Farmville Enterprise March 21, 2018
At times does it seem as if the local, national and international news is much more negative than it ever has been? Some days do you feel overwhelmed with story after story of things falling apart, often due to selfish acts, violence or lack of wisdom or concern?
Surveys show how easy it is to romanticize life in past eras. Given the question of when they would have preferred to live, many respondents said the Roaring Twenties in New York, Chicago or Paris. Others responded with the 50’s in the suburbs of the United States. Still, for others, living in Europe during the Renaissance seemed like a nice option.
I have been enjoying the British Broadcasting Corporation series “Call the Midwife” which revolves around nuns and midwives serving the East End of London in the late 1950s. The compassion and sense of community these women shared, as described in the memoirs of midwife Jennifer Worth, are heartwarming. Still, the poverty and outbreaks of polio, dysentery, etc. show a time when health care improvements were making a difference but were not as advanced and widespread as they are now. It was a difficult place to live.
The truth is that different periods in history in assorted places have had their share of good and bad points. There is and never will be a perfect time or place to live. This earthly life always will have challenges. Usually due to no fault of their own, certain families deal with tougher problems than others. With our current access to 24/7 media, however, it is easy for us to perceive life as more negative than it actually is. Good news is not mainly what sells.
Max Roser, an economist at the University of Oxford, created “Our World in Data,” an online publication that shows how living conditions are changing. With these helpful resources people are invited to “explore the ongoing history of human civilization at the broadest level, through research and data visualization.” Roser’s information shows that things today overall are not as bleak as they might seem. In fact, it is quite the opposite.
Two hundred years ago most people in the world lived in extreme poverty. In 1950, 75% of people did; Today less than 10% do. Every single day since 1990 on average there were 130,000 fewer people living in extreme poverty. Of course, there remains a lot of work to be done, as that 10% are in dire need of our help.
In the 1800s across the globe more than 40% of children died before the age of five. Now only a small fraction does. That small fraction is still devastating and global health initiatives are striving to make continued steps in this positive direction. Two hundred years ago only a tiny elite could read. Now eight out of ten people worldwide can read and write. Education continues to improve globally.
While Pew Research shows a religious decline in North America we see God mightily at work through ministries too numerous to name. Although circumstances around the world might tempt us to despair, we must remember that God is faithful and has not changed. The same love, grace and hope is offered to us that has been since the beginning of time.
“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” (James 1:17) “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” (Hebrews 13:8)