Age of Aquarius

When the moon is in the seventh house And Jupiter aligns with Mars Then peace will guide the planets And love will steer the stars. This is the dawning of the age of Aquarius, The age of Aquarius, Aquarius, Aquarius.

Harmony and understanding, Sympathy and trust abounding, No more falsehoods or derisions, Golden living dreams of visions, Mystic crystal revelation, And the mind’s true liberation. Aquarius, Aquarius
(1)

The entrance to the 1970s seems to have the word “crisis” written all over it. The Conservative Intellectual Movement had been strengthened as a force to be reckoned with through the election of Richard M. Nixon in 1968. All of this would be called into question a few years later with Nixon’s presidential scandal called “Watergate.” The word “cult” had taken on new meaning with the arrest and trial of Charles Manson and his “family” for the Tate-LaBianca murders in 1968 and 1969. Although the horror of this crime rocked the nation it didn’t seem to occur to many that the Mason Family actions were just consistently carrying out the world view which most of the educational system had been teaching for over 30 years. It is probably unfortunate for Charles Manson, “Tex” Watson, Susan Atkins and the others that the inimitable Clarence Darrow wasn’t alive to defend them. He may very likely have been able to defend them to an acquittal with exactly that defense:

In a widely publicized case a year before the famous “Scopes Monkey Trial,” Clarence Darrow successfully defended two university students against the capital offense of murdering a boy for the intellectual experience of it. Argues Darrow, “Is there any blame attached because somebody took Nietzsche’s philosophy seriously and fashioned his life on it?… Your honor, it is hardly fair to hang a nineteen-year-old boy for the philosophy that was taught him at the university.”(2)

As author Philip Yancey points out:

In short, the reducers offer little compelling reason why we as humans should rise above the behavior of beasts rather than mimic it. Adolf Hitler said it well: “Nature is cruel, therefore we too can be cruel.” (3)

During the early ‘70s, the “revolutionary” fervor that had gripped so many of the youth began to cool. Toga parties were replacing campus sit-ins. Why? “The Establishment” had had enough of ‘60s “fun and frivolity” and things began to get, well, scary. In the shadow of the May 4, 1970 Kent State University Massacre, the Woodstock generation woke up to the fact that radicalism could cost some of them their lives. This was definitely not cool. Revolution was not supposed to be dangerous! And commitment to a cause was sooooooooo 1950’s. The ‘60s “radicals” that wreaked such havoc was made up of a small percentage of true Marxists bent on destroying “Amerika” and the capitalist system through revolution, and a much larger percentage of kids that were just trying to save their skin while having the time of their lives. The self-righteousness earned from protesting society’s evils was a plus. Rebellion could be fun, but seeing as how the prospect of being killed was a big reason why this second group was protesting Vietnam in the first place, getting shot on campus seemed to defeat the purpose. When the Vietnam War finally ended, there seemed little to care about for many young people, aside from where to take their next toke on a joint, or where to have their next sexual encounter. So, while the older generation was relieved its children were no longer about the business of tearing down “the Establishment,” new fears dawned of a directionless generation with declining scholastic aptitude, addicted to gratification and sexual freedom.

We feel to again reiterate that it was the violent and worst behaved of the 60’s generation that got all the press. There were innumerable young people in the 1960’s who never protested the war, or were involved in radicalism in any way. Countless young people of that generation didn’t “do drugs,” beyond the occasional aspirin. But since so many of the former 60’s “radicals” are the present day establishment—the academic elite of our universities and those who dominate the culture and the media—they still get all the press! They have been able to self-righteously frame the period as they wished, propagandizing the succeeding generations with tales of the pristine purity of their motives and incontestable rightness of their cause, while ignoring the disastrous fall-out of their rebellion. Rather than coming to terms with the damage done, they have been able to romanticize the era as one of America’s best. On the contrary, the Psychedelic 60’s had taken a massive toll on our nation’s moral and ethical health—Humpty Dumpty has not to this day been put back together again and more to the point, does influence the church.

Many of the colleges and universities who worked so hard at training their students to do the very things they did, were mystified as to why they were acting that way. It appears that the ability to put together the cause of teaching and effect of behavior still escapes these institutions:

Still, deconstructing Western civilization remains a central mission of the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Its professors regularly denounce Eurocentricism and competition, and students sign up for popular courses like Education for Social and Political Change.(4)

The Court-Martial and trial of Lt. William Calley for the March 16, 1968 My Lai Massacre in Viet Nam began on November 12, 1970. The claim by Calley and others that they were “simply following orders” as they rounded up and killed 347 unarmed men, women and children further solidified the motto “question all authority” among the college crowd.

“Ministers and Marchers”

The issue of segregation came to the forefront of both culture and the church through the 1950s and 1960s. Martin Luther King Jr., a theological liberal backed predominately by liberals had pressed for equal rights. Fundamentalist and Evangelical conservative churches were, at best, uncomfortable with this movement and resistant to change. Although Billy Graham had effectively insisted on mixed audiences in his crusades this had not worked at the local church, Bible College or Seminary level at this point. African-Americans continued to be unwelcomed in white churches, Bible Colleges and Seminaries. Jerry Falwell seemed to speak for the feeling of most churches in his 1965 speech and booklet “Ministers and Marchers” for which he publicly repented in the 1970s.

To his credit, Falwell faced his past squarely and apologized for it. He went to individual black ministers, told them he had been wrong in some of his past attitudes, and asked for their forgiveness.(5)

Falwell made amends for his “Ministers and Marchers” sermon in similarly open fashion. He called a press conference at which he explicitly repudiated the assertions that ministers ought to stay out of politics as “false prophecy,”(6)

The attitude of the church was changing in the early 1970s as desegregation began to become the norm. Jerry Falwell’s church began one of the then popular “bus ministries,” in this case to minority neighborhoods and in 1971 his Thomas Road Baptist Church performed its first baptism of an African-American. Also in 1971 Bob Jones University allowed African-Americans to begin attending but forbade interracial dating and marriage.

The church, like culture, continued in other areas of transition in the late 1960s particularly from sound thinking and sound doctrinal teaching to more of a mystical “sound bite” faith. Belief in absolutes continued to be more and more regarded as narrow minded, unkind, unloving and perhaps even evil. As the cry-baby boomer generation (of which the authors must admit membership), came into its own our culture has transitioned from “If it feels good, do it” to “If it feels good, believe it.” Instead of our faith being “all about God and His will,” it continued to become more “about us and our feelings.” Harmony, trust for everyone, affirmation that all beliefs are equally true was, in some circles, the order of the day.

In the face of this, church fads also became more the norm for generating church growth. Fundamentalists had watched a church in the factory town of Hammond Indiana grow to mega church status with their bus ministry. Since evangelism had become something which happened more inside of church than outside of church the way to get unbelievers in was through the burgeoning bus ministry. One of the important things which fundamentalists and evangelicals share is their zeal to proclaim the gospel as well as to affirm the essentials of the faith. Our concern is that the very zeal, which was wonderful about them, can lead into fads and approaches which in the end sidetrack into being more focused on the method than on the reason for the method, to glorify our Lord, Jesus Christ. Soon, every church was buying a bus and attempting to imitate this new methodology. Booklets were written and seminars given on church growth via bus ministry. Certainly, some were brought to the faith through this endeavor but the real ministry of the church, teaching, training, equipping and encouraging believers had been displaced by recruitment into the newest fad.

Robert Schuller’s church, the Crystal Cathedral, which had been founded primarily on Maslow’s psychology and focused primarily on how to self-actualize, and meet the hierarchy of needs by teaching the Bible through the grid of psychology and self-esteem was setting trends in church growth. Schuller wasn’t shy about his anthropocentric theology and seems quite convinced that being Theo-centric is actually a bad thing.

For decades now we have watched the church in Western Europe and in America decline in power, membership, and influence. I believe that this decline is the result of our placing Theo centric communications above the meeting of the deeper emotional and spiritual needs of humanity.(7)

Schuller’s shift in theological thinking was not new but rather the fruit born from the shift which began at the turn of the Nineteenth Century:

Even books on theology changed their order of things so that the theology of man took on greater and greater importance. Theologians previous to Friedrich Schleiermacher of Germany generally considered theology to be the study of God, and that from knowing God one could gain insight into His creation, including the nature of man. However, Schleiermacher included self-consciousness in his theology, whereby subjective experience gained a foothold alongside revelation.(8)

In this shift preaching and teaching had less to do with truth and sound doctrine and more to do with the question of “How do we get more people in to our church?” From a human perspective this is pretty understandable in light of the waning influence of the church:

First, Americans simply did not go to church in great numbers in the nineteenth century. Many estimates place church membership at around 7 percent at the dawn of the nineteenth century and only 15 percent by 1850, after the so-called Second Great Awakening.(9)

The solution at that time came in the form of a young attorney turned preacher by the name of Charles Finney:

All that began to change in the 1740s at the time of the Great Awakening and the preaching of George Whitefield. When the embers of this time or revival died down, the church went into a drought. Church attendance began to dive, theology lost its appeal, the teachings of the Enlightenment began to catch on, and Deism became popular. By 1800 the American church was in a dismal state and ripe for anything that would offer some kind of spiritual sustenance. The Second Great Awakening, which began in 1801 in Cane Ridge, Kentucky, would fill that void and forever change Christianity in America. Sermons of substance were replaced with emotional appeals. Doctrine was replaced by stories, and the preacher’s performance became more important than what was taught. Music took on a central role as emotionalism became the order of the day. Ministers began to study “what worked” in order to draw a crowd. Charles Finney would perfect all of this, changing the heart and soul of the church. In other words, church services became a form of entertainment.(10)

Watching the seeming “success” of Finney, pastors began using his marketing principles and style. Story telling, using the Bible of course, substituted for preaching and teaching. Preparing the environment for the consumer in order to make the final pitch of the gospel with an altar call directed the product packaging. The ministry of the church, worship, preaching, teaching and preparing the saints for the work of service (Eph 4:11-16) was replaced with the mission of the church (the proclamation of the gospel). Alexis de Tocqueville saw this in full bloom of its success:

Alexis de Tocqueville in the 1830s wrote an insightful analysis of American character and culture. De Tocqueville argued that Americans’ “self-interest” was an “irresistible force” and profoundly shaped how Christianity was presented.

De Tocqueville reported that pastors had lost all hope of contradicting American’s basic self-interest. Picture Americans’ self-interest as a swiftly flowing river. Instead of trying to row upstream, pastors decided to guide the boat downstream.

They turn all their thoughts to the direction of it [self-interest]. They therefore do not deny that every man may follow his one interest, but they endeavor to prove that it is in the interest of every man to be virtuous.(10)

What seems to be so little recognized today is that Finney himself saw his attempt as a failure.

Joseph Ives Foot, a Presbyterian minister, wrote in 1838: ‘During the ten years, hundreds, and perhaps thousands, were annually reported to be converted on all hands; but now it is admitted, that his [Finney’s] real converts are comparatively few. It is declared even by himself, that “the great body of them are a disgrace to religion.”(12)

Never-the-less, Finney’s methods became part of the fabric of the church and Robert Schuller was the latest salesman for the marketing method.

1 Aquarius, from “THE AMERICAN TRIBAL LOVE-ROCK MUSICAL – HAIR “, James Rado and Gerome Ragni with musical score by Galt MacDermot. First opened at the Public Theater in New York on October 17, 1967.
2 Philip Yancey, Rumors of Another World, Zondervan (Grand Rapids, MI, 2003) 22
3 ibid, 23
4 Joyce Milton, The Road to Malpsychia: Humanistic Psychology and our Discontents, Encounter Books (San Francisco, CA; 2002) 257
5 William Martin, With God on Our Side: The Rise of the Religious Right in America, Broadway Books, a division of Bantam Doubleday Dell Publishing Group, Inc., New York, NY, 1996; 219
6 ibid
7 Robert H. Schuller, , Word Books, Waco, TX, 1982; 12
8 Martin and Deidre Bobgan,
Against “Biblical Counseling” For the Bible, EastGate Publishers, (Santa Barbara, CA; 1994) 34-35
9 Gary E. Gilley, This Little Church Went to Market: The Church in the Age of Entertainment; Xulon Press, (Fairfax, VA; 2002) 31-32
10 ibid, 32
11 G.A. Pritchard, Willow Creek Seeker Services:Evaluating a New Way of Doing Church, Baker Books, Grand Rapids, MI, 1996: 251
12 Iain H. Murray, Revival and Revivalism: The Making and Marring of American Evangelicalism; The Banner of Truth Trust, 1994; 289


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