A regular article written by Phillip Jensen in his role as Dean of Sydney at St Andrew's Cathedral.
31st March 2008
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Twice in one week was quite a shock. The first time I had to check to see if I had got it right but the second time was a 'sit-down-with-a-strong-cup-of-coffee' moment. Last week—not once but twice—I came across social commentators saying something good about the 1950's!
It is hard to believe. Once in a newspaper and the other time on TV.
There is no reason to return to the 1950's or the 60's or any other age or decade. There is, or was, no golden age that we must try to recreate. Christians should aim to be content in each decade where God places us.
There is no reason to return to childhood or any other phase of life. There is glory in being young and a different glory in being old—but both can be glorious (Proverbs 20:29).
Christians are the people of today. We learn from our history. We look forward in hope to the return of our Lord. But we live in the day that the Lord has given us.
Today is the day in which to worship the Lord Jesus and serve his people in love. Today is the day to hear his word with prayerful obedience (Hebrews 3-4).
By and large social analysts' pronouncements defining life by decades is quite unconvincing to those who do not follow fashion. The 70's may have had flares but there is more to life than the size of trouser cuffs. And the matters of substance do not change every ten years.
However, amongst the fashions, changes and developments of life there was a large and measurable social revolution in the 1960's. Life did change when the baby boomers became adults and used the affluence of the post war reconstruction to play instead of work.
The insecurity of this revolution and its revolutionaries is seen in the need for repeated denigration of the 1950's. It is standard 'politically correct' social comment to attack the 1950's as the worst of all times to have lived—inhibited, small minded and old fashioned.
So much has this silly social commentary overwhelmed our public debate that it is now enough just to call something “1950's” to denigrate it. The “50's” epithet belittles any suggestion. The “white picket fence” tag is a classic example of shallow name-calling derision.
None of this cultural posturing about the 50's has anything to do with genuine historical insight. A moment’s reflection will remind you that Rock and Roll, Elvis and the Sydney Push were all part of the 50's not the 60's. Furthermore, since the revolutionary 60's, we have seen the conservatism of Thatcherism, Reaganism and locally John Howard. The paradigm of social commentary is not generally given to concerns for historical accuracy.
Imagine my surprise, then, to read an argument for public schooling using the wonders of the egalitarian 1950's as a model to return to. It was a silly argument: more about social engineering than education. It made no mention of the nearly 50 other children who had to share the classroom with me back in the 50's—and the educational disadvantage that it may have caused us.
The fifties were not the golden age. There were things that were better than today and things that were worse. The advertising hoardings at the Sydney Cricket Ground are appalling compared to the old cream picket fence. That opinion does not lock all aesthetics into a by-gone age. It just means that in all the “progress” of modern society, it is possible to retain some taste.
Christians reading their Bible are wonderfully free from the silly worldly discussions where people use socio-babble to push their agendas. How life was lived in the 1950's, 60's, 40's or 90's has little bearing on how we should live today. We are to live today and every day by the word of God.