A few years ago I took a history class about the role and perceptions of religion in Colonial America. One image that impressed me was a sketch of the New York City skyline in the 1700s, with the major, tallest buildings identified. As I remember, with the exception of the jail and city hall, all the other main buildings were houses of worship. One was a synagogue and the rest were churches, representing a wide variety of Christian denominations. It dramatically showed the importance of faith during that era, and as many historians and sociologists have pointed out regarding that time, “religious faith led to courage, and courage led to independence.” Bravery and faith in God were major motivators for the Americans who fought against the British for our freedom.
So, it was interesting to see this image of some New York City skyscrapers from Good Friday, 1956. According to Fox News, the photo’s caption is: “Buildings with lighted crosses to honor Good Friday in April 1956. Left to right: 60 Wall Tower, 20 Exchange Place (formerly known as City Bank Farmers Trust Co.) and 40 Wall Street. Photo taken on April 5, 1956.” (source) Note that 1956 was a mere eleven years after the end of WWII, and in the height of the Cold War when many feared nuclear annihilation from the USSR. In other words, memories of WWII were fresh in everyone’s minds from high schoolers and up, and fears of a WWIII were real.
That generation was more open to open displays of faith in the public square.
Today, we see chaos all around us, and so many have lost all sense of right and wrong, up and down. It’s getting harder to separate truth from lies, and some seem not only unable to do so, but more frighteningly, unwilling to do so. On the subject of skylines then and now, the Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America had this thought-provoking tweet.
As G.K. Chesterton wrote, “When men choose not to believe in God, they do not thereafter believe in nothing, they then become capable of believing in anything.”
The 1950s were not a perfect decade…there never has been and never will be such. However, at least the 1950s didn’t have school shootings, a $30 trillion national debt, and most of the other ills that plague us today.
On this Good Friday and all days, think about that.