As I watch the Christmas specials on television, it’s kind of sad to see all the songs being hyper and about snow and reindeer and winter. It’s sad because I remember decades past when there was a feeling of beauty because of the emphasis on carols and THE story of Christmas. It’s amazing how the culture thinks that it can redefine the basic definition of something like Christmas or marriage.
I had to turn the channel because of just one more offensive song on the Sing Off Christmas (not so) Special. I turned it to a “Charlie Brown Christmas” (because the music was written and performed by my cousin Vince Guaraldi) and was surprised to see the story line being Charlie Brown looking for the “true meaning of Christmas”, which the show gave as being the Bible’s story. The credits said that this show was made in 1965. My, how times have changed.
But let me now back up the title of my article here … not just with personal memories … but with real data.
First of all, the fact that the nation was happier and more in love is easily proven by comparing the music of today with the music before 1966. This is also true for the movies and television shows of those years, including the Christmas specials, most of which included religious songs and themes. In fact, many might be surprised to know who the overall #1 television personality of 1952 was. Bishop Fulton Sheen won the 1952 Emmy Award for “Most Outstanding Television Personality” … even over the comedians, musicians, hosts, actors and politicians. In the 1950s he was not only a very prominent TV “star,” his television program, “Life is Worth Living,” became the No. 1 program on the national networks. The “star” of Texaco Star Theater, Milton Berle was known as “Mr. Television” at the time, and Bishop Sheen topped him.
Here are some other differences between the Christmasses when I grew up in the 1950s and early 1960s and today.
- My last job before embarking on a music career was as a mail carrier. That was in 1969 where I grew up in San Francisco. In those days, and in every year I was alive previously, Christmas was so popular that during the Christmas season there were TWO mail deliveries every day because of the huge amount of Christmas cards being mailed.
- In San Francisco public schools we sang religious Christmas songs.
- In the San Francisco public schools we had “Christmas Vacation,” not Winter Break. (I keep mentioning San Francisco because if the now most liberal city was that way, you can imagine what the rest of the country was like.)
And just to show the general respect for religion in the country back then:
- There was prayer in the public schools (which set a nice tone for the day).
- Christian historical events were in the public school history textbooks.
- Television started in the morning with religious shows on three of the only four networks (“Lamp Unto My Feet”, “The Christophers”, etc.)
- Stores were not open on Sundays.
One of my main motives for writing has been that I personally experienced that a society that honors God more is a happier and more loving society. (That’s also been true in my personal life). But for measurable proof, here is a comparison of the statistics between recent and past decades, when following God was more popular.
(1) Violent crime: 1995 = 11.1 times the rate in 1957 and 18.5 times the rate in 1937
(2) Divorce rate: 1990’s (over 50%) = over 100 times the rate in 1900 (0.5%)
(3) Overall crime: The 1970 rate is 12.25 times the 1937 rate and 6.68 times 1957’s
(4) The U.S. teen suicide rate is higher than the other 26 industrialized nations combined (gun suicides are 11 times greater than the average of the other industrialized nations, and dramatically rising – 62% since 1980).
And had a person fallen asleep in 1960 and awaken today, this is what they’d have found strikingly different in the United States:
• Doubled divorce rate
• Tripled teen suicide
• Quadrupled rate of reported violent crimes
• Quintupled prison population
• Sextupled percent of babies born to unmarried parents
• Sevenfold increase in cohabitations (a predictor of future divorce)
• Soaring rate of depression to ten times the pre-World War II level, by one estimate.
Finally, from a personal perspective, we all carry some fond feelings from our past … some fonder than others. For many years (even when I wasn’t religious at all), the fondest memory that I carried was of a feeling of love and beauty that entered my heart when I remembered a life-sized nativity scene that was tucked away under a cave-like alcove in the lower courtyard of the Catholic school I attended in the third grade. Now that I am religious, it is obvious to me Who infused that feeling of beauty in my heart.