After the London riots, after the Greek riots, after the economic downturns worldwide, after entitlement demands and increased crime, after the many signs of our juvenile culture stamping its feet in temper tantrums, I wondered if finally the sixties revolution was coming home to roost, if we were paying the piper, if we could at last admit that the sexual-moral revolution of those years was so very very very misguided.
Lord Jonathan Sacks, chief rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the British Commonwealth, contributed an excellent summary of our cultural meltdown in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal. The surprise, he says, is that we are surprised.
He calls the sixties revolution one of the most “radical transformations in the history of the West.” The sixties preached against self-restraint, against the Ten Commandments. We embraced “whatever works for you,” instant gratification, and the “Ten Creative Suggestions.” But it was all a dream, wishful thinking. It was a lie to say that all you need is love, if love is defined as casual sex. It was a lie that if you were spontaneous and artsy and looked out for number one you would be happy and successful. It was a lie that self-esteem could be conjured by words and phrases and did not require simple hard work and accomplishment.
Sex without marriage breeds instability. Children without responsible parents active in their lives do not grow up. Liberty without accountability leads to lawlessness. Love without willing sacrifice is not love.
Several generations have been taught that if it feels good, do it, to follow their dream and not someone else’s. They found school difficult, requiring discipline and exposure to failure which hurts self esteem. So we added more fun programs to entertain them (at taxpayers’ expense) and lowered standards. Holding a job and going to college didn’t sound like fun – when do we party? So we gave them student loans (funded by taxpayers) and taught them to delay the day of real work. Now they can’t find work that meets their dream standards and they are deeply in debt. What? Wait tables?
We told them they were entitled to health care, entitled to a job (whether they performed or not), entitled to a dream house. We gave them credit cards and low-interest mortgages they couldn’t repay.
The governments of the West also borrowed against tomorrow. Now that they are going bankrupt, now that they can no longer provide the student loans, the free or low cost housing, the health care, the social security, these generations are indignant, angry.
How do we rebirth the work ethic? How do we encourage sacrifice? I agree with Rabbi Sacks that the answer lies in religious institutions. But do our churches and temples have much influence today? As a culture do we still believe in God? Do we believe in a greater authority?
I read recently that 90% of Americans believe in God, and I would guess by God they mean the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of the Ten Commandments, the God whose authority was the basis for our Constitution and Bill of Rights. Can we still turn the sixties around?
As nine-eleven approaches in this year of 2011, the diving planes and the black smoke billowing from the twin towers return forcefully to mind. The anniversary of this murderous attack on our freedom, on our way of life in the West, will be remembered on a Sunday this year, a day of weekly thanksgiving and worship. It is also Grandparents’ Day. We plan, in our parish church, to have a Children’s Chapel blessing on this day, for it is also the first day of our regular Sunday School Program. In church this morning as we sang in chapel, “All things bright and beautiful, the Lord God made them all…” I gave thanks for our children, our bright hope for the future, our beautiful hope that we can undo some of the sixties damage in time.
Our teachers will do their best to teach our children restraint, delayed gratification, sharing, responsibility, looking out for others first. We will teach them the Ten Commandments and not the Ten Creative Suggestions. We will shower them with the love of God, the ultimate source of self-esteem. We will teach them that work is good and sloth deadly, and that God has a plan for each of them. We will teach them to repent, to say they are sorry, to be forgiven. To turn themselves, ourselves around.
We will teach them they are entitled to God, for only God can make them happy. We will, as we did today, sing and pray together, and kneel at the altar in the great nave for our blessings and communions. We will be part of an incredible parish family that embraces the broken and the hurt, the unwanted and the dying, every baby conceived and every aged person shuffling through our doors.
Through our churches and temples God will renew our culture.
God will turn us around.