“This was clearly a Christian nation in the 1950s,” he said. “What went wrong?”
I’ve thought a lot about this subject in the years since the facts destroyed my own ‘60s-based atheism, and of course there are many ways of addressing this question. But perhaps this comes closest to the truth: In the 1960s, a relatively large swath of young America turned its back on the Ten Commandments.
1. You shall have no other gods before Me. We children of the ‘60s elevated many things above God, from sex to drugs to music. Want proof? Take a look at the audience at a big-name rock concert such as this one. This is nothing less than worship.
2. You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them nor serve them.
Or, as Ray Comfort puts it, don’t make a god to suit yourself. Which is precisely what many, if not most, young Americans started doing in droves in the ‘60s.
“To me, god is ________.” Fill in the blank with whatever phrase would seem to condone your rebellion of choice. For instance, I knew one girl of that era who insisted that “My god understands love, and so he doesn’t care that my boyfriend is married.” Another said, “God doesn’t want us to be unhappy, so of course he supports divorce.” Yet another opined, “I think god wants us to find someone sexually compatible before we get married.”
And so on. During the 1960s, too many people stopped turning to their Bibles for the truth about God, stopped going to Bible-teaching churches for instruction, and started making gods to match our own images. And most of us are still doing it today.
3. You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain.
In the ‘60s, we started using His name as a casual expletive and a curse word, in large part for shock value; it made our parents crazy. The habit stuck; today His name must be one of the most commonly used words in the English language, even though the practice is quite simply blasphemy.
To find out how His name has been devalued by our culture, confront the next person you hear taking it in vain. Chances are you’ll hear something along the lines of this: “It’s no big deal, it’s just a word – it doesn’t mean anything.”
4. Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.
I remember when stores began opening their doors on Sundays – the Christian answer to the Jewish Sabbath. It was the mid-1960s, at least in little Green Bay, Wisconsin, and we young people rejoiced. No more sitting around the house with nothing to do! See you later, Mom and Dad – we’re going shopping!
Today, we barely remember a time when Sunday was a special day set aside for worship and fellowship. Just think: 2000 years of Christian tradition, overturned in just a few decades by a generation committed to pursuing its own pleasures.
5. Honor your father and your mother.
This may have been the last one to fall into the west’s rejection pile. There are still parts of the world, such as eastern Asia, where the elderly are revered. Not here, though – not among those who warned each other, back in the ‘60s, not to trust anyone over 30.
Fact is, my generation turned its collective back on the aged decades ago. Who says there’s no justice in this world? We’re about to experience the consequences for ourselves.
6. You shall not murder.
Okay, most of us have not killed anyone in cold blood. Except that Jesus said, “But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment. And whoever says to his brother, 'Raca!' shall be in danger of the council. But whoever says, 'You fool!' shall be in danger of hell fire” (Matthew 5:22).
Still feeling comfortable about this one, in a culture that’s constantly offended? My generation may not have invented all this indignation and anger, but we certainly perfected it.
7. You shall not commit adultery.
Here’s another one most people will deny. But again, Jesus’ definition of the word is more expansive than ours: “But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matthew 5:28). It’s no secret that the children of the ‘60s turned lust into a sacrament, insisting that there was something wrong with anyone who even tried to suppress it.
Proof? Just look at the movies we made. On second thought, perhaps it would be better not to.
8. You shall not steal.
This is not merely an admonition against robbing a bank. It means that we should not take something that belongs to someone else. That would include knowingly short-changing a clerk, or hiding income from Uncle Sam, or downloading a copyrighted e-book being offered free online. And so on.
The anti-capitalist fervor of the ‘60s convinced some of us that we were making an important and almost sacrificial political statement if we found a way to cheat “the system.” And some of us never got over it.
9. You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
In a word, “bearing false witness” means lying. And it’s not limited to making up stories about others (since “your neighbor” means literally anyone, per Jesus’ parable of the good Samaritan). The most rebellious children of the ‘60s turned lying into a fine art, especially if we had concerned parents to circumvent – which most of us did back then.
10. You shall not covet.
Coveting means yearning to possess something that you don’t currently have. At first, the most hippy-esque children of the ‘60s did a pretty fair job of avoiding this particular sin, favoring commune-style living and sharing of everything from food to drugs to boyfriend or girlfriend. But once we started earning incomes and dropped this façade of selfless sharing, Katy bar the door: We took pride- and greed-fueled covetousness to new heights.
Just look at our homes, our leisure pursuits, our portfolios; many of us enjoy wealth and possessions that would make our grandparents blush. More to the point, many of us would like to.
In a nutshell, my generation discovered that we could break every last divine commandment and get away with it – at least in this life. In the meantime, our public schools had begun teaching us that everything had come into being through evolution; which meant that there didn’t even have to be a God. And if He didn’t exist, why, there was no reason to pay any attention to those silly commandments.
So we didn’t. And as the years unfolded, we unwittingly fulfilled one of the most chilling prophecies in the entire Bible, found in 2 Timothy 3: “In the last days perilous times will come,” wrote the apostle Paul. “For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power.”
This, in my opinion, is what has happened to our nation in the last half century. Which makes one wonder: Is there any turning back?