Spirituality for Today – January 2014 – Volume 18, Issue 6

Once in America

Rev. Raymond Petrucci

Several black and white photos of childeren taken in the 1950s

Maybe it is a part of aging and maybe it simply is true. I refer the oft spoken line, "I am glad that I was born when I was." Count me among that number. Those whose awareness of childhood began in the 1950s or earlier remember a very different America. Although suffering many grievous social ills, it was a culture that claimed Judeo-Christian values as its own. The feel of life was positive and energetic; a life of accomplishment and satisfaction was there to be grasped. Churches, schools, and government agencies were institutions that were revered and trusted. There were neighborhoods within which people knew each other and interacted caringly. Dads were at work and moms were at home when children returned from school. This reality was not everywhere, but it was the norm and it was good. No one noticed the storm clouds on the horizon.

By the second half of the decade of the 1960s, questions and doubts about the stability and probity of those institutions that formed the foundation blocks of society created a cultural earthquake. Trying to find their way, the young were sucked into a vortex of unrest, confusion, and aimlessness. Narcissism and hedonism filled the void. Not all, by any means, but too many lost their faith and their dreams. Don McLean's song, American Pie, became the anthem of a lamented past. Ever since then, the past understanding of the spirit of America has been struggling to root itself in its people. One finds it difficult to remain upright when standing on shaky ground.

The past 40 years have been a time of vaulting libertarianism; we need a communitarian corrective. Which seems quite impossible at this moment. There are those, like the German historian Oswald Spengler, who believe that civilizations decay and die, that democracy ultimately lapses into plutocracy. They certainly seem to have momentum on their side these days. But, hey, this is America – and as a counterargument, let me present Dean Price, one of the four main characters Packer follows. [Reference: The Unwinding by George Packer] A son of the North Carolina Piedmont, Price is your classic small-business man, He goes through marriages, churches, businesses in a way that a non-American can hardly imagine. He is knocked down, gets up, starts experimenting with biofuels, wins a federal grant, gets knocked down again. At book's end, Price is trying to repurpose frying oil as a fuel for school buses. He might even succeed this time. We have been a nation of Dean Prices – and Henry Fords and Wright brothers. Our best hope is that, beneath our dissolution, we still are.

Joe Klein, TIME, June 17, 2013

What could be needed to counteract the decay and decline of America might well be an evangelical entrepreneurship akin to the inventive personality that has marked the American spirit throughout its existence. The creativeness of clergy and laity directed toward the purpose of faith-renewal in our society needs to be supported, guided, and sustained by the Church leadership of today. One can feel the groundswell of this action happening this day, this year. Let it thrive!

The 21ST Century has been filled to this point with serious challenges for the Faith and its people. The People of God, the Church must be ignited with the fire of that Holy Spirit that has travelled through the centuries with it. In other words, this generation of believers must become happy that they were born when they were.