Wednesday, November 20, 2013

"It was the height of the 'jazz age'"

In the wider orbit of the world's life, the hopes which had inspired sacrifice in the "war to end war" were crumbling before resurgent power politics. The League of Nations still struggled to redeem international chaos; but, to those with eyes to see, its doom was already foreshadowed by futility. The course of the United States was wellnigh irretrievably set in recoil from responsibility. Those who cared deeply for social advance had not yet surrendered to the rising despair, but they felt their backs against a wall and confessed to one another their helplessness in the face of reaction and brute force.

In the meantime, in the day-by-day life of men, wealth multiplied, fortunes were made (and lost) almost overnight, sensuality softened the native fibre of youth, a new leadership unschooled in traditions of culture and social trusteeship gloried in irresponsibility, life whirled with ever faster tempo and was at once coddled and demoralized by ever more refined luxuries and amusements. It was the height of the "jazz age."   --Henry P. Van Dusen, on the year 1926, from "Theological Education" an essay in "This Ministry: The Contribution of Henry Sloane Coffin," ed. Niebuhr, 1945

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