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Comparison of Value Systems (1960 - 1990)

Let’s take the year 1960 and compare the value system in that day with America’s social attitudes three decades later. On the other end, let’s designate 1990 as the second marker. What significant changes occurred during that 30-year period'

In 1960, everyone knew that a family meant a husband and wife with or without children. The law defined it a bit more broadly, as people related by blood, marriage, and adoption. Most children were cared for by their parents, and most politicians knew that any effort to strengthen the family was a good idea.

In 1990, politicians can’t even agree on what “traditional” families are or whether they are worthy of special assistance. Indeed, a major movement is underway to redefine “family” to mean any group of people which merely thinks of itself as family.

A sizable minority of children is supervised by professional caregivers, while some children, called “latchkey” kids, are left with no adult care at all during much of the day. Some opinion leaders point to broken homes, out-of-wedlock pregnancies, and homosexual “couples,” not as reasons for alarm, but rather as evidence of healthy family diversity and pluralism.

In 1960, there was a general consensus that religion was a positive influence in American life and that it should be encouraged. Our children routinely began the school day with a simple prayer or moment of silence. It was common at Christmas time to see a nativity scene near city hall. Public service ads on TV urged families to attend church together on Sunday. A billboard read, “The family that prays together, stays together.”

Today a militant secularism prevails. Any public display of religion, whether a prayer at a high school commencement or a cross on top of a firehouse, is immediately attacked by civil libertarian attorneys.

Recently several government officials in Washington, D.C., called on citizens to join in a day of prayer to ask God to lead the city out of its quagmire of drugs, crime, and suffering. They were immediately attacked by a local ACLU official who told the Washington Post, “It is always inappropriate for government officials to ask citizens to pray.”

Lincoln, Jefferson and Roosevelt, among others, would be surprised to hear such an absurd statement, but it is the accepted wisdom today. Our federal courts seem committed to an interpretation of the Constitution that increasingly narrows the ground upon which religious faith is permitted to tread.

In 1960, out-of-wedlock pregnancy was a matter of shame. When it happened, couples often did a quaint thing—they got married, so that the child would have a name and the influence of a father. Girls who “slept around” were often ostracized by their fellow students. A pregnant teenage was sent away to have the child rather than risk the censure of the community.

In 1990, one out of five babies born in America was conceived out of wedlock. In Washington, D.C., illegitimacy was an alarming 55 percent! In many schools, the virtuous girl was considered odd, and was subjected to the same scorn and ridicule once reserved for the “easy” date 30 years earlier. Surveys revealed that many of our sons and daughters were embarrassed to admit their virginity.

In 1960, a divorce was enough to end a politician’s career. Most couples stayed together for life. Now more than one million children are affected by divorce every year. Mates are traded in for newer models as if they were cars. For each of the last 15 years, there have been more than one million divorces compared to less than half that many in the early ‘60s.

In 1960, homosexuality was still “in the closet.” It was, as it has been for centuries, “the love that dared not speak its name.” The psychiatric profession treated homosexuality as a metal disorder or dysfunction. No politician could survive the disclosure of being homosexual. The notion that special civil rights should be granted to people on the basis of their “sexual orientation” was an absurdity. The word “gay” meant happy.

Today there are few political and social movements as aggressive, powerful, or successful as “gay rights” advocates. Homosexuality is no longer considered a dysfunction but rather an orientation or a “sexual preference.” If you oppose homosexuality or condemn it from a moral perspective, you risk being labeled “homophobic”—a “sickness” described as a fear or loathing of homosexuality.

College students who oppose the gay rights agenda on their campuses are expelled for discrimination. Gay politicians celebrate their homosexuality and are routinely reelected. Even a homosexual Congressman who allegedly seduced several male pages was returned to office, and Massachusetts Congressman Barney Frank, who admitted paying for sex with a male prostitute, merely received a slap on the wrist by his fellow Congressmen.

In 1960, students in every American classroom began their day with the Pledge of Allegiance to the flag. History books widely used in the schools explained the religious heritage of the nation and were peppered with stirring illustrations of America’s heroes and heroines. Most universities had a solid core curriculum that taught the classics of Western civilization. Students were expected to be familiar with the great writers and philosophers of our culture, as well as our Judeo-Christian heritage.

In 1990, the burning of the American flag was designated by the Supreme Court as a form of free speech, protected by the Constitution. In many American cities, the Pledge of Allegiance is not repeated at all or was suspended after the first few years of school.

Children at Risk, J. Dobson and Gary Bauer, Word, 1990, pp.104-107