My father was born in January of 1907 and lived until October of 2001, almost a whole century. He once commented to me that he had witnessed so many changes as America transitioned into modernity. His childhood homes had no electricity, phones, or indoor plumbing. There were more horse drawn vehicles on the roads in Cleveland, where he spent the first decade of his life, than there were automobiles—despite the fact that “Cleveland turned out the most automobiles in America between 1896 and 1907” according to Derek Moore, curator of transportation history for the Crawford Auto and Aviation Museum at the Western Reserve Historical Society (https://www.sbnonline.com/article/automotive-history-cleveland-was-almost-the-motor-city/).
My father’s first car was a Ford Model T which was a far cry from his last car—a Buick Century. He saw aviation grow from an occasional plane in the sky to the common form of transportation it has become today, with planes crisscrossing the skies frequently in the day and night. Not to mention space travel and the first man landing on the moon. He remembers his childhood family gathering around an old and quite large radio to hear the news and listen to programs. Motion pictures, television, stereos all happened in his lifetime. Computers, the internet, and all that has quickly developed since, were beyond his comprehension. The reason he said all this to me was because it was almost more than he could fathom, and he was simply astounded at how quickly the world had changed in just his lifetime.
Now that I have lived seven decades, I see how things are constantly changing. Even when I have gone back to my small home town in Northeastern Ohio, nothing remains as I remember from my own childhood. A couple years ago, my brother and I had lunch in what used to be the feed mill, where we went to buy grain for our cattle. Now it is a very nice coffee and sandwich shop. For my brother who spent a lot more time at the feed mill than I ever did, this was an intriguing experience.
“ ...nothing remains as I remember from my own childhood. ”
When I was born in 1951, Harry Truman was President. There have been 13 Presidents since. Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip had been married only three years. The first Super Bowl was more than a decade away, but the Cleveland Browns beat the LA Rams, 24-17 for the NFL title that year. In 1952, the Browns began using Hiram College as their summer home to prepare for their next season. Hiram College is just under four miles from my childhood home. My oldest two sisters served as waitresses for the team those first couple of summers. The Browns’ presence at Hiram College, a regular occurrence until 1974, was a big treat for our small community. “The summer peace of Hiram village was enlivened with the excitement of northeastern Ohio's professional football team living and practicing on the Hiram campus. Visitors drove from all over Ohio to attend the free practice sessions and get treasured Browns players' autographs” (https://ohiomemory.org/digital/collection/p267401coll36/id/4463/).
That decade I was born in, 1950-1960, also set a record for population growth in the U.S.—a 28 million increase—due to the post-World War II baby boom. The next record-breaking decade would occur between 1990 and 2000 with an increase of 32.7 million people (https://www.census.gov/prod/2001pubs/c2kbr01-2.pdf).
The 1950’s was also the decade “churches and schools were being greatly expanded to accommodate the growing population, and organized religion was in its heyday. On a typical Sunday morning in the period from 1955-58, almost half of all Americans were attending church – the highest percentage in U.S. history. During the 1950s, nationwide church membership grew at a faster rate than the population, from 57 percent of the U.S. population in 1950 to 63.3 percent in 1960” (https://news.usc.edu/25835/The-1950s-Powerful-Years-for-Religion/#:~:text=On%20a%20typical%20Sunday%20morning%20in%20the%20period%20from%201955,to%2063.3%20percent%20in%201960).
A number of memorable and disturbing events unfolded in the 60’s. The assassination of President Kennedy, and four years later, Martin Luther King, Jr. Racial unrest and urban riots marked this period. The war in Viet Nam also began during this decade, using the draft to summon troops to fight. Many families sent off their young men; 58,220 never came home again (https://www.archives.gov/research/military/vietnam-war/casualty-statistics). Then in 1968, Robert Kennedy was assassinated while campaigning for President in California. I still recall awakening to that news on the radio on a June morning.
“ On a typical Sunday morning in the period from 1955-58, almost half of all Americans were attending church – the highest percentage in U.S. history. ”
During the 70’s, the Viet Nam war continued as did a growing number of war protesters, which triggered altercations with police and national guardsmen on college campuses. The historic Kent State University shootings on May 4, 1970, when guardsmen shot and killed four students and wounded nine more, happened 28 miles from my home (https://www.history.com/topics/vietnam-war/kent-state-shooting). Some of my high school classmates watched horrified from their dorm rooms. I well remember the presence of armed guardsmen on my campus at the University of Kentucky.
The early 70’s disillusioned many of my college peers. We witnessed the Watergate scandal, which added to the sense of distrust in our government. And although desegregation and racial equality laws were in effect, it was difficult to enforce them as racial hatred still ran strong in many places. But all the protesting of the 60’s also inspired a new movement of “equality” for women. In 1973, the Supreme Court’s decision of Roe v. Wade made abortion legal in all 50 states, and empowered women to seek their fortunes independently of men, marriage, and child bearing. Many of the previous protestors had carried over their message of “free love”—which loosely translated into sex without boundaries and relationships without commitments.
“ In 1973, the Supreme Court’s decision of Roe v. Wade made abortion legal in all 50 states, and empowered women to seek their fortunes independently of men, marriage, and child bearing. ”
I experienced many life changes in the 70’s. I graduated from college, moved to New York City to begin my career, married, and gave birth to my two oldest children. So much was happening so fast, that I sometimes lost track of what was going on in the rest of the world. But I was aware that mass communication was rapidly changing. My husband worked in a technical industry where he was trained to operate room-size computers, sending messages internationally, mostly for news media and foreign diplomats. His office served the United Nations and was located there.
Then came the 80’s when much smaller home and office computers were introduced, and the big ones that he was familiar with became obsolete. The companies that produced the new computers began swallowing up the ones that had produced the old. It was a difficult time to work in that industry, unless you had been educated for the new technology. Because it was so new, not many had.
For a brief period, he also found work in a new concept involving the large base computers, called voice messaging. Corporations jumped right on board. It was a wondrous thing to be able to store your phone messages and then listen to them and get back to the caller later. What a concept, saving valuable time from missed calls and phone tag. But it was not long before this technology evolved to the point of not needing a large computer base to store the messages, and voicemail became commonplace for everyone, not only corporate offices.
“ By the end of the 90’s, about 37 million pre-born babies had been aborted in the United States since 1973 ”
We had just bought our first house in Queens, and the New York computer industry was in so much turmoil that workers like my husband were not finding work. We decided to move to the mid-west. During the 80’s we moved seven times and lived in five different states, finally settling in East Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania in 1989. Also, during this decade, we had five more children. Needless to say, it was a very stressful decade for us, although our children brought us much joy and handled all the changes resiliently.
Then came the 90’s, a decade that bore stark witness to all the moral upheaval from prior years. The right of women to abort their unborn children for any reason, even in the second trimester, in most states. The highest number of abortions recorded in any year in the U.S. was 1990, with 1,608,600 in that year alone. By the end of the 90’s, about 37 million pre-born babies had been aborted in the United States since 1973 (http://nrlc.org/uploads/factsheets/FS01AbortionintheUS.pdf).
By 1990, teenaged mothers accounted for half of the women giving birth; however, that number has been dropping ever since. By 2000, a third of the women giving birth were unmarried. That number continues to rise. Now nearly half of the women becoming birth mothers are unmarried (https://www.statista.com/statistics/276025/us-percentage-of-births-to-unmarried-women/). The divorce rate also declined throughout the 90’s. “By 1999, the rate was 4.1 divorces for every 1,000 Americans with 1,145,245 divorces that year.” But the reason for the decline wasn’t because marriages were lasting longer. Rather, as TIME Magazine reported, the “older generations continue to get divorced, but the decline is due to the smaller amount of millennials getting married” (https://www.insider.com/divorce-rate-changes-over-time-2019-1#since-the-turn-of-the-21st-century-the-divorce-rate-continues-to-decline-rapidly-13). Even I became a single mother in the 90’s. Indeed, marriages and families continue trending with distinct differences from what they were 50 years ago.
“ We read the papers and listened to the news to find out who among us would not be coming home. ”
The turn of the century was curious. We were warned to prepare for it. Many believed and did. Yet it passed without incident. One would think we would learn that our media often perpetuates fear in its reporting of current events. That we would trust, rather, in a redeeming, caring, and faithful God.
But not far into the new century, we experienced unprecedented terrorism on September 11, 2001. Each of us remembers where we were that day, and how it affected us. I was at work, my younger children were all in school. We lived only 70 miles from Manhattan, and many of our neighbors commuted there on a daily basis. I recall driving back to our town that evening after work. The Park and Ride was still full of cars because no one was allowed to leave the city. There was little traffic on the streets, eerily reminding me of a ghost town. When I arrived home, my older children already had witnessed the concern of their classmates, whose parents worked in Manhattan; some had been called to the office to receive news on their whereabouts. We read the papers and listened to the news to find out who among us would not be coming home. We saw the cars that didn’t get reclaimed till weeks after 9/11 at the Park and Ride. We knew their owners wouldn’t need them anymore.
Life did go back to a new normal. Parents bought cell phones for children and security increased in public places, even in schools where it became far more common for shootings to occur. Two decades into this century, rumors of war and actual unrest continue. In 2018, “suicide was the tenth leading cause of death in the U.S… It was the second leading cause of death among individuals between 10 and 34…. There were more than two and half times as many suicides as there were homicides” (https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/statistics/suicide.shtml).
“ Church attendance and religious affiliation is the lowest it has ever been in our country. ”
Meanwhile, church attendance and religious affiliation is the lowest it has ever been in our country, and has dropped significantly since the turn of the century. “In 2020, [only] 47% of U.S. adults belonged to a church, synagogue or mosque.” This decrease is attributed to the “rise in Americans with no religious preference” (https://news.gallup.com/poll/341963/church-membership-falls-below-majority-first-time.aspx). Based on those findings, it is evident that even many who call themselves Christians are not members of any organized churches. According to Pew Research Center and its surveys from 2018 and 2019, two-thirds of Americans identify as Christians, although this number is also on a downward spiral (https://www.pewforum.org/2019/10/17/in-u-s-decline-of-christianity-continues-at-rapid-pace/).
Human nature, however, remains the same. What Dickens wrote in the beginning paragraph of A Tale of Two Cities, could be said of this or any era: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way.”
In Genesis 11, the story is told of men discovering how to make bricks, uniting to build a city with a tall tower, just to “make a name” for themselves. But God confounded the project by confusing their language and the people scattered all over the earth. Today, we have succeeded in building many towers, and we have learned so much more. Often, just as in Babel, pride is the sole motivation. Sometimes we stand united, sometimes the prideful are hungry for power and divisions erupt and scatter us. Still, we are able to call out to a God who is building His own kingdom, Who quietly calls to us amid the worldly din, “Follow me.”
“ We can be certain that this is our time, for here we are. Right here. Right now. ”
As for you and me, “Who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:14). We know. We can be certain that this is our time, for here we are. Right here. Right now. God alone specifies the perimeters for each of our lives. Time began and time will end. Eternity will be a new concept altogether. One that’s incomprehensible in our finite world, and to our present minds. Then, God’s kingdom will prevail, majestic and full of glory.And I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb. And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb. By its light will the nations walk, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it, and its gates will never be shut by day—and there will be no night there. They will bring into it the glory and the honor of the nations. But nothing unclean will ever enter it, nor anyone who does what is detestable or false, but only those who are written in the Lamb's book of life. –Revelation 21:22-27
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