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History Repeats Itself—Do We Learn?

When did this country start to go downhill? We usually point to the 1960s because everything seemed to fall apart. But the seeds of moral disaster were sown a generation before that period. It was the boom and bust period of the “Roaring Twenties.”

Only Yesterday by Frederick Lewis Allen chronicles the shift that occurred in that decade. Chapter five is particularly insightful. It is entitled “The Revolution in Manners and Morals.” The author is very direct about what changed. First of all, he said that dancing between males and females became more and more indecent in this age. “No longer did even an inch of space separate the people who were dancing.” He said they danced “as if glued together, body to body, cheek to cheek.”

Then he said “the most conspicuous sign” of what was taking place was “the immense change in women's dress and appearance. Women began to put more and more emphasis on outward beauty and less attention was given to inward grace.” Dresses became shorter and necklines were lowered. Those changes were nothing compared to what people wear today, but at the time they were shocking.

Drinking became more common and more popular among women as well as men even in the age of prohibition.

Young people became wild and rebellious and the automobile was soon labeled a “bedroom on wheels” as dating became more promiscuous.

The writer concluded, “Times had changed.”

Do we not see the same moral slide thousands of years ago in the Bible? “And also all that generation were gathered unto their fathers: and there arose another generation after them, which knew not the Lord, nor yet the works which he had done for Israel. And the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the Lord, and served Baalim: And they forsook the Lord God of their fathers, which brought them out of the land of Egypt, and followed other gods, of the gods of the people that were round about them, and bowed themselves unto them, and provoked the Lord to anger” (Jud. 2:10-12). There is nothing new under the sun (Ecc. 1:9).

Nations as well as individuals reap what they sow. Israel paid for their sins when they lost their freedom as foreign countries made them servants. The roaring twenties in America were followed by the Great Depression of the thirties. That decade of woe was also one of spiritual interest. Many people were baptized in the 1930s. Many powerful sermons were preached and many great articles and books were written. The moral disaster in one decade led to revival in the next, but not without much pain and loss.

Maybe it is time we consider this old truth again so we will not act surprised when payday comes.


West End church of Christ, June 30, 2024


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