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Why has American culture changed so dramatically in the past 25 years?

Hi, I’m Rex Rogers and this is episode #147 of Discerning What Is Best, a podcast applying unchanging biblical principles in a rapidly changing world, and a Christian worldview to current issues and everyday life.

I’ve been thinking about how much American culture has changed in just the last few years, and in my view, much of it for the negative or bad or worse.

At first, I chided myself, as in this is just “old guy” syndrome that occurs as one ages, thinking “Things just aren’t what they used to be.” It’s a common human sentiment.

But then I thought, no, we clearly and objectively have witnessed dramatic developments that I’m not sure people under 30 years of age even realize because they don’t remember how things used to be different.

Now I realize that “back in my day,” another common old guy sentiment, not everything was good or right or blessed. Certainly not. But then again, I also remember when political leaders, celebrities, and other notables with public platforms at least acknowledged, if not actually affirmed and lived out, what was good or right or blessed. 

So, the next thing I started considering is when did this change occur? When did we become a cruder, less patriotic, less supportive of our heritage and constitutional ideals, polarized, nastier, and in some segments more violent culture?

I wondered when the change occurred, if a time could be identified at all, or maybe what event acted as a “tipping point” for what we are now experiencing?

tipping point is defined as “a critical moment in a complex situation in which a small influence or development produces a sudden large or irreversible change.” Or another definition: “the point at which a slow, reversible change becomes irreversible often with dramatic consequences.” Did we experience a cultural tipping point?

Was it the abortion decision, Roe v Wade? That was enormously consequential, but that was way back in 1973 when I was still in college. Roe v Wade contributed mightily to what we are experiencing now but other trigger events occurred later.

Was it 9-11 in year 2001? That attack on American soil was horrendous—a first-ever event, and a multi-faceted event that everyone old enough to understand will always remember. But I don’t think this was our tipping point.

Was it the rapid approval of medical or recreational cannabis use? This began in—where else—California, when in 1996, Proposition 215, also known as the Compassionate Use Act, was endorsed by voters. Notice the Orwellian title, “compassionate use”—amazing. Over the next twenty years, marijuana has been legalized in 38 of 50 states. We know using marijuana is not good for the mind and body, yet sales continue to increase rapidly and significantly. But smoking weed is a symptom, not a cause, not a tipping point.

Was it the Supreme Court of the United States landmark 2015 ruling in Obergefell vs Hodges when the Court said same-sex couples had a fundamental right to marry? Maybe. That ruling was tectonic, becoming something of a launchpad for later transgender activism promoting trans ideology that has taken American culture by storm in the decade since the Court’s immoral decision. 

How about year 2020 when we learned about COVID-19, when because of fear governments at all levels limited citizen behavior in ways that overstepped constitutional boundaries and did so regarding freedom of worship and mobility, and social media and major media began to restrict freedom of speech in the interest of quelling what they determined was “disinformation”? 

Or that same year, with the tragic death at the hands of police of George Floyd, and the follow-on Black Lives Matter coordinated riots and destruction in American cities? And with BLM and other organizations the rapid expansion of so-called “woke” social justice philosophiesarguing racism and white supremacy systematically characterized every aspect of American life? Were those tipping points, or simply more symptoms of the cause?

I admit it’s difficult, maybe impossible to cite just one social development responsible for igniting cultural brushfires that burn out of control, tearing down ideals, values, laws, traditions, all the building blocks that make a culture possible and sustainable in the first place.

According to the late great historian, Will Durant, “a great civilization is not conquered from without until it has destroyed itself from within. He attributes the decline of Rome to various internal factors, including its people, morals, class struggle, failing trade, bureaucratic despotism, stifling taxes, and consuming wars.” This is American culture’s challenge today.

What we are witnessing, what I just listed, are social products of decisions people have made earlier, back to the 1960s counterculture: a rejection of a Sovereign God, the idea of absolute objective truth, creation of human beings in the image of God and therefore responsible and accountable to him., as well as eternally valuable.

Once these core beliefs, ones that formed the foundation of Western Civilization, are set aside, there is nothing left to hold up the structure of the society and culture in which we live. What’s left, or what happens next, is crumbling, which is what we are witnessing.

In the language of the old KJV, “Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he” Prov. 29:18.

What we are witnessing is Romans 1 come to life. “The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse. For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futileand their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools” Rom 1:18-22.

“Furthermore, just as they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, so God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done. They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they have no understanding, no fidelity, no love, no mercy. Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them” Rom 1:28-32.

Later in 2 Pet 3:5, the old KJV says people are “willingly ignorant,” or as other versions state it, people “deliberately forget.” In other words, they choose to be irrational.

I’ve tried to find an illustration of this. It’s like I point to a grey rock and say, “That’s an ice cream cone,” and you accept my statement as truth. Make no sense? Sure, but that’s what “suppress the truth by their wickedness” means. That’s what “willingly ignorant” means.

So today, American culture considers true, things we did not consider true when I was in college:

Babies in the womb are not human, just fetuses, so abortion is health care, not murder.

Men can become women and vice versa merely by identifying with the other gender.

Debt has no consequences, no future accountability.

Sex without commitment or fidelity is not consequential but fun and marriage is optional.

Crime and lawlessness are not wrong but justified reparations for historic discrimination.

Race is what defines human beings, not character.

American culture no longer has a moral North Star. We believe, and therefore we do, whatever seems right in our own eyes (Judges 17:6).

Is there no hope? I don’t believe that because I believe in “fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith” Heb 12:2.


Well, we’ll see you again soon. This podcast is about Discerning What Is Best. If you find this thought-provoking and helpful, follow us on your favorite podcast platform. Download an episode for your friends. For more Christian commentary, check my website, r-e-x-m as in Martin, that’s 

And remember, it is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm.

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