It is hard to see amid all the apocalyptic prophesy and political fear mongering, but maybe . . . just maybe, the world is getting better, not worse. We very rarely hear anyone say that the world is getting better. This is likely because the loudest voices are those with large investments in the idea of cultural demise.
The world is far from perfect, but we might just be heading in the right direction. So many of the societal evils that have plagued the world in generations past have been all but solved. Let’s look at a few of them.
Social equality is higher than ever before. While we still hear lots of shouting about women’s wages, gay marriage, and racism, our society values treating all people the same. Compare society’s current views about the abilities of women or African Americans to the views embraced just a few generations ago. Today women can vote, contribute to business, politics, religion, and family like never before. Our neighborhoods, schools, businesses, and even families are made up of a beautiful mix of all races and backgrounds. We have grown in our understanding and value of all human beings.
Human health is better than ever. Most of the world is no longer threatened by small pox, cholera, or polio. We do not have to worry about dying from diarrhea or parasites that live in our water. Even the once fatal diagnosis of cancer is becoming a less serious threat. Tremendous advancements are being made in the understanding of disease and the human body, and human health is coming to be understood as a fundamental right and responsibility of all people.
Exploration of the universe is greater than ever before. As I write this, the Curiosity rover is sending back new, amazing information from Mars. Our understanding of creation, from the smallest sub-atomic particles to the furthest reaches of space, is growing every single day. Humanity’s mandate to explore and understand is being fulfilled like never before.
Responsible ways of helping the helpless are at an all-time high. In times past most missionaries and humanitarians believed that the best way to help suffering people around the globe was to introduce them (often by force) to first-world ways of living. We now understand that this is culturally arrogant and damaging to developing parts of the world. Most people and organization who wish to serve the needy of the world are now developing culturally respectful ways to do so. We are seeing innovations that do not impose but enable the poor in developing nations while respecting their history, geography, traditions, and world-view. We are also seeing growth in the level to which individuals, businesses, organizations, churches, and governments value giving to the needs of others.
The value of family is high. Despite the cries of some cultural commentators that the family is disintegrating, our current culture values healthy family more than most other cultures through the history of the world. We understand the kind of nurture and input that children need to be physically and emotionally healthy. We understand the kind of teamwork and trust that it takes to have a healthy marriage. We have come to understand that polygamy, chauvinism, abuse, and forced marriage have a deteriorating effect on relationships.
We recognize the evils of the past. For centuries human beings have justified violence, genocide, slavery, colonialism, and racism. For the first time in history our culture accepts the evil that these concepts have perpetuate on human society. We see the tremendous damage that the actions of past generations have caused, and we are doing our best to avoid these problems in the future.
Intolerance of injustice is growing. Some of the most significant public outrage in recent times has been towards businesses or governments that abuse people or treat them unfairly. While it is exhausting to try to stay aware of all the injustice in the world, most of us would like to be aware, enabling us to support those who treat others well and avoid companies which exploit their workers.
Respect for the earth has grown tremendously. We have come to understand that the earth is not a never ending supply of resources that can be eternally exploited without repercussion. We are also learning that respecting the soil, the air, and animals has a huge effect on our health and that of future generations.
There are certainly tremendous problems in the world right now. We are well aware that there is great disagreement about the ways that we might solve many of these problems. When the destiny of mankind looks desperate, though, we should step back and see our place in the scope of history. If we can do this we will see that we are indeed progressing.
I believe that we should beware of any ideology that is heavily invested in the idea that society is devolving. This is usually an ideology of fear which is being used to control others.
There are those who legitimately feel that the world is getting worse. Many people believe that the Bible prophesys that humanity will sink deeper and deeper into depravity until the return of Christ. While some Scripture can be taken to mean this, we are not required to believe that the world is getting worse in order to follow the way of Jesus. We can embrace a belief that God is steadily working out His intention for the earth. This is a hopeful and exciting view.
My hope is that more of us choose to live with an optimistic and hopefully view of where we are heading. Fear holds us in place. Hope moves us forward.