Thursday, September 27, 2007
It became obvious to students in the early sixties that we were living in a post-Christian world. As students in Berkeley shouted in 1964, we are living in a plastic culture. The beat generation befrore them had been saying that, and now an entire student generation had become convinced of it. Students would return home from the university and ask their parents questions and would get only superficial answers: You must work like mad to get into the university. Why? So you can make money. But why should I want to make money? So you can send your children to the university. All too often personal peace and affluence were the only values that these young people saw in their parents, and they rightly were turned off.
Christians should have been glad for what these students were saying. In fact, they should have been saying it themselves, for these young poeple had put their finger on the situation as it really was. On the one side, most of the church bodies were controlled by liberal theology which isn't Christianity at all. And on the other side, culture in general had become totally secularized. Not many years before, one could have said that, while most individuals were not Christians, at least there was a "Christian" consensus based on the memory of true Christianity. Men still believed that a truth existed, and, even if the non-Christians had no real base for it, at least it was an ideal toward which to aspire. But by the sixties, this had largely been lost: we were in the post-Christian world; and now the present generation (for the most part) no longer believes that absolute truth exists at all. Yet the older generation didn't recognize it until suddenly their youngsters looked up and declared that the king didn't have any clothes on, or, as they put it, "We live in a plastic culture."
One reason I felt close to those who were saying this is that I wished the Bible-believing church had been saying it long before. But our evangelical churches, too, had all too often become plastic and no voice was raised.
A second factor to take into consideration as we look at recent changes is the silent majority. That silent majority, we must understand, can still elect to office anyone it wants to elect. As I have pointed out elsewhere, the silent majority is divided into two parts - a minority and a majority. Today's politician who wants to get elected has to appeal to both.
The minority of the silent majority either are Christians (and therefore have absolutes on which to base their actions and judgments) or at least a Christian memory and still believe in absolutes, even if their basis for those absolutes is inadequate. The majority of the silent majority are those who really live in a post-Christian world. They may go to a church, but they have no real absolutes in mind and they have only two values - personal peace and affluence. Personal peace is not to be equated with pacifism. Rather, it is the attitude: "Let me alone; don't let trouble at home or abroad come near my door. Just give me peace, personal peace." And then there is affluence: "Let me have my Cadillac. Then, it would be nice to have more chrome on my Cadillac, and a second car, and maybe three, and then a boat, or better yet two boats. Oh, and then let's throw in a summer house and a swimming pool, or maybe two. The more of everything, the better."
So with the majority of the silent majority what we have is not a theoretcial materialism but a practical materialism. When those who are younger yell, "This is plastic, this is ugly," let us as Christians say, "You are absolutely right. Your positive response may be inadequate, you may have no solutions at all, but unhappily your critique is correct."