The Sixties

May 1, 2007 at 6:55 pm Leave a comment

 The people reading this have some awareness of wrestling with God in their lives. My goal with this blog is to get other people to engage in the same inner debate to loosen the soil of their soul that the Spirit may grow. Today I put on my tie-dyed shirt and headband and consider how the Sixties has loosened the baby boomers soil.

The recent Rolling Stone (RS 1025/1026) celebrates their 40th anniversary and it features interviews with many icons of the 1960s. (Wow man, wasn’t 1965 just yesterday man?) After reading some of the interviews, I was surprised that faith or religion came up in conversation with so many. The common thread emerges that each icon subscribes to some set of values formed in the Sixties but they are busy living life and navel gazing about “God” is irrelevant to them. I know some have come from a religious background yet have rejected it while others have picked up their moral code via the collective unconscious (quite possibly expedited by the drug culture).

Bob Dylan has notably flirted with Christianity and Judaism. When asked by Jann Wenner, “Do you find yourself a more religious person these days?” He responded;

A religious person? Religion is supposedly a force for positive good. Where can you look in the world and see that religion has been a force for positive good? Where can you look at humanity and say, “Humanity has been uplifted by a connection to a godly power”?

Meaning organized religion?

Corporations are religions. It depends what you talk about with a religion …. Anything is a religion.

At one point you took on Christianity in a very serious way, and then Judaism. Where are you now with all that?

 Religion is something that is mostly outwards appearance. Faith is a different thing. How many religions are there in the world? Quite a few actually.

What is your faith these days?

Faith doesn’t have a name. It doesn’t have a category. It’s oblique. So it’s unspeakable. We degrade faith by talking about religion.

Norman Mailer when asked by Mark Binelli what he meant about the war against communism that manifested in the Vietnam war being misguided said;

Well, we are not supposed to enrich ourselves, enrich ourselves, enrich ourselves. We are supposed to take care of the poor if we are good Christians. But in fact there is no such thing as a good Christian. A good Christian is one man and one woman in a thousand. The average Christian is a mixture, like the rest of us, with their good and their bad. And churchgoing Christians have been running America in my life time. And they saw communism as the spawn of the devil. They didn’t see it as a messed up system filled with people just like themselves, half good, half bad.

Tom Wolfe mentioned to Mark Binelli that in addition to FDR’s four freedoms (freedom of expression, freedom of religion, freedom from tyranny and freedom from want), there is a fifth. We are now in an era of freedom from religion.

You are lamenting the loss of God in our lives, but I don’t see in your writings any professions of belief. Are you a religious person?

No, I am not a believer. I was raised as a Presbyterian, and when I was about thirteen or fourteen, I just kind of wandered off. It wasn’t – I had never had this moment when I said there was no God.

But as a nonbeliever, you still seem to be defending belief.

Anyone who thinks that religion is bad for society is out of his mind. We are now beginning to see what happens when you don’t have it. People get depressed when they don’t have something to believe.

I think the contemporary conception of the human mind has become more and more depressing. This is my problem with the atheists, people like Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris. They’re saying that there is no ghost in the machine, that it’s all physical. And if it’s all physical, it’s going to obey certain laws. And the endpoint of the argument is that there is no free will. That you and I are machines that have a certain genetic foundation, and as soon as we know enough about that, we’ll be able to predict what’ll happen when you meet me. We just need the information. That’s a very depressing thought.

Martin Scorsese also seemed to experience alienation. When Peter Travers asked why Scorsese changed from pro-Vietnam to anti-Vietnam, he said;

Around 1965, I went into a local church one Sunday, and I heard the priest on the pulpit describe the Vietnam war as a holy war. That’s when I walked out. Something told me he’s dead wrong.

Neil Young’s observations seem to ring true with the direction that my journey currently leads. David Fricke asked him;

There are a lot of Native American references in your music and art work. Why did you identify so strongly with that culture?

I loved the simplicity and naturalness of it. The Indians are basically pagans. And that’s what I believe in: nature, whether God created it or it created itself. That’s my church – when I go to the forest, out into a big green field or in the water. I don’t need any preacher. I’ve been identifying with the moon cycles all my life. That’s what the Indians did – “How many moons since you’ve been here?”

Paul McCartney and Jimmy Carter both made no specific reference to religion but they both mentioned what is perhaps the lasting moral attitude of the flower power generation. Jimmy Carter said,

What emerged from the Sixties was a commitment to international peace, human rights and shared responsibilities. The Sixties prepared us for a potentially enlightened domestic and foreign policy.

Paul McCartney said,

It would be great if people with differences in the world today would realize that there are no differences – it’s an energy field dude! What’s needed is the same old thing: peace and love. Not to be frivolous, but that is still the great aim.

Jane Fonda was different in that she was an atheist and is just now embracing Christianity (and she is almost 70!). Like us, she is wrestling with God to define her relationship with the Source. Her interview is interesting and it wouldn’t hurt to pick up a copy of Rolling Stone and read them all.

You know, this all makes me feel goodr. They say God died in the Sixties and I certainly think that the traditional doctrine regarding God that existed for so many centuries finally did die. The Sixties culture opened a window that let fresh air into that place where we wrestle with God. The Spirit is still alive in many and numerous ways but the old man on a throne above the clouds is gone. The emerging church is wrestling with a way to raise awareness of the Spirit that’s relevant to the generations who sing “All you need is love.” Jesus and John Lennon were preaching the same message. I feel good about being part of that. “That” being both the Sixties and the emerging church.

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Entry filed under: Wrestling With God.

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