The American Vision: A Biblical Worldview Ministry

The Destructive Generation - Why the Nation is a Mess

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Those nurtured on the radicalism of the 1960s have been described as the “destructive generation.” The advance of drugs into middle-class culture made its entry through the doorway of the progressive 1960s. Doses of “free love” and “free sex” were passed around as easily as a shared marijuana cigarette. “If you can’t be with the one you love, then love the one you’re with”[1] is a line from a 1960s-era song by Crosby, Stills, and Nash that summed up the attitudes of many during this decade of discontent. There was a concerted, self-conscious effort to break from the past, to throw off the worn-out faith of the fathers.

The new generation saw the hypocrisy of the nurturing generation that preceded it. The fathers no longer believed the older faith. Why should the “destructive generation” play the game? Instead of breaking free of the hypocrisy, the “destructive generation” tried to break free of the only cohesion that kept the older generation from self-destructing—the belief that we live in an ordered universe that is governed by ethical absolutes that reflect God’s holy character.

The Psalmist writes of “destructive generations” and the impulse for ethical autonomy: “Let’s us tear their fetters apart, and cast away their cords from us!” (Ps. 2:3). God understands. This all has been tried before (Gen. 3 and 11). It is no wonder that God sits in the heavens and laughs, scoffing at them (Ps. 2:4). While God laughs and scoffs at autonomous men, we elect them to public office. There is, however, no possibility of inevitable success. But they keep trying to break free, and the majority of American people seem always to be on the sidelines cheering on the magicians.

Of course, this “breaking free” is all done in terms of change, liberty, and empowerment. “Power to the people,” a popular 1960s refrain, actually meant “power to some people who saw political power as the way to make aggressive changes.” To accomplish this ambitious goal, the old system had to be razed. In some places, for example in Watts, that’s exactly what happened. Some believed that nothing short of armed revolution would be enough (Black Panthers). Others took a less radical but more effective and lasting approach to rocking the system.

From its earliest battle cry— “You can’t trust anyone over thirty”—until the end of its brief strut on the stage of national attention, the Sixties generation saw itself as a scouting party for a new world. The “cultural revolution” it was staging would free inmates from the prison of linear thought. It was the social horticulturalist whose “greening of America” would allow the post-industrialist age finally to break through the crust of the Puritan past. It was the avenging angel that would destroy the evil empire of “Amerika” and free the captive peoples of the world.[2]

What came crashing down was more than institutional change. When the “system” was assaulted so was the collection of values that provided the moral foundation for society. The radicals claimed that they had to destroy to create. Collier and Horowitz, two former destructive generationists, write, “While we wanted a revolution, we didn’t have a plan. The decade ended with a big bang that made society into a collection of splinter groups, special interest organizations and newly minted `minorities.’“[3] While there may have been no plan, in the same way that an infected person’s sneeze has no plan, the effects are equally devastating: The infection is spread indiscriminately and finds any suitable environment in which to grow. Like a bacteria-laden sneeze, the 1960s “has become the decade that would not die, the decade whose long half-life continues to contaminate our own.”[4] That decade makes our laws and sits on our courts.

The infectious ideological sneeze of the 1960s found an acceptable climate for growth because little resistance was offered. I disagree that the Left had no plan. What the Left didn’t have was a vehicle to implement their plan. Neither did they have an accepting populace to embrace it. The plan was forced on us in college classrooms and through the courts.

Where were the Christians during the tumultuous decade of the 1960s? What answers were they offering? A debate was raging over whether Christians should say anything. As far back as 1947 Carl Henry, in a flash of prophetic insight, wrote that “unless we experience a rebirth of apostolic passion, Fundamentalism in two generations will be reduced either to a tolerated cult status or, in the event of Roman Catholic domination in the United States, become once again a despised and oppressed sect.”[5] There is no doubt that Henry’s timing was off. Christianity has entered the second generation as “a despised and oppressed sect.” At the conclusion of this generation we may find ourselves to be a persecuted religious minority. The frustrating thing is that millions of Christians will glory in the status.

Dozens of books have been published of late that attempt to analyze why the church is ineffective. While they are all helpful in pointing out the problems, not one of them offers much in the way of concrete solutions. In fact, some authors go out of their way to assure Christians that the Bible offers few if any specifics. There is an aversion to biblical blueprints. This is a departure from what was being called for in Henry’s 1947 assessment of the church. Harold Ockenga, in the introduction to Henry’s book, writes: “A Christian world- and life-view embracing world questions, societal needs, personal education ought to arise out of Matt. 28:18-21 as much as evangelism does. Culture depends on such a view, and Fundamentalism is prodigally dissipating the Christian accretion of centuries, a serious sin. A sorry answer lies in the abandonment of social fields to the secularist.”[6]

Secularists have drawers full of blueprints for every conceivable contingency. Christians are content to live in shacks, in the shadows of the builders of countless New World Orders.

Endnotes:

[1] http://www.risa.co.uk/sla/22/22037.html
[2] Peter Collier and David Horowitz, Destructive Generation: Second Thoughts about the ‘60s (New York: Summit Books, 1989), 14.
[3] Collier and Horowitz, Destructive Generation, 15.
[4] Collier and Horowitz, Destructive Generation, 15.
[5] Carl F. H. Henry, The Uneasy Conscience of Modern Fundamentalism (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1947), 9.
[6] Henry, The Uneasy Conscience of Modern Fundamentalism, 14.

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