John's apocalyptic vision in the Book of Revelation first caught my attention as a young student at UCLA in the late sixties. It was a wild, wonderful, worrisome time to be in school. The war in Vietnam was raging, and war protests regularly punctuated a day at the university. I remember the daily hum of police helicopters hovering over hot spots in Westwood, periodic sweeps by the Los Angeles Police Department across campus, and the agitated, turbulent, urgent words of speakers on the free-speech platform just off Bruin Walk. The issue of the day might be the war itself or it could range across topics from economics and politics to philosophy, music, or sex.
What I most vividly recall, though, is the deeply felt urgency of the times. Many students sensed they stood on the edge of history; discussions and debates, religious or not, often had an apocalyptic tone. The world seemed tilted on edge, off-kilter, out of balance. The conflict over the war in Vietnam revealed cracks in American moral underpinnings, at least from the perspective of the young. Students opposed to the war insisted that it end immediately. Others felt just as strongly that those opposing the war were disloyal, cowardly sentimentalists, unaware of political realities. Whether for or against the war, many students sensed that life in America was changing: politically, morally, spiritually.
It was a time of extremes, of deep darkness and bright light and, surprisingly, of opportunity for the gospel, for unexpectedly, in the midst of this screwy, sexually overheated, violent world the gospel found a ready audience. Where? Precisely among young people who were longing to find a point of moral and spiritual clarity and stability, a rock in the midst of the storm, ...1