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January 27, 2013

VASICEK: A lot has changed in Kokomo since 1983

Faith and good relationships still are timeless truths

This is my 30th year in Kokomo; Dec. 1 marked my 29th anniversary as pastor of the church I serve.

The years do seem to pass more quickly; I have a theory about that. When one is 5 years old, a year is 20 percent of his or her life — a good chunk. When one is 50, a year is just 2 percent of one’s life. That’s why the years seem to pass much more quickly as we age.

We have witnessed major changes in our community during my time here. Delco once reigned as the main employer, with Chrysler a distant second. Now Chrysler is king, with Delphi an important but moderate player. The Gas Tower is a memory. The top restaurants of the past — The Gold Rush, The Big Wheel — are but memories.

Culturally, the trends we see today had their courses set years ago: women playing key roles in the work force, dissolving families, cohabitation, acceptance of the gay lifestyle, more government involvement in health care — even the rising atheist/agnostic movement. All Americans had to do was to glance at Western Europe to see our social future. The erosion of gun rights is but another step in the European direction. Although I do not agree with this direction, I do not deny its grip upon us.

Many changes — perhaps half of them — did take me by complete surprise. I had no idea, for example, that the rise of women in education and the workplace would result in the decline of masculinity. As a result, young men are often more aimless and without a clear role; the idea of “protector and provider” is considered a laughable vestige. Men need purpose, and growing numbers of men seem to have no purpose. More women are graduating from college than men, and I wonder if the trend for men is further passivity and resignation.

Thirty years ago, America’s greatest enemy was communism. Part of that danger involved the USSR, an empire that I thought would outlive me. Although the satellite nations are free — and some have become good friends to Uncle Sam (like Poland, for example) — the Russian leadership is troublesome. It seems that Putin intentionally befriends nations that are unfriendly toward the U.S. Still, the situation is greatly improved from the days of the Cold War.

The “War on Terror” was a surprise. Much of this conflict is driven by Islamic extremism, including the Iranian threat. The war is waged on a number of fronts. Being distracted by Afghanistan and Iraq, we may be unaware of the broader problem. A BBC article offers the British perspective:

“UK Prime Minister David Cameron has said that Islamist extremists in North Africa pose a ‘large and existential threat’ — a comment he made following the siege of a gas facility in Algeria, where dozens of people, nearly all of them foreigners, were killed.

“‘It will require a response that is about years, even decades, rather than months,’ Mr Cameron said.”

Let’s move on to surprises spurred by technology. Who would have thought, for example, that Newsweek magazine would no longer be published as a hard copy? Who would guess that the Internet would make the revered encyclopedia irrelevant? Our students and our doctors come into the room with their laptops, and we read via our Kindles. Our bills come to us electronically, and many schools have gone paperless. Facebook broadcasts all we care to share to hundreds of people. They know what we are reading, what we are watching on TV, and what we cooked for dinner.

The idea of a portable phone that could fit in purse or pocket seemed impossible, though predicted in the very early 1980s. But who would have guessed that we would text one another, or that our “smartphones” could connect to a massive network of computers we call the Internet?

Like time and tide which wait for no man, change marches onward. Fortunately, the things that make life richest — like faith and good relationships — are timeless. Eventually our humanity will call us back to those simple truths, ideas that transcend the times.

Ed Vasicek is pastor of Highland Park Church and a weekly contributor to the Kokomo Tribune. Contact him at edvasicek@att.net.

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