A very disturbing poll was recorded this December from CNN. It compared the expectations of those peering into the future at the dawn of 2000 with those of people looking forward into 2010. The survey reported that in 1999, 85 percent of Americans were hopeful for their own future and 68 percent were hopeful for the world. Today, however, people surveyed said that only 69 percent were hopeful for their personal future, while only 51 percent had hope for the world.
There was something almost mystical about the nation’s entry into the 2nd millennium after the birth of Christ. I remember all the TV shows that speculated about massive technology changes along with the fear that everyone’s computer could mysteriously crash - resulting in a national crisis.
Some religious leaders advocated storing food and creating bomb shelters. Other spiritual leaders believed that the earth would experience the “rapture”, as described in Dr. Tim LaHaye and Dr. Jerry Jenkins’ blockbuster Left Behind series. Surprisingly the dramatic calendar milestone caused everyday people to think in big picture, visionary terms. From the boardroom to the janitor’s storage closest and everywhere in between, we all expressed confidence in tour technologies, our business acumen, and our American spirit.
We began the new millennium as though we were opening the Wild West or exploring outer space. We all had a sense of invincibility and a feeling that we could rise to any challenge. Since 2000, a lot has changed. We have experienced a few setbacks. Things like the 9/11 terror attack, hurricane Katrina, endless political scandals, the bank bailouts, the American auto industry bailouts, and double digit unemployment have all challenged our national self concept.
It’s obvious that the delicate balance of government, business interests, and our educational system must be recalibrated. In 2009, we are looking at real problems that need to be addressed by all sectors of our society. Further, rigid ideological approaches to our problems are just fueling vitriol and blame shifting. Our focus today is much more mundane and personal than the global or generational perspective ten years ago. We are concerned about how to keep our jobs, pay the mortgage, and survive the economic downswing. The pressures of the times have caused a reopening of two age-old American divisions of class and race.
Bishop Harry Jackson is chairman of the High Impact Leadership Coalition and senior pastor of Hope Christian Church in Beltsville, MD, and co-authored, Personal Faith, Public Policy [FrontLine; March 2008] with Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council.