The Big Picture Podcast: The Good Old Days Weren’t Always So Groovy

This podcast seeks to begin and hopefully sustain a conversation about current trends, ideas and issues in the Church and greater society. A while back, I introduced you all to the Late ‘Boomer, so I think it’s time we checked back with him as he continues his effort to mop up the societal mess that is the Baby Boomer legacy. So let’s hang out.

My topic for this week is the decade of the 1960‘s, the decade that really defines the Baby Boomers.

I’m sure you’ve heard what a supposedly cool time the 60s was, with hippies and peace signs, social change and women’s lib, the groovy clothes and even groovier music.

Which was all so much better than the previous, oppressive decade of the 1950‘s, especially with those two stifling symbols of the middle class, Robert Young and the infamous June Cleaver.

Yeah, it’s pretty popular these days to idealize the 60’s. Because I mean really, how much cooler can you get than Woodstock, sit-ins, Laugh-In and Haight/Ashbury, right?

Well, as a child of the 60’s, who’s early life was imprinted on by all this coolness, please allow me to offer you a little different perspective.

In February 1960, a month or so into this decade of cool, I literally headed out on my life journey. I’d like to tell you about the world and the times I entered.

Many of my earliest childhood memories were of a society quickly turning violent and dysfunctional, cities were burning, leaders were murdered, and wars and invasions were brought right into our living rooms.

It was a society where the older kids were turning on and tuning out, families were fighting, and people were locking their homes at night in fear.

One of the first of these memories for me was looking out from a suburban hillside in Southern California to see smoke rising over Los Angeles from the Watts riots. Now, at 5 years old, I didn’t quite know what to make of seeing my city burn. I suppose it did set a context for the dozens of other cities I would see burning on TV over the next few years. But still, it wasn’t a cool experience.

Another particularly uncool part of my 60s world was drugs. From marijuana discovered in an older brother’s bedroom, some grade school classmates wandering the playground higher than a kite, and hearing of one rock star after another dying from overdoses, the drug culture was everywhere. You couldn’t get away from it, or the damage it was causing.

Do I really need to ask if this was cool?

But by far the most uncool thing of all that the 60s wrought on my childhood was fear.

It was fear of a society going crazy.

In years of my youth that should have been carefree, instead I saw people locking their doors and arming themselves against drug-up bands of hippies like the Manson Family and stark raving lunatics like The Zodiac Killer.

It seemed that God had been declared dead, and it was open season on everything, and everyone, else.

Let me tell you, fear like that is decidedly UN-cool!

Now I’ll grant you, this was my little world, and no, I don’t think the 60s were all about me. There was a whole big country and world out there that I was just beginning to become aware of.

A country, for instance, where leaders were murdered – the Kennedy’s, Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X.  All interesting history now, unless you happened to have lived it back then. At the time, no one had ever heard of political murder in the United States of America. At least not for a hundred years or so. That kind of thing only happened in third world hellholes.

But it did happen here. And for a kid of 8 years old, it could only imbed the notion that political change happens not at the ballot box or town hall, but at the end of a rifle.

As for world politics, there was the Cold War, with the evening news giving Vietnam War body counts right there on our living room TV, and then pictures of Communist tanks rolling into Eastern European cities.

And there were also unimaginable things I never heard about, mostly the millions and millions of human beings tortured and starved to death clear on the other side of the world.

So yes, the world at the time was much bigger than the junior me, but I think my childhood world of the 60s stands as a flawed but pretty fair microcosm of the larger world at the time.

Please hear me, young people!

Yes, the 60s had some cool, funky stuff, and some of the changes were good, some even very good.

But as for the big picture, I want to tell you that rarely in human history has such a decadent, violent, and dysfunctional time been as glorified and celebrated as the decade of the 1960’s.

You’re too young to have known it, but this supposedly cool and enlightened decade stands as a landmark of human foolishness and evil. There are others of my generation who will tell you otherwise, that the 60s were a time to celebrate and even emulate.

Please, PLEASE don’t believe them!

In closing, it’s time for the Great Cloud Of Witnesses, the segment of our podcast where we meet and hear the stories of those who have given, and some who are still giving, their lives by faith in the promises of God, and of whom the world was and is not worthy (if you don’t know that reference, please check out Hebrews chapters 11 and 12 in your Bible).

Today’s witness is once again Pastor Richard Wurmbrand of Romania, who’s story is so relevant to the times of the Late ‘Boomer. Last time we heard about him, Pastor Wurmbrand and his wife Sabina had been arrested by the Communist leaders of Romania.

“I admire communists.”  Pastor Richard Wurmbrand – longtime prisoner in communist prisons – was actually sincere when he said these words, “Many communists were willing to die to defend their utopia.  They were more committed to their cause than some I met in churches.”

In every enemy, Pastor Wurmbrand saw a potential friend and a potential Christian.  By loving his opponents, he saw many come to Christ and increased his influence greatly.

“When they called me a ‘dirty Jew’ and told everyone not to read my books, people immediately went out to see what this ‘dirty Jew’ had to say.  I welcome anyone who has an offense against me.  Others are not always interested in what you have to say, you need to challenge them to the truth before you share your beliefs.  To do this, you must understand where they are coming from and be able to speak intelligently.  But we must also remember to always speak in love.”

Now, this wasn’t just hyperbolic talk for Pastor Wurmbrand.  He evidenced his own message by welcoming a Nazi officer who worked at the very concentration camp where Sabina’s entire family was exterminated.  When the officer saw the Wurmbrand’s forgiveness and love for him, he was convinced of Jesus’ plan for his own life.

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