As 2008 rolled in, scholars from the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington pointed out some heartening cultural trends. Writing in the December issue of Commentary magazine, they noted that many indicators of societal well-being are looking better than they have in some time. Crime, poverty and drug use are falling. Teens are smoking less, drinking less and remaining pure longer. And abortion is at its lowest level since the 1970s. Even syndicated columnist Greg Crosby — something of a professional chronicler of moral decay — acknowledged “the bright side” upon reading the report. “We Americans have solid reason to be optimistic about our future society,” he wrote. “Sure, we need to be concerned about the ongoing coarseness in American culture and the decline of the American family, and perhaps one day, these too, shall start to improve. Sometimes, things do change for the better. … Sometimes people wake up and do the right things, and sometimes good solid values and ethics win over the bad.” Spoken like a rejuvenated practitioner of the theological virtue of hope.

Illustration by Kevin Bedan