On the seventh of April in 1947, a stunned nation learned that Henry Ford had died at his home in Dearborn, Michigan. As his body laid in state at Lovett Hall, throngs of ordinary people came to pay their final respects. Five thousand of them walked past his open casket every hour until officials were forced to close the doors. Outside the Hall, the lines to get in were growing longer and could not be accommodated. Two days later, thousands more came to his funeral knowing that there was little chance that they would be able to go inside the church. They came because they were willing to settle for simply being close by.
The American people recognized that Henry Ford was a man of enormous and meaningful accomplishments who had touched each of their lives and changed their world forever.
Then, on the twentieth of June in 2005, another elderly man passed away in Dallas. And like Mr. Ford, he too had changed the world. In 1958, he had gone to work for an obscure electronics company called Texas Instruments and what he did there made it possible for us to go to the moon in 1969 and carry cellphones in our pockets today. His name was Jack St. Clair Kilby and he invented the computer chip.
By any reasonable measure, it is no exaggeration to say that Jack Kilby shaped our modern world every bit as much as Henry Ford, Thomas Edison, the Wright Brothers or anyone else. Interestingly, however, his death came without causing so much as a blip on America's radar screen. Today, the average person could not imagine their lives without the legacy of Mr. Kilby, and yet I have no doubt that not one in ten thousand of them could tell you his name or what he did.
So what happened between 1947 and 2005?
The answer is that we stopped being a people who revered men and women of real accomplishment. Instead, we became a people who worship our court jesters – those who amuse us. The reality is that, in contemporary America, everyone who is not an actor, or a rock star, or an athlete is invisible. It's also true that the more drug-addled, self-absorbed and self-destructive these people are, the more irresistible we find them.
As evidence, I submit the recent death of Whitney Houston. When this happened, the media immediately went into an "All-Whitney-all-the-time" feeding frenzy. For days, this coverage swamped every other story even on the so-called "hard news" shows. It was soon clear that all of this was going to eventually lead to her funeral being on national television. Of course, just because that phase is now behind us, we should not conclude that the spectacle is over. You can bet the family farm that additional "specials" are in production and that next year's "Anniversary Show" is already being scripted.
Another example of this was seen when Princess Diana died and the entire world fell into a near-catatonic state. I am not dismissing the tragedy of how she died, but let's not overlook that this woman's primary claim to fame was that she married well. Had she not done so, it is unlikely that she would have become one of the "beautiful people" and would have probably spent her life in a world of mac & cheese, mortgages and minivans.
The irony is that, just a few days after her death, Mother Teresa also passed away. Yet the response by the media and the public was breathtakingly different. As amazing as it sounds, it was not at all unusual for news of Mother Teresa's death to be told in a matter-of-fact manner as part of a follow-up story about Diana.
The fundamental problem is that we have become a culture dominated by asinine priorities in which the superficial is king.
With that, we come to the issue of abortion. In the last few days, there have started to be rumblings within the Republican primary campaign from people saying that candidates are spending too much time on "social issues" like abortion. Some of them are saying that such subjects should be left out altogether in favor of what they have decided are more important issues – primarily those related to the economy.
Now I realize that some of the people making such statements are not Christians but, for those who are, I want to issue a warning.
Scripture talks about people who choke on gnats while swallowing camels. Make no mistake, this "drop-the-social-issues" chant is a textbook example of that phenomenon. What we must never forget is that God is not going to judge America over unemployment rates, regressive tax policies, immigration laws or any of the other issues we deceive ourselves into thinking are so crucial. But if we continue to behave as if we can avoid His judgment over the slaughter of the unborn, we are presiding over the collapse of this nation. It may not be politically correct to say this, but the truth is that if we continue down this path, we have no hope left. Not only is our destruction assured, it is well deserved.