Despite jeremiads decrying the moral decline of America, I remain both optimistic and hopeful about the health of our society.
In the 20th century, Americans made very significant progress toward realizing our ideal of equality of all persons under the law.
In 1920, the 19th amendment to the U.S. Constitution gave women the right to vote. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s moral leadership of the civil rights movement in the 1960s led to the enactment of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
Racism and sexism still infect our culture, but today one rarely hears these attitudes expressed publically, or to an approving audience.
To appreciate the progress toward a just society we have made during the last five decades, we need only to see one of the fine films that testify to our history—the biographical film “42” revealed conditions when Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in previously segregated professional sports.
“The Butler” and “The Help” each gave us pictures of what life was like for African-Americans prior to the civil rights movement.
“Mississippi Burning” portrayed the violence that attended the early days of that movement, and “To Kill a Mockingbird” showed how justice was seemingly unattainable in our courts when racial intolerance was the norm in areas of our nation.
I attended a Christian college in the South during my undergraduate years, a school where African-Americans were not allowed to enroll and were not welcome at the worship services at the church that served the college.
I thought that to be un-Christian then, as I do now, but a few years ago my wife and I returned to that campus for a Homecoming reunion of her class.
We saw many African-Americans on campus, performing in a musical comedy production, playing on the football team and cheerleading.
That represents social progress that accords with the Christian view of human rights and dignity, and I thank God for that.
In many other areas we have a tradition of freedom that we must not take for granted.
The right to free speech, freedom of the press from government censorship, freedom to worship according to our faith and freedom from unjust imprisonment form the foundation for the health of our society.
Awareness of other cultures’ limitations, which can be obtained most surely by living in one of them for an extended period, can stimulate fresh appreciation for the way our society deals with its citizens.
In many cultures, bribery and corruption are accepted ways of doing business.
Some cultures still demand arranged marriages, many have severe restrictions on the rights of women and many have politically and religiously biased justice systems.
I am proud of America and the progress we have made toward social justice.
I applaud that women can now become CEOs of major corporations, that African-Americans can aspire to high political office and that cultural diversity can be welcomed as enriching our society.
How should we remember America daily? I suggest by praying for our nation’s continuing progress toward its ideals. Pray for President Obama, for our congressmen, our governor and our mayor; become aware of and pray for the needs of other nations; and give thanks to God for the rights and freedoms available to us in our nation.