I am reading Tom Brokaw’s new book, Boom, which is about the 1960s. The book consists of Brokaw’s personal reflections as well as the reflections of numerous men and women who lived in that time. He dates the 1960s generation beginning with the assassination of President Kennedy in 1963 and ending with the resignation of President Nixon in 1974.
One minute it was Ike and the man in the grey flannel suit and the lonely crowd . . . and the next minute it was time to Turn on, Tune in, Drop out, time for ‘We Shall Overcome’ and ‘Burn, baby, burn.’ While Americans were walking on the moon, Americans were dying in Vietnam. There were assassinations and riots. Jackie Kennedy became Jackie O. There were tie-dyed shirts and hard hats; Black Power and law and order; Martin Luther King Jr. and George Wallace; Ronald Reagan and Tom Hayden; Gloria Steinem and Anita Bryant; Mick Jagger and Wayne Newton. Well, you get the idea.
Few institutions escaped some kind of assault or change. The very pillars of the Greatest Generation — family, community, university, corporation, church, law — were challenged to one degree or another. Nothing was beyond question, and there were far fewer answers than before….
Do I ever remember those years! A few memories:
- Registering for the draft and then receiving orders to undergo a physical at the Naval Station in downtown Dallas as preparation for induction.
- Seeing veterans in my classes at Eastfield College shortly after they had returned from Vietnam.
- Watching television on a Thursday evening only to have my program interrupted by a news bulletin that Robert Kennedy had been assassinated.
- Commonplace on our college campus were such things as: long hair, tie-dyed t-shirts, braless coeds, peace signs on the back of Volkswagen buses, large Afros, the smell of pot, and talk of revolution in some form.
- Sunday afternoons seeing people standing on the street corners in Dallas selling underground newspapers.
- My eyes glued to the television after Martin Luther King Jr. was murdered in Memphis.
That is a snapshot of what it was like to live in those years (at least for me). Now we live in a different time and place. Reading this book is a reminder to me that we are right in the middle of history. We are experiencing culture as it is and as it is being shaped.
Meanwhile, God is unchanging. God is ever present. God is ever relevant to whatever time, place, culture, or setting. Today, we live in a very different culture than the 1960s. Yet, we too face very real challenges:
- What does it mean to live as a believer in the culture and time in which we live?
- What does it mean to live in and as a community of believers?
- What does it mean to live as the presence of Jesus today in the place where we live?
Perhaps these have always been relevant questions. At the time, we have to rethink these questions in each generation.