Last week I heard on the radio a fascinating series entitled 1922: The Start of Now.
It spoke about how by 1922 the world had begun to recover from the devastating effects of the First World War and the lethal Spanish Flu pandemic that came quickly on its heels, killing between 20–50 million people world-wide.
1922 saw an explosion of free expression, a burst of creativity and invention, and a philosophy that has shaped what we call “Now”.
The Roaring Twenties allowed a generation who had escaped fighting the war to find ways to enjoy themselves.
This was the Jazz Age that partied hard and saw a revolution in fashion.
There were dramatic changes in women’s rights and work possibilities. The 20’s were an age of industrial and scientific innovation. It was a time that saw controversial developments in art and architecture.
1922 also marked the official foundation of the Soviet Union. Such trends changed the way that people saw life, the way they thought and behaved.
“The world broke in two in 1922 or thereabouts.” (Willa Cather)
1922 was the year that James Joyce’s vast novel Ulysses was published. This is a book that nearly everyone has heard of but almost no one has finished.
T.S Eliot, when reviewing the novel, wrote, “I hold this book to be the most important expression which the present age has found; it is a book to which we are all indebted, and from which none of us can escape.”
Of course, this was all somewhat short lived. The 1920’s ended in 1929 with a devasting economic crash felt throughout the Western World. This was followed by a deep economic depression that led to social unrest in Britain and throughout Europe, that led eventually to the unthinkable darkness of the Second World War.
It is difficult to understand the now of 2022 without reckoning with the now of 1922.
How will we navigate a post-pandemic recovery? Will it happen and will it foster fresh innovation and creativity? Will it lead to flourishing or crash?
None of us has a crystal ball to tell the future, but preachers would do well to ponder the lessons of 100 years ago.
Preachers do well to reflect on how rampant individualism plays out in human life. It tends to result in a rejection of a personal God, a cheapening of the value of human life, and a weakening of the factors that shape and nurture community.
Atheism that rejects God, idolatry that worships self, and self-centredness that ignores the common good are a lethal spiked cocktail that has a toxic effect on human society.
Preachers need to preach about the following three things:
The one true and living God, the community God of three persons who reaches out to his world with love, inviting us to enter into a relationship with him. Here is the relationship that offers true significance and security in a world that is starved of both.
The importance of dethroning the idolatries in our lives that displace the living God as the focus of our loyalties, priorities, and desires.
The value of avoiding any community-busting attitudes and actions, and the importance of promoting true community within and among local churches, that can be an arrow of hope for a fractured world.
When should we do this?