I watched a miniseries on the United States in the 1960s. The show highlighted the fact that this was a decade of unrest and experimentation, of high ideals and unprincipled action.
My children kept asking, "What was going on back then?" They didn't approve of the injustice and violence perpetrated by people in authority, or the careless indulgence in drugs and free love. They just plain didn't understand the way women and minorities were treated. The Vietnam War seemed wrong to them.
From my kids' point of view, the lasting result of the '60s was that the country didn't stay in the same place on many issues like these. We made progress. We changed.
I often think of the '60s as being a time of upheaval on a nationwide, even a global, scale. And as unpleasant as some things were, a lot of junk came to the surface to be dealt with.
Mary Baker Eddy, who established this newspaper, wrote: "What I term chemicalization is the upheaval produced when immortal Truth is destroying erroneous mortal belief. Mental chemicalization brings sin and sickness to the surface, forcing impurities to pass away, as is the case with a fermenting fluid" ("Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," pg. 401). Many such statements from the Christian Science textbook begin to shed light on how we can assess the turbulent '60s - or any time of chaos.
If turbulence sometimes seems to be all there is, it's helpful to consider this: "The fermentation even of fluids is not pleasant. An unsettled, transitional stage is never desirable on its own account" (Science and Health, pg. 65). God, one omnipotent Truth, has the power to make Himself known in all times. Divine revelation is irresistible, unavoidable - and harmonious. Sometimes God's perfect order comes to individual hearts, moment by moment. But it can happen on a much wider scale that reaches the ends of the earth.
Society-wide impact of this kind has much historical precedent. One example is the work of the Apostle Paul, who launched his own revolution by bringing the message of Christianity to the Roman Empire. The Romans had reached the pinnacle of political power. Their civilization was in moral decline. The traditions of discipline and devotion had become secondary to wealth and power.
Into this sphere entered Paul, preaching the message of Jesus: the message of self-control, of purity, of renouncing materiality and valuing spirituality. This made little sense to those in power, but it hit home to the everyday people who searched for stability and harmony and healing. Little by little, the small Christian communities Paul established in his travels gained a foothold. And the face of civilization was changed forever.
Paul wrote: "God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; and base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are .... That, according as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord" (I Cor. 1:27, 28, 31).
Well, this passage reminds me of the '60s. It was a time of widespread change. Certainly many people were confounded. Some of the protesters' methods may have been questionable. But the good intentions of that period took firm hold, and many of the evils that troubled society have been gradually seen for what they were.
I see those years as a time when humankind took a significant step toward Truth. Together, many people saw that wars don't always involve absolute right and wrong. That free love is an empty promise. That beating people into submission can't really keep order. Together, they found that drug abuse and the crime associated with it aren't the road to enlightenment, but rather to a dead end. If we're learning such things, we're learning to help each other on the path toward God.
So I'm grateful for the '60s. In the words of Isaiah, "Therefore the Lord, the Lord Almighty, the Mighty One of Israel, declares: 'Ah, I will ... thoroughly purge away your dross and remove all your impurities" (1:24, 25, New International Version). When we come through the purging, it's the gold that remains.