What would you call the years from 2000-2009? TIME MAGAZINE wrestled with a number of possible titles—“the Lost Decade,” “the Decade of Reckoning,” “The Decade of Broken Dreams.” But for one cover story in December 2009 it settled on calling the past ten years the “Decade from Hell.” “Whatever you call it,” said TIME’S editors, “just give thanks it is over.”
According to TIME, the first ten years of the century will be remembered as “the most dispiriting and disillusioning decade Americans have lived through in the post-World War II era.” The decade was bookended by 9/11 at the start and financial wipe out at the end.
Think of it. The last ten years brought Y2K scares, the closest election in US history, the September 11th attacks, war in Afghanistan and Iraq, the West’s on-going struggle against radical Islam, two market crashes, a wave of Wall Street scandals highlighted by Enron and WorldCom, the Asian Tsunami of 2004, Hurricane Katrina in 2005 (the largest natural disaster in our nation’s history), the burst of the housing bubble which put the economy on the brink of collapse, Bernie Madoff orchestrating the biggest Ponzi scheme in history, a stock market slide of 26% since 2000 (to make it the worst decade for stocks), a record number of corporate bankruptcies, the tripling of the price of oil, mass shootings from Columbine to Fort Hood, color coded terror alerts, numerous attempts to blow up US planes, home grown suicide bombers, World Health Organization alerts on SARS (2003) and H1N! (2009), a rapidly ballooning budget and national debt, the spread of nuclear weapons to North Korea and soon Iran, the erosion of US global dominance and the rise of China, and leaders that let us down from Martha Stewart to Tiger Woods. Once we were “the sunniest and most optimistic of nations. No longer,” said TIME. At the end of the decade the American Dream was dimming.
It’s not that there was no good news in the decade. Of course there was some. Scientists mapped the human genome, water was found on the Moon and Mars, the iPod was unveiled, then came ITunes, Google, Facebook, YouTube, iPhones, etc.. But more than these, I’d like to point out some of the forgotten blessings in the so-called Decade from Hell. Let me list a few.
The blessing of deflating misplaced hopes
If nothing else, this decade punctured misplaced hopes in markets, technology, and human achievement. In the late 1980s after the fall of the Berlin wall with the defeat of Communism, some intellectuals spoke optimistically about this being “the end of history” when large scale conflict would go away. The last decade proved that history did not die, but came back with a vengeance. We had not “transcended history” on our own. We were immersed in a new chapter with new horrors and miseries and still in great need of a savoir.
The blessing of awaking to the reality of evil
After slipping into a post modern stupor where many were denying the reality of good and evil, reality slapped us in the face. The intellectual folly of the modern and post modern assault on reality got a dose of objectivity that caused the NEW YORK TIMES to declare on its front page after the crumbling of the twin towers—“we saw evil.” For a few moments at least, we were pulled out of the swamp of subjectivity and confronted with the obvious.
The blessing of huge spiritual opportunities to share our faith
In response to disasters like Columbine and 9/11, this decade has afforded many of us with extraordinary opportunities to publically name the name of Jesus on the airwaves and give reason for the hope within us.
The blessing of being thrown back on true securities
Let’s face it, the recent financial crisis has shown that many of our so-called securities have shown themselves to be very insecure (stocks, house values, the dollar). In such a climate people realize that, not only is prosperity fleeting, but there is sense to what the Bible says about storing up treasures in heaven that cannot be destroyed.
The blessing of community
With the fragmentation of our culture, the insecurity of a post 9/11 world, and the loss of assets, many have come to value the importance of community as never before. Family bonds, good relationships, a place to belong, have gained new appeal. The church has had a great opportunity to demonstrate the blessing of true Christian community.
The blessing of the gospel of Jesus Christ
With all the disappointments and misplaced hopes of the decade—economic and political, of the right and the left –some are waking up to the need for deeper answers. They are beginning to see that all religions are not the same. 2000 years after the birth of Christ, some have rediscovered that Jesus is unlike any other figure in history—that there is life in his name, that he satisfies our deepest human thirsts, that the key to meaning in life and history is found in his one of a kind birth, his righteous life, his atoning death, and his life-giving resurrection. He remains more attractive than ever, and his gospel has proved to be the best news on earth.
Of course, TIME did not mention any of these blessings. It simply offered the vague hope that the next decade has to be better than the one we’ve just gone through. Of course, I hope it is better, but if it isn’t, it will only make these blessings shine all the more, and cause us to long for that better eternal city which the New Testament says is from above.
So, let the “decade of broken dreams” highlight the hope of Christ, and don’t forget to take the opportunity to “give ‘em heaven” at the end of the “decade from hell.”