Talkin’ ‘Bout My Generation
FORGET NONE OF HIS BENEFITS,
volume 14, number 10, March 5, 2015
“O Lord, revive Thy work in the midst of the years”
How did our nation survive the hellish influences of the French Revolution in the 1780’s? We were almost dead before we even started. By the time of George Washington’s first inauguration in 1789 the glorious benefits of the first Great Awakening of 1735 to 1745 were a distant memory. America was imbibing deeply of the Jacobin, Enlightenment philosophy of the Marquis de Sade, Voltaire, and Jean Jacques Rousseau. The new nation, founded on the Puritan vision of “A City on a Hill”, was adrift in ungodliness, perversion, and crime. Of the five million American citizens in 1789, three hundred thousand were confirmed drunkards and fifteen thousand were dying annually from their alcoholism. Bank robberies were a daily occurrence. For the first time ever, women were afraid to go outside alone at night. Whole counties in Kentucky were bereft of law and order. Ordinary citizens formed vigilante groups in order to protect their property and lives. The Methodist church was losing more members than she was taking into the church. The Lutherans and Episcopalians considered combining their denominations because of their mutual decline. Presbyterians at their General Assembly passed a resolution deploring the nation’s ungodliness. Chief Justice of the Supreme Court John Marshall wrote James Madison, lamenting that the church was too far gone to be redeemed. Voltaire and Thomas Paine rejoiced, saying that Christianity would be forgotten in thirty years. Polls showed that Harvard and Princeton had only one Christian each in their colleges. Students at Harvard rioted, forcing the resignation of the President. Students at Princeton burned down Nassau Hall. Only five students there were not part of the filthy speech movement. Dartmouth students put on an anti-Christian play. Students at Williams College observed a mock communion service. A Bible was taken from a church near Princeton and burned publicly in a bonfire. The few Christians at the colleges gathered in secret for their meetings, keeping their minutes in code, lest they be discovered and mocked. Students at Hampden Sydney College overheard two students praying and stormed their room, threatening to beat them.
How did our nation survive the 1960’s? In March, 1961 the Bay of Pigs fiasco resulted in numerous Army Reserve soldiers from Birmingham being killed in the foiled attempt to drive Fidel Castro from power in Havana. In May, just a few months later, a bus full of freedom riders who were seeking to overturn the Jim Crow laws in the south were taken from their bus just outside Anniston, Alabama and beaten. Their bus was set on fire. Another bus made it to Birmingham and the freedom riders were beaten by young white men. Bull Connor knew what was happening but refused to send the Birmingham police to protect the victims. In September, 1962 riots broke out at the University of Mississippi as students and others violently resisted the entrance of James Meredith to the University as the first black student. Two U.S. Marshalls were killed in the rioting. A month later we narrowly escaped World War III with the Cuban missile crisis. Medgar Evers was gunned down in his driveway in Jackson, Mississippi in June, 1963. Just a few months earlier Eugene “Bull” Connor turned fire hoses and attack dogs on black children at Kelly Ingram Park in Birmingham. Hundreds were arrested. In September of that year four black children were killed as a bomb exploded at the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham. In November John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas. Three civil rights workers were murdered and buried in a dam in Philadelphia, Mississippi in June, 1964. The Free Speech Movement was igniting the Anti-War Movement in the mid 1960’s at the University of California at Berkeley, driving a great wedge between those later known as the Greatest Generation and their children. In February, 1965 Malcolm X was gunned down by Black Muslims in New York City. In March demonstrators on their way from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama were turned back at the Edmund Pettus bridge by Alabama State Troopers and tear gas. Meanwhile people were turning onto LSD and free love. In January, 1968 the Tet Offensive brought to the American mind the reality that the Vietnam War was getting way out of hand with President Lyndon Johnson’s troop escalation. In April of that year Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated in Memphis. In June it was Robert Kennedy in Los Angeles, after winning the California Democratic primary. In August, 1969 a convergence of free love, rock and roll music, anti-war demonstrations, and the drug culture occurred at Woodstock in upstate New York. A few days later the horrific Charles Manson murders occurred in southern California. And in May, 1970 National Guardsmen opened fire on students at Kent State University, killing four.
In both of these bleak historical situations, God did a mighty work of grace. In 1748, after hearing that John Erskine in Scotland was calling the people of that land to united and fervent revival prayer, Jonathan Edwards did the same in his two hundred page tract entitled A Humble Attempt to Promote Explicit Agreement and Visible Union of all God’s People in Extraordinary Prayer for the Revival of Religion and the Advancement of Christ’s Kingdom on Earth Pursuant to Scripture Promises and Prophecies. God’s people, across denominational lines, gathered weekly in small groups, usually on Saturday nights, and sought God to pour out His Spirit as He had between 1735 and 1745. The Second Great Awakening began around 1792 and lasted for over seventy years until 1863 with a mighty awakening in the Army of Northern Virginia under Robert E. Lee. In 1966, in the midst of social, political, and economic upheaval God began converting hippies by the thousands in Southern California and the San Francisco Bay area. The movement spread like wildfire across the United States until around 1975. In both scenarios there was significant uncertainty and angst among young people. What did the future hold?
And how shall our nation presently survive the unprecedented declension from a position of economic, military, and spiritual might? We are a debtor nation, primarily to the Chinese. Our foreign policy is in shambles. Putin is running roughshod over Ukraine and we do not have the fortitude to stop him. We are throwing Israel under the bus. Isis is beheading Christians and our President cannot bring himself to call these wicked men Islamic terrorists. Our Congress cannot seem to get anything done. The Republicans are no better than the Democrats. Where are the statesmen? We seem to have only politicians who will do anything to stay in office and collect their pension. Federal District Judges are overturning state amendments to protect the sanctity of marriage between one man and one woman. Our churches are increasingly unable to stem the tide of secularism and unbelief and many of the preachers seem wimpish, unable or unwilling to speak authoritatively and prophetically to the issues of the day.
However there is hope. There is always hope in Jesus. If what I saw and experienced a couple of weeks ago at Auburn University is any indication, then perhaps God may be raising up the millennial generation to speak boldly and to lead us out of this morass. I spoke to CRU students from six different Southeastern universities, all from the fraternity and sorority system, on revival prayer. We spent a Friday night and Saturday morning in lengthy prayer, confessing sin, and calling on the Lord to pour out His Spirit in our land. The students of today are not unlike those in the 1780’s and 1960’s. There is much uncertainty. There is much to fear. People are running out of answers. The government cannot save us. Political pundits cannot save us. Morality won’t do either. Neo-liberal theology which dances around the tough issues and wants to be in bed with intellectual elitists is bankrupt. There is no power in it. What these students are coming to understand is that only Christ can alter the injustice, perversion, and wickedness in our day. They are driven to pray. They are gaining the intolerable burden and divine swagger. There will be opposition. There always is, but as we persevere and refuse to give an inch on gospel imperatives, we shall see a mighty movement of God, as we have so many times before. Yahweh said to Jeremiah, “You will seek Me and find Me when you seek for Me with all your heart. I will be found by you and will restore your fortunes,” (Jeremiah 29:13,14).
1. Most of these details come from a remarkable and encouraging lecture delivered by J. Edwin Orr at the National Prayer Conference in 1976 at Dallas. The transcript is readily available in many places, as is the video on <www.youtube.com>