“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us.”—From “A Tale of Two Cities,” by Charles Dickens.
The present is the aperture through which the future rushes into the past. The present also is the aperture through which the past is focused into the future.
With these thoughts in mind, CHRISTIANITY TODAY’S news department takes an over-the-shoulder glance at the receding nineteen sixties and a telescopic squint into the nineteen seventies.
Admittedly, the topics for review both fore and aft of 1970 are somewhat arbitrary. Our review-preview isn’t exhaustive; it doesn’t attempt to be. But at least the summary covers some of the key issues that Christians and the churches wrestled with in the decade past—and doubtless will confront again in the seventies.
As for the risky business of prognosticating, we think there is reason to be optimistic, despite the pollsters’ grim finding that 70 per cent of adult Americans of this era believe religion is losing its influence on society. After all, California survived the predictions of mystics that last April the state would be split from the nation and slip into the sea.
Ten years ago, who could have dreamed that by decade’s end, man would walk on the moon, and live, at least temporarily, with a transplanted heart?
If we live another ten years—and the Lord tarries—we may look back and laugh at our imperfect wisdom and poor predicting power. But whether we’re right or wrong, the seventies are sure to be a challenge.
The year 1960 found Protestant theology in the form of Karl Barth’s neo-orthodoxy going to seed. Unfortunately, the seed fell on largely unproductive ground, and the dearth of a virile, perennial stock persisted as 1970 began.
Church historian Martin B. Marty noted last month: “Theologians are entering the 1970s in a state of combat fatigue. They look back on the debris of the 1960s—it was theologians and not atheists who experimented for a moment with the death of God movement—and feel exhausted. During that decade their mentors died. Albert Schweitzer (reverence for life) and Martin Buber (I and Thou) were gone. Pope John had sought unity; Paul Tillich, profundity; Karl Barth, awe. They too were gone.”
In their place, the radicals thrust their secular theology and “religionless Christianity.” The death of God was in vogue in the time between Selma and Watts, and Harvey Cox soon abandoned the secular city to others while he glided on to liturgy, celebration, and, with Jürgen Moltmann, eschatology. Next, we augur, he will concentrate on the new monasticism.
The “in today, out tomorrow” tag dance of theology is likely to continue into the seventies, as will liberal-conservative dialectic. Theology may be enriched by a more sophisticated use of the behavioral sciences; death and resurrection will be key themes.
We agree with Catholic lay theologian Michael Novak when he says: “One of the most important developments of the seventies will be an exploration of the spirit, a quiet rebirth of the practice of long, silent, meditative peace.…”
And who knows, there may be a theological giant waiting in the wings for such a decade as this.
The Second Vatican Council, summoned in 1959 and convened in 1962, was widely romanticized as opening the window of the church to let in some fresh air. Whether what followed was a welcome breeze or a chilly draft depended on one’s point of view.
But, by common consent, probably nothing so fostered and enlivened inter-confessional relations as Vatican II. Formal and mutual condemnations between the Roman church and the Eastern Orthodox were removed, and by 1969 a giant leap of ecumenicity saw the appointment of a Southern Baptist theologian by Roman Catholics to teach in Rome.
Within the Protestant matrix, the decade saw Eugene Carson Blake’s modest proposal for unity blossom into the Consultation on Church Union. Then enthrallment with institutional unity faded somewhat under the wilting effect of shrinking budgets and the swinging exuberance of the so-called free church. The bitterest disappointment in Britain came with the defeat of the anticipated Anglican-Methodist merger. Evangelicals got together, but for the most part, rapprochements were temporary trysts; there were few marriages.
Christian-Jewish understanding seemed to take an upturn in the waning days of the decade when a Vatican document asked Catholic respect for the modern Jewish state and recognition of Judaism as more than a stepping stone to Christianity.
In 1962 the Vatican Council was more shadow than promise; in the seventies many of the long shadows will become realities. We predict that the doomsayers who bemoan the end of the organized structures of the churches by the end of the century will revise their jeremiads before 1980: given the complexity of the society in which religious denominations must operate, the bureaucracies will increase while, paradoxically, local congregations will become more autonomous.
The National Council of Churches will continue, but will be greatly altered in form by 1980,
We agree with sociologist Andrew M. Greely: “American ecumenism will continue to be a denominational ecumenism, with progress, such as it is, occurring within a complex of continuance of the various traditions.”
The authority crisis in Roman Catholicism was one of the continuing anguishes of the sixties, accelerated to break-neck speed by Vatican II momentum. “Pope Paul VI is trapped between Pope John XXIII, Vatican II and the Roman Curia,” comments Dr. Al Stauderman, associate editor of the Lutheran magazine.
“The crisis … grows as hundreds of priests defect, even bishops leave the church and polls show that the majority of Catholics disobey the Pope’s teachings on birth control.”
Upon the pivot of authority turns the concept of church mission: the relevance of Protestant denominational and interdenominational structures came under increasing attack during the sixties, particularly from minority groups and youths.
More subtle, perhaps, but nonetheless pervasive, was the continuing assault on biblical authority. Although the authority crisis will continue in the new decade, we affirm the prediction of Billy Graham: “The real evangelical will not abdicate biblical and divine authority.… The hopeful evangelical Christian … would not throw away the lessons and traditions of the past, but neither is he blind to new methods, new approaches, and new, effective implementation of the Gospel.”
Home And Family
In the sixties, medicine produced the Pill, and the Pill produced freedom from reproduction, bringing women, as they say, a long way. Finding identity and fulfillment in something besides nest-building and child-rearing, the New Woman mounted her soapbox to declare her independence—symbolized by bra-burnings.
The Pill also produced moral codes that some called “new.” While parents, preachers, and physicians asked of single girls, Should they or shouldn’t they take it?, the girls were asking, Should we or shouldn’t we bother with a wedding now that parenthood can be safely planned? Youthful disillusionment with the Establishment extended to the institution of marriage—with some justification: out of every four marriages in the sixties, one ended in divorce, another in legal separation.
Catholic priests and nuns risked excommunication for marital bliss while the Now Generation complained of cumbersome lifetime commitments. In the seventies, both may get their wish. Commonweal expects priests to have the option to marry. Sweden already claims group marriages; California promotes wife-swapping.
Anthropologist Margaret Mead predicts the end of the “nuclear” family—one set of parents and their young children. Instead, she claims, “clusters” of people, including “closed units,” single adults, and elderly people, will share home and family responsibilities, providing more security for children and more freedom for their parents.
Rosa Parks refused to stand, and her soul brothers and sisters (of all races) stood behind her all the way through the sixties. They also sat at lunch counters, faced fire hoses and chains at school doors, marched to Washington, D. C., to declare their dream of equality, and buried their peaceful dreamer who was felled by a white assassin’s bullet.
If talking and walking failed to compel action, burning cities succeeded, and the Kerner Commission pointed to white racism. But eleven o’clock Sunday morning often remained segregated despite denominational and conciliar pronouncements of equality. Demanding, as it were, works with faith, James Forman invaded a number of influential pulpits with his Black Manifesto asking “reparations” for past injustices to Negroes. Though most churches refused to pay, many at least agreed that talk alone would not right centuries of wrongs.
By the end of the sixties, “discrimination” was the battle cry of other minorities as well—notably American Indians—and at least one majority—women. By 1980, the white, Anglo-Saxon, Protestant majority may be demanding university departments of Celtic studies.
War And Peace
What began with John F. Kennedy’s offer of advice to a tiny southeast Asian country flamed into a war that by decade-end claimed more than 40,000 American lives. Disenchanted with unkept promises to end it and disgusted with the inhumanity of man, clergymen and young people began protesting the undeclared war. Some burned draft cards and attacked Selective Service recruiters visiting college campuses. Others poured blood on draft records and wrecked offices of companies like Dow Chemical that manufactured napalm.
Elsewhere, the Middle East smoldered and periodically erupted; Biafra and Nigeria lunged at each other’s throats; Protestants and Roman Catholics battled in Northern Ireland; Russia invaded Czechoslovakia and sparred with China.
None of the conflicts ended with the decade. The seventies will discover the truth about My Lai, claim the promise (again) that the war will end, watch the beginning of another one (in Laos?), and rehabilitate Vietnamese, Arab, and Biafran refugees. And maybe the seventies will also see the end of violence on television and in the streets.
Evangelical editors voted as the top 1969 news story the September U. S. Congress on Evangelism at Minneapolis—a gathering that infused new freedom and apparent unity into the evangelical movement. The congress was the outgrowth of the first worldwide evangelism congress in Berlin during 1966.
As a result, in the late sixties congresses also were held in Asia, Africa, Latin America, and elsewhere. The long-planned Crusade of the Americas involving 24 million Baptists in thirty-two countries was staged, and the Key Bridge meetings, launched in 1967 by CHRISTIANITY TODAY’S founding editor Dr. Carl F. H. Henry, promised a yield of coordinated evangelistic emphases in 1973.
A second world congress on evangelism may be convened in a year or two in Europe, and the Baptist World Alliance has set plans for global evangelism by its churches in 1974.
During the past decade Billy Graham crusades continued to swell stadiums and halls, and they show no signs of withering away during the seventies.
The stage seems set for Leighton Ford, Billy Graham’s brother-in-law, to take Graham’s place someday.
“Jesus isn’t dead, but alive and well, stirring things up on the streets and in the church aisles,” notes the Rev. Robert Raines of the Germantown, Pennsylvania, First Methodist Church, in an article on “The New-Time Religion.”
Nowhere has there been a greater stir in the sixties than in the church aisles, where the new-time religion focuses on a liturgy that is essentially experimental and experiential. Spontaneity, improvisation, and total participation characterize it.
Nuns and priests lock arms and swing to rock masses and Corita Kent pop posters and balloons float gaily, gaily, in not a few Protestant sanctuaries. During the sixties, the Latin mass was translated into an English service, and the Consultation on Church Union liturgy was pressed as a possible standard for ecumenical worship. Occasionally, hamburgers and Cokes were substituted for the traditional Communion elements—in the name of authentic meaning and community, of course.
The outworkings of the liturgical revolution are not yet clearly defined for the seventies. A hint: the world of psychedelia, where much of the bizarre innovation is taking place.
Perhaps by the 1980s the rational, the orderly, the sedate, and the “respectable” will reassert themselves in religious ritual (indeed, these will not rusticate, meantime), but we believe that the guitars and stomping feet will have their day in church first.
By the end of the sixties, ecology had become a household word; a decade earlier, environmental nomenclature was the property of the ecologically elite.
But as the smarting smog spread, America’s rivers ran murky with pollutants, and the offal stench of the slums incensed the nostrils of city-dwellers, pollution control and conservation became an inescapable problem for all.
As the realization dawned that not even immense oceans can gobble up mankind’s filth, the public became more alarmed, and youth added a cry for clean air to their cudgels of war, race, and poverty. Well they might, for President Nixon’s science adviser, Dr. Lee A. DuBridge, warned that man must curb deteriorating environmental trends or leave this planet “quite uninhabitable” for the next generation.
In 1972—assuming the Viet Nam war no longer is dominating all other questions—cleaning up the environment will be the big issue in the presidential election.
Already, Wisconsin U. S. Senator Gaylord Nelson has planned a nationwide moratorium day protesting pollution next spring, and an action team has been organized within the National Council of Churches to help churchmen assume responsibility on moral and ethical aspects of environmental care. The group plans a major environmental stewardship conference next fall.
Watch this one in the seventies: it will be very big, and the churches will be in the forefront of the action.
Once it was a dream of science fiction and cartoons, but man walked on the moon in the sixties—twice—and shared his experience via television with the world. Cheers for the technical triumph that planted America’s flag in the moon’s ancient glassy surface ahead of the Russian’s were mingled with boos: urban crises, poverty, hunger, and overpopulation deface the earth while millions of dollars’ worth of equipment litter the moon. Militant atheist Madalyn Murray O’Hair took astronauts’ religious expressions to court—but lost.
As 1970 begins, Apollo 13 is on its launch pad in preparation for the third lunar voyage. Space scientists look forward to sending man to Mars, speculating on the presence of life there and on the possibility of finding wide-open space for some of earth’s excess population. Meanwhile, theologians plot an astrotheology that proclaims man’s “significant puniness” and unity that transcends political, racial, and religious barriers. As United Press International religion writer Louis Cassels says, “The view from the moon makes clear that this is the most realistic of facts.”
Life And Death
Splashiest medical headline of the sixties was the transplantation of a woman’s heart to Louis Washkansky by Dr. Christiaan Barnard, and the nearly two hundred subsequent heart transplants. Ethical questions sent physicians and theologians to redefine death in terms of brain activity rather than as a final heartbeat.
Transplant surgeons were called ghouls, and worse, for taking organs from not-yet-dead bodies for other nearly dead patients. Yet Philip Blaiberg, with the second transplant, lived more than eighteen months with his new heart, and nearly all recipients rejoiced in the improved quality of their lives, however brief the quantity.
If replacing worn-out organs with new or used ones fails to eliminate death by 1980, improved cryonics techniques will freeze decaying bodies till means to cure them are discovered. By then, ways to defrost them should also be available. If not, beautiful or valuable people might be cloned now that geneticists know that every body cell, not just the joined male and female sex cells, contains all the characteristics of an individual. By giving up a few of his cells, an evangelist or a criminal could reproduce hundreds of carbon copies of himself.
Motherhood will not be out in the seventies, but it may be different. Parents will be able to choose at least the sex of their offspring. They may also be able to choose from frozen embryos the one they like best. No couple need be childless with perfected artificial insemination (10,000 babies a year are already born by that means) and artificial inovulation (begun in human beings only in the late sixties). Women with handicaps or careers that discourage childbearing will be able to have their children by proxy mothers in whom the fertilized egg will be planted.
Isolation of the gene late in the sixties gives credence to promises of eugenic manipulation, beginning, probably, in the seventies. Hereditary diseases like hemophilia could be eliminated by such manipulation, but so could certain types of personalities at some tyrant’s whim. Ethics, if such a discipline lasts through the seventies, will have some grappling to do.
Key Bridge: Still Holding Up
Participants in the Key Bridge Consultation come from such widely divergent ecclesiastical backgrounds that observers often wonder how long the group can stay together. The consultation now includes representatives of forty denominations, however, and the structure seems to be holding up reasonably well under the strain.
Dr. Carl F. H. Henry, who initiated the talks in 1967 when he was editor of CHRISTIANITY TODAY, was the featured speaker at the consultation’s seventh session, held in St. Louis, December 8 and 9. Henry declared that hundreds of thousands of evangelical Christians “are waiting for some courageous voice to rally them to a new and bolder course of action.”
“They are distressed by the stance of ecumenical Christianity, disturbed over denominational trends, dismayed at the impotence of evangelicals in their present divisions,” he added. “They sense that if things drift along as they are, with our consent, they will quickly worsen to the place where our dissent will mean nothing; it is now or never for an evangelical thrust that can still make a difference.”
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