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From Decency to Decadence

Pornography in children’s books at school. Hormone therapy and surgery to change boys into girls and girls into boys. Drag queen shows at libraries and colleges. Kids identifying as dogs and cats. How could a country once called a “Christian nation” reach this point of moral insanity?

This change didn’t happen overnight. Government laws didn't cause it. It occurred gradually during the last one hundred years because people chose it.

  • The “Roaring Twenties” was a time of sin and revelry. Americans wanted to party. We had just survived World War I and the Spanish flu and people felt like they deserved some fun. In his book Only Yesterday Frederick Allen said the most noticeable sign of change in this decade was the way women began to dress. He cited of all things a New York Times article from July, 1920 which said, “The American woman…has lifted her skirts far beyond any modest limitation.” He also quoted the President of the University of Florida who said, “The low-cut gowns, the rolled hose and short skirts are born of the devil and his angels, and are carrying the present and future generations to chaos and destruction.” But modesty was only one issue. Drinking, cursing, and sexual sin gained public approval and became more common than we might think.

  • The majority did not approve of the 20s lifestyle. In 1930 The Hays Code for movies was created. It laid down specific rules for films. For instance, it said that “The sanctity of the institution of marriage and the home shall be upheld. Pictures shall not infer that low forms of sex relationship are the accepted or common thing.” The code also said that “Indecent or undue exposure is forbidden” as was “obscenity in word, gesture, reference, song, joke, or by suggestion.” But the devil did not quit. In 1939 the first curse word was used in a major motion picture.

  • In the 1940s we won World War II but we lost ground at home as the family suffered the moral and social effects of war again. That conflict brought death, cheating on spouses, divorce, and children often being raised by someone other than parents as women increasingly worked outside the home. Baby Boomers began to be born in 1946. The first of the perverse Kinsey reports on human sexuality appeared in 1948. The future was being set and it was not bright.

  • The 1950s is often described as a decade of progress and high religious interest, but the cultural bomb really exploded in the 1960s and we have never recovered. The first Boomers grew up with a different set of values than their parents. When they reached adulthood in the 1960s, they threw a fit, rebelling against all authority and expecting to have their way. Sex, drugs, disrespect, and laziness became common among young people. The cover of TIME magazine in April, 1966 read “Is God Dead?” and the Hays Code for movie makers was dropped in 1968.

  • The 1970s followed with a sexual revolution and increased degradation. Abortion became legal in 1973. That same year an article in the Yale Law Journal argued that the proposed Equal Rights Amendment implied that homosexual marriages should also be legalized if the reasoning of the bill was correct. It observed the “evolving attitudes toward marriage in our society.” Few took the article as prophetic. But that was forty years before 2015.

  • The divorce rate peaked in 1980 and so did the purchase of pornography as Americans began to spend billions on lurid magazines, videocassettes and cable television which poured this sewage into homes during a decade when a different culture began to emerge.

  • The morals of the country declined further when the internet became popular in the 1990s. Americans found quick and easy access to the worst as well as the best materials available. This was also the decade when the explicit details of a President’s affair were aired before the world on television and radio. There were no longer any rules about decency. Homosexual groups also gained a lot of ground politically.

  • The morals of this country continued to vanish after 9/11 in 2001. Then the point that seemed at the time like the lowest we could possibly sink came in 2015 when the U. S. Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage.

  • But that was before moral insanity rose to prominence in 2020. Now people don’t know who they are or what they are or who or what made them if anything did.

But this has happened before. Read Leviticus 18-20 and Romans 1:18-32. There is truly nothing new (Ecc. 1:9). The gospel is still God’s power to save (Rom. 1:16). It can still change cultures and lives (I Cor. 6:9-11). Let us take courage and hold the Bible until our last breath.


West End church of Christ Bulletin article for November 6, 2022.


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