On January 19, 2020, Rev. Tony Ponticello addressed those attending the Community Miracles Center's Sunday Gathering in San Francisco, California. Below is a lightly edited transcription of his talk.
Last week I spoke about the new year and the "Happy new year." This week I want to speak about the new decade. So, "Happy new decade!" We are in the 20s.
Hopefully everybody remembers or knows of the expression, "The Roaring 20s." The Roaring 20s, of course, references the decade in the twentieth century – in the 1900s – the 1920s. The 1920s were called "The Roaring 20s" because it was a very exciting time. There was lots going on. It was a time of great prosperity. It was a time of great social change. World War I had just ended. World War I ended in 1918. There was an economic boom that was going on, that carried on through and after the war.
One of the things that history has shown us is that whenever economics are good people seem to feel they are cared for. They have enough resources for food and shelter, so it spurs a social evolution. A lot of things happened in the 1920s. There were real changes in art. That's when Art Deco came into vogue. This whole different style of art, as a way of representing ourselves, was started. There were great changes in fashion, especially how women presented themselves when in public.
You can see on the cover of your Sunday program there is a picture of a very famous American, Josephine Baker, who was African American. She got famous by performing in cabarets in France. She was very outspoken. Some people even thought she was a spy in World War II and gathered important counterintelligence. (Later research did verify this is indeed true.) She was a great spokesperson for women's rights and for racial rights. There she is doing the Charleston. That was one of the moves where you did that thing with your knees and hands. That was just part of the avant-garde thing that was going on.
It was a time of evolving social norms. The 19th Amendment had been drafted to give women the right to vote. The 19th Amendment was ratified and signed into law in August, 1920. So right at the start of the 20s, women got the right to vote. They had been fighting for it for some time, but now they actually had the right to vote. The 20s roared on and was an exciting time, but it all kind of came to a crashing end with the stock market crash of 1929. That was the beginning of the Great Depression.
The inverse of what I said, is that we've learned from history that when people feel lack and their basic needs aren't being met, they tend to retreat back to things that feel safe, things that feel older, or familiar. Things that were there in the past somehow, now, feel like a safe haven, including more traditional and conservative values. During the Great Depression there was a retreat from some of the excitement, some of the new things that had come from the 20s.
These things never really go away though. The liberalism, the excitement, and the expanding social norms that came from the 20s maybe took a step back, but generally the movement is always towards progress. All of those things stayed with us. Women had the right to vote and all of those interesting things were happening. It was also the time when jazz became popular. That was in the 1920s.
We have forward steps, but then we take little steps back. However, the general trajectory of the culture is forward movement. I believe interesting things have been going on and you've heard me talk about them.We don't have a war that just ended as we approach this new 21st Century 20s, the 2020s. Yet, there are a lot of things that are going on. Perhaps it feels like the end of some sort of war, or a battle going on between our culture and with our world.
One thing I talk about frequently is the drastic decline in violence that has been happening. Since the dawn of recorded history, and especially since the 1970s and 1980s when violence surged up, violence has started coming down very drastically, especially in the 1990s. Here are just some statistics. In Europe, there was about 8.8 homicides per 100,000 people in the year 1994. About 9 out of 100,000 people died of homicide. In 2017, that was below 3. That's quite a drastic reduction. By 2017, 9 homicides per 100,000 people had been reduced to 3 homicides per 100,000 people. That's a three-fold decrease in the number of homicides. That's a very sizable decrease.
In the United States, there was a 75% decrease in homicides between 1990 and 2010. In 20 years, to have a 75% drop in homicides feels like the end of a war. That feels like the end of a war to me. The war is ending and we have a plateau of healing and prosperity that we can build the 21st century Roaring 20s upon.
It's not just violence that's been decreasing. There are all sorts of metrics you can look at that show that the world is healing. There was a wonderful article in the New York Times right at the end of the year, December 28th, that was talking about how this is actually the best time to be alive ever in the history of the species. Sometimes you hear people say, "I really should have been born in the 1700s. I'm much more suited for that time." You should think twice before you say things like that, because those times were pretty brutal for most people.
In 1981, that doesn't seem that long ago, right? It doesn't seem that long ago. I was living in San Francisco in 1981. In 1981, 42% of humans – 42% that's a lot – on the planet lived in extreme poverty. That is defined by the United Nations as living on less than $2/day of income. 42% of the people lived on less than $2/day in 1981. Today that percentage is down to 10%. Now 10% is still a lot of people but it's not 42%. That's a drastic reduction in the number of people living in extreme poverty in the world.
In 1970, a majority of the world's people, that means more than 50%, a majority of the world's people were illiterate. They had never learned to read or write. That's 50 years ago. Now we are approaching 90% adult literacy all over the world. It's not just violence that's decreasing.
Obviously all these things are related. If you don't have extreme poverty, you are less likely to have violence. You want to know why violence is going down? It's because extreme poverty is going down. That is related to literacy as well. All these metrics are related.
Think about life expectancy. In 1840, that's a while ago, but in 1840, the life expectancy of a human being, who survived birth, was 45 years. The average person who survived birth lived to be about 45 years old. That was the average life expectancy. Now it's 79 years, so we are living tremendously longer than we did a century and a half ago.
I think about my own life, what I was able to cope with and thinking of at 45 years old – I was really just beginning. I'd been on a spiritual quest for a while at that time, but it was just starting to profoundly impact my life when I was 45. I have more years than that now, and those years I would characterize as truly giving me the opportunity to grow spiritually, to mature spiritually, and to advance spiritually.
The excess in years, the added years, gives people an added opportunity to grow spiritually and in spiritual awareness. As we grow in spiritual awareness we create a new plateau. The newer generation doesn't have to go through what the older generation went through, because they just start off from a higher level right off the bat.
I do believe there is some kind of war that we are getting over. We aren't battling physical reality the way that we used to. We won it in some way. We are mastering it in some way, this physical, objective reality. What is even science telling us? Quantum physics is saying there is no such thing as objective reality. It's all just based on our perception. It's all subjective reality. I think I talked about that around a year ago.
That idea has really started permeating our culture. I remember when that concept was just gaining steam. I think I heard about it like 20 or 30 years ago. More than that, I think I heard it in college actually. It wasn't a fad. It didn't peak and fade out. The whole idea of quantum physics is that the mind plays a part, maybe plays the absolute part, in the projection and manifestation of objective reality. That idea has just gotten stronger in our culture. It is more prevalent, more common place. It's more accepted, more people don't look at that idea as weird anymore. Even if people don't believe it themselves they've heard of it. They know that some people do believe it. Those people seem to be normal people, so the more traditional people think, "Whatever." They don't believe it themselves, but they know it is believed by some people, and that's okay.
Things are really changing, and I think we are set to have a roaring 21st century Roaring 20s. Think – just a few years ago when we had a woman running for President from a major political party, Hillary Clinton. While she did not become President she did receive the majority of the votes in the 2016 election. She received three million more votes than Donald Trump. More people voted for Hillary Clinton, a woman, for President rather than a man, Donald Trump. The fact she didn't become President, that's a fact, but we still need to take in that for people, the majority of the people, having a woman President was totally acceptable. It was acceptable enough for them to actually vote for her.
What's going on right now? We have a gay male, prominent candidate for President, Pete Buttigieg. He's married. He is doing well in the polls and in the debates. Think about that. We accept it without thinking much about it. People just talk about it like something to note. It's something unusual, but it's not thought of as weird. People just accept it.
I think it's kind of fun, because if Pete Buttigieg did become President then his husband would be the "First Gentleman." Actually I don't know what we would call his husband, Chasten. I've always wondered what the media is going to call the first husband of a U.S. President. He would probably be "First Gentleman," though I'm not sure. I always thought we'd have the first "First Gentleman" because a woman got elected President. I never thought we might actually have the first "First Gentleman" because a gay man was elected President. We've just got to take that in. It just shows you how roaring these 20s already are.
A Course in Miracles people are right there championing all of these changes, all of these plateaus. I don't have any specific statistics on spirituality and the acceptance of spirituality, but from my extensive field experience (or just how it feels to me) the acceptance of spirituality is different than it was when I was in college, and right after my college years. I think it's way more accepted to be a spiritual person today than it ever has been – at least in my memory, in my perception of things.
One statistic I do have is that in 2017, 27% of the people in the United States represented themselves as "SBNR." That means "Spiritual But Not Religious." This classification of SBNR appears now on some government forms. Those forms ask you what your religious denomination, or affiliation, is. "SBNR" is something you can put a check next to now, "Spiritual But Not Religious." You're not affiliated with a traditional church or religion, but you don't want to be called an agnostic or an atheist, because you still feel that you are a spiritual person. That has become prevalent. That is the one metric about spirituality that is actually on the rise. 27% is what it was in 2017.
A Course in Miracles identifies this movement in people that it calls the "Great Awakening." I talked about that recently. There is a quotation that mentions this "Great Awakening" and it is also related to New Years, so I thought it was particularly appropriate. It says, "So will the year begin in joy and freedom. There is much to do, and we have been long delayed. Accept the holy instant as this year is born and take your place, so long left unfulfilled, in the Great Awakening." (OrEd.Tx.15.112) Here we have the Great Awakening capitalized like a name of the movement.
It actually is the name of a movement. The Great Awakening was the spiritual revival that swept England and the colonies way back in 1730-1740. It was a religious revival, and it was a form of Protestant evangelism.
There were Protestant ministers, preachers, who would go around. It was cross-denominational. It was one of the first times there was ever a cross-denominational religious, spiritual movement that was going on. These ministers would preach to whatever denomination, these different Protestant denominations, whoever, and people would be evangelized in this way of thinking. It was making religion and their religious experience personal rather than institutional.
Before then, you went to your church and you were identified with your church. There was this hierarchy. There was the priest and he was the authority, but this was a different kind of movement. You were able to be religious without all that. You could have a spiritual connection that was meaningful, deep, personal, and the movement was cross-denominational. It really didn't matter what denomination you were in.
Jesus is telling us in A Course in Miracles this movement is still going on! A Course in Miracles is part of this movement. I like that. We are part of the movement, called the Great Awakening. Sometimes the one that happened in the 1730s and 1740s is called the First Great Awakening, because there were other later revivals that were also considered part of the Great Awakening.
I think what's going on here, what's going on with A Course in Miracles which was first published in 1976, is another chapter in the Great Awakening. It is part of the continuing Great Awakening. The ACIM movement is part of a great healing at the end of this long war with external reality – a fictitious enemy – that we've been waging since the beginning of the history of humankind.
Wikipedia says this about the Great Awakening. "Evangelical preachers sought to include every person in conversion regardless of gender, race, and status." One of the chief characteristics of the Great Awakening was that everybody was to be included – all the races, all the genders. It is actually what is considered the start of the evangelism of African Americans. They were slaves here at that time. They began to embrace Christianity because of this evangelism going on during the Great Awakening which welcomed them. We need to think about that.
I do think the 21st Century Roaring 20s are going to really roar. I understand the yin and yang of things, the waxing and waning of things. If prosperity goes down and people are feeling lack and a little scared, things are going to retreat a little bit. But just like the Roaring 20s of the 1920s, it is just a retreat and then society can come forward again. I'm prepared for that. We should all be prepared for that.
I remember just two years ago when I started talking about how violence was decreasing, and all the research about how violence was decreasing, it used to get fought. People would say to me, "Look at that big shooting that just happened." People hadn't heard that violence was declining and it was seen as a preposterous idea. Obviously, to them, the world was still very violent.
Now I hear it all over the place. Now you can say it and people have heard it elsewhere. They've seen the statistics elsewhere. It's become more universally accepted. I think about that and I quietly smile. I also think about the resistance I saw when I first heard about the quantum physics stuff – that our mind is causing physical reality to be how it is – and people thought that was a little weird.
Now people don't think quantum physics is weird because we are in the midst of the new Roaring 21st Century 20s and it is going to roar. It's going to be like the Katy Perry song we are going to sing in just a little while, Roar. We got the eye of the tiger and we are championing this new power. We know it's here and we know we can stand up in the world and say "Here I am! I am powerful."
Think about what we teach in A Course in Miracles. Think about these ideas we have how our minds actually are manifesting physical reality. Think about how it's going to be when more and more people accept and embrace this.
I was talking to one of our ministers on the way here. He was talking about this new book that was written by Richard Smoley titled, A Theology of Love: Reimagining Christianity through A Course in Miracles. Mr. Smoley is making the case that A Course in Miracles could become the new Bible for Christianity across around the world. Christianity is kind of baked into our system. It's not likely that Christianity is going to go away, but people want a new form of Christianity that's more enlightened, that's more loving, that's more about personal freedom, that gives them more of a personal experience of spirituality. This is where a A Course in Miracles comes in.
I talked about this a few months ago, about the "Manifest Destiny" of A Course in Miracles, how it is to take its place in the Great Awakening as the source book that people go to. We just see that happening now. Marianne Williamson ran for President. She acquainted millions and millions to A Course in Miracles. Obviously she's now dropped out, but wasn't it amazing that people didn't actually criticize her that much? She got really good press. She got way better press than I would have thought she would have received. That just shows how much fundamental change we've had and how loud the 21st century 20s are going to roar.
So welcome to the Roaring 20s! Thank you. (applause) ♥
Rev. Tony Ponticello is CMC's 20th minister. He currently serves as the CMC's Executive Minister (03.17.2021). He is also the President of the CMC Board of Directors. He was ordained by the CMC on Oct. 17, 1997.
c/o Community Miracles Center
San Francisco, CA 94147
This article appeared in the March 2020 (Vol. 34 No. 1) issue of Miracles Monthly. Miracles Monthly is published by Community Miracles Center in San Francisco, CA. CMC is supported solely by people just like you who: become CMC Supporting Members, Give Donations and Purchase Books and Products through us.