During the roaring 1920’s when bar-hopping and dancing were all the rage, an American fiction writer, and descendant of an affluent family that settled in Virginia in 1664 named James Branch Cabell, wrote in one of his books: “There is not any memory with less satisfaction than the memory of some temptation we resisted.”1 This thinking was apropos for that era when long-held morals and ethical behavior in society were being challenged. Many Americans were uncomfortable with this new, urban, sometimes racy “mass culture.” In fact, the most familiar symbol of the “Roaring Twenties” was the advent of the flapper: a young woman with bobbed hair and short skirts who drank, smoked and said what might be termed “unladylike” things, in addition to being more sexually “free” than previous generations.
So what Cabell expressed was the sentiment of that period. How ironic, that people would actually regret that they passed up an opportunity to do something lawless, immoral, or degenerate. The US Congress tried to stem the tide by passing an amendment to the US Constitution forbidding the sale of alcoholic beverages and ushered in what became known as the Prohibition Era. But what contribution did this form of wild living add to the fabric of conservative American culture? According to a documentary viewed on the History Channel: “These conflicts – what one historian has called a ‘cultural Civil War’ between city-dwellers and small-town residents, Protestants and Catholics, blacks and whites, “New Women” and advocates of old-fashioned family values – are perhaps the most remembered part of the story of the Roaring Twenties.”
It will soon be 100 years since his debacle among America’s young people. So what has changed? Back then it took an old fashion revival among Baptists, Methodists, and Pentecostals to bring people back to God at the altar of repentance. During that same time frame, inventions designed to bring healing and order out of chaos were introduced to the public. The first Band-Aid to cover small wounds; the Lie Detector to catch cheaters; the Traffic Signal to prevent accidents at intersections; the Instant Camera to capture moments what might otherwise be explained away; the Garbage Disposal to insure a person’s waste was kept out of sight; and Frozen food so that the time and hard work it took to prepare a meal could be reduced.
Also the discovery of Vitamin E with its anti-sterility properties; Vitamin D from cod liver and its ability to prevent rickets that caused soft bones and bowed legs; plus Vitamins A, B, C, and K. In addition, Insulin was invented against diabetes and Penicillin as an agent against the growth of bacteria. At the same time, a renewed outpouring of the Holy Spirit brought revival that swept across the nations. It was spurred on by the fundamentalist reaction to Darwin’s theory of Evolution, especially by evangelist Billy Sunday.
As we all know, soon the 2020’s will be here. So we may ask ourselves, will we go through another era when doing wrong is considered right; when being bad is looked on as good; and when, as Cabell said, people will regret losing any opportunity to do something immoral? I’m afraid, that mentality is already present in this world. But what about the spiritual revival that came as part of God’s reaction to such debauchery back then? Will there be another world-wide awakening?
The apostle Peter indicated that was the case on the Day of Pentecost when he quoted the prophesy in Joel:2 “I will pour out my Spirit on all kinds of people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will have dreams, and your young men will see visions. In those days, I will pour out my Spirit even on servants, both men, and women. I will work wonders in the sky and on the earth.”3 If it took such an outpouring of the Holy Spirit for that to happen a century ago, then perhaps that is what will be needed for it to happen a second time. – Dr. Robert R Seyda
1 Jurgen: A Comedy of Justice, by James Branch Cabell, Published by Grosset & Dunlap, New York, 1919, Ch. 7, p.57
2 Acts of the Apostles 2:17-21
3 Joel 2:28