happened in 2020, 2021, and 2022 was immense. Government-mandated shutdowns of schools and private businesses and forced mask-wearing. Closed churches, even for Christianity’s holiest day, Easter. Warnings about all gatherings—until racism was considered a greater threat than COVID-19 in the aftermath of George Floyd’s death. Crime escalating. Government-funded checks going to people who stopped working during the pandemic. Black Lives Matter-inspired riots, and then a riot at the Capitol (to be followed by different standards of justice for the Americans involved). Parents mad at school boards compared to terrorists by the Justice Department.
Was the pandemic a blip? This poll suggests that the pandemic (and our response to it) wasn’t just a one-time matter, but a trajectory-altering event for our country.
And not in a good way.
Trinko explains the importance of valuing work and community:
Hard work has long undergirded the American dream. Community involvement, too, has been one of our most unique and fruitful characteristics. In his classic “Democracy in America,” 19th-century French philosopher and historian Alexis de Tocqueville wrote:
“Americans of all ages, all conditions, all minds constantly unite. Not only do they have commercial and industrial associations in which all take part, but they also have a thousand other kinds: religious, moral, grave, futile, very general and very particular, immense and very small; Americans use associations to celebrate [holidays], to found seminaries, to build inns, to raise churches, to distribute books, to send missionaries to the antipodes; in this manner they create hospitals, prisons, schools.”
Tocqueville saw this as a key trait of America, and one crucial to maintaining civilization. He wrote:
“If men who live in democratic countries had neither the right nor the taste to unite in political goals, their independence would run great risks, but they could preserve their wealth and their enlightenment for a long time; whereas if they did not acquire the practice of associating with each other in ordinary life, civilization itself would be in peril. A people among whom particular persons lost the power of doing great things in isolation, without acquiring the ability to produce them in common, would soon return to barbarism.”
Does “doing things in isolation” remind you of the growth of narcissism in our culture that is strongly aided by our addiction to cell phones?
The root of all these changes springs from pushing the loving God to the periphery of American society. As we’ve turned away from both respecting God (law and order) and loving God (devotion and charity), commitment to work, Church, family, faith, and community dries up.
Turning away from the God of love in America’s greatest sin. In his farewell address, President George Washington described religion and morality as “indispensable supports” for “political prosperity.” Religion is his day was faith in the God of the Bible which led to a love for right living. Our first president warned us, that “Reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.”
Trinko ends her sobering article with this warning:
But as we struggle to figure out how to win our fellow Americans back to belief in the importance of religion, patriotism, hard work, and community involvement, let’s keep this in mind: What worked in 2019 probably will fall on deaf ears today. It’s a brave new America—and that’s a chilling reality we shouldn’t forget.
America needs to return to the God who is of love (I John 4:8). When we love him, we will love everything else important in this life because he changes us to love as he loves. As Doug Burleigh wrote: Jesus Changes Everything.
A week from now, on Good Friday, we will celebrate the greatest sacrificial love of all time when we commemorate the death of Jesus on the cross to pay for our sins.
Let’s repent, fall in love with him again, and fill our world with a “a thousand points of love.”
That’s the revival we need.