THE 1960s REVOLUTION:FROM MODERN TO POSTMODERN

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by Bill Nugent
Article #261


A revolution is a successful rebellion. The rebellion of the 1960s brought radical changes that are now accepted in mainstream western culture. Perhaps the most radical was the 60s revolution rejection of the concept of moral absolutes and the embrace of moral relativism. The concept of moral absolutes is the claim that there are morals that apply to all people at all times across all cultures. Moral relativism is the claim that each culture can invent its own morals and no morals have transcultural authority.

There is a saying in real estate that the most important thing about a property is “location, location, location!” In terms of morals, I say that the most important thing about morals is “absolute, absolute, absolute!” If morals are not absolute, that is if they don’t apply with real authority to all people at all times, then they really aren’t morals at all. Morals that are not absolute are merely preferences or suggestions.

The societal convulsions of the 1960s had their roots in the Beatmovement of the 1950s. Members of the Beat generation such as Jack Kerouac, William Burroughs and Alan Ginsburg were highly introspective, pondering, philosophical souls who were alienated from the mainstream, materialistic 1950s. “Beat” is a highly ironic, self-deprecating term applied to the movement by its own members. They claimed to be “beaten down” and seemed to embrace economic failure and rejection of materialism.

The Beats hitchhiked around the country and bummed free food and lodging yet also settled in and wrote deeply philosophical and iconoclastic novels and plays. The suffix “nik” was added by a newspaper reporter to make “Beatnik.” The Beats rejected that label because it sounded communist Russian. They were leftist but not communist.

The beats adopted a lexicon of new expressions such as “groovy,” “hip” and “cool, man, cool!” The young Beats were called “hipsters” and eventually, the young ones of the 1960s were called “hippies.” Beat literature, which was plentiful, especially from the pens of Jack Kerouac and Alan Ginsburg, began to be accepted and read by the university elite. Many college professors were, by the 1960s, alienated from materialistic, conformity oriented mainstream culture. This set the stage for a groundswell movement for social change that was to become the 60s revolution.

The 1950s American culture was the epitome of modernist culture. The US was astride the world and a superpower in industrial and military might. With this stability, freedom and wealth, who would ever, in their right mind, rebel against America at its zenith?

But they did rebel. They rebelled against the superficially Christian USA. America by that time was really a secular modernist culture with some Christian symbols. The 60s revolution took the US from modern to postmodern. Of course, postmodernism was around long before the 1960s but it started to become mainstream in the 60s.

The three major philosophical systems of contemporary western civilization can be classified as the Christian, the modern and thepostmodern.

The Christian view of the source of moral absolutes is that morals are given to us by God by revelation and are written in the Bible. Biblical morals include the Ten Commandments, the teachings of Jesus, the sacredness of human life and the dignity of man. God’s commandments apply to all people at all times in all cultures.

The modernist view is that moral absolutes can be discovered by human reason alone without the aid of divine revelation. Modernism, since it arose in post-renaissance Europe, is nevertheless influenced by the Christian concepts of justice and morality. Modernism is also dependant on Natural Law as a starting point for its reasoning. For instance, modernists rejected homosexuality on natural law principles because in nature, two people of the same sex cannot produce offspring.

Modernism is rational, empirical (dependant on what the senses can perceive), idealistic, optimistic, believes in the perfectibility of man and is what I call “Christian flavored.” By “Christian flavored” I mean that modernism borrowed most of its moral concepts from Christianity. All of the founders of modernism from Descartes to Hume were raised in Christian homes in Christian societies and were taught at an early age to think Christianly. Even the Enlightenment philosophers of eighteenth century France championed Christian concepts of egalitarianism and social justice. They were proud secularists, yet they thought in Christian categories. Modernists generally believe in the existence of moral absolutes.

The postmodernist view is that no moral absolutes exist. Morals are simply made up by the will of each person. This is radical existentialism and moral relativism.

Postmodernism is irrational, emotional, sophistic, barbaric, pessimistic, existentialistic, radically individualistic and is what I call “occult flavored.” Postmodernism is so scattered and atomized that most commentators define it only in terms of linguistic analysis and deconstructionism but those are only the putrid eruptions of the postmodern sore. Once a person embraces moral relativism, there is no real search for truth. Linguistic analysis and deconstructionism are merely ways of tinkering with language and literature which are just the tools of knowledge, not knowledge itself.

The founders of postmodernism, though raised in Christian homes, made a sharp disconnect from Christianity. Most notable among them was Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900) who’s writings contain instances of open blasphemy. I have often said that postmodernism, because of its denial of absolute morality, is simply a return to the premodern and prechristian brutality of pagan Europe which had shifting moral standards.

Postmodernism by its very prefix, “post” indicates that it comes after modernism. Western man has exhausted modernism and now seeks to move on into the new thing, the postmodern. Moral relativism, in which everyone makes up their own moral standards, became intellectually chic. “Do your own thing”became a definitive slogan of the 60s. “Perform random acts of kindness” was popular in the 1980s.

The 60s revolution was actually three revolutions. It was a sexual revolution in which Christian and even modern views of sexual chastity were overthrown. It was an economic revolution in which socialism and wealth redistribution were promoted and traditional free enterprise rejected. It was also a civil rights revolution in which the racial prejudice of 1950s America was overthrown when civil rights laws were enacted. At least the civil rights revolution was a good thing.

The 60s revolution was worldwide. Europe and Japan also saw hippie type movements. The hippies formed communes all over the US. It was estimated that there were over 3,000 communes in California alone though most of them were one house communes. The girls were “community property” and the guys could fornicate with them at will. The hippies were surprisingly male chauvinistic and the “chicks” were obliged to perform traditional domestic duties. It’s been said that feminism killed the commune movement. Women eventually wouldn’t stand for their subservient status.

Another counter to the counterculture was the Jesus Movement in which thousands of hippies and runaways and young people of all backgrounds began to embrace theologically conservative Christianity. The “Jesus People” traveled around the country and many settled down to form Christian communities. These weren’t communes but were more like cooperatives in which many families lived on the same piece of land but had separate private dwellings.

By the 1970s and 80s the ideals of the 60s revolution became mainstream. The rejection of moral absolutes, the embrace of fornication, the acceptance of abortion, the promotion of the gay agenda radically transformed America. Fornication brought single motherhood and the severing of the bond between father and child.

Today, the US is a caricature of its former self and is postmodern in most of its education and culture. Morals are mere suggestions. Political Correctness is the new ethical standard and that standard itself is subject to constant change. Moral relativism is impractical because in it the moral standards of Mother Theresa are technically no more valuable than the moral standards of Adolph Hitler. Without a moral absolute, there really is no way to measure right and wrong.

God’s standards do not change. God gave us moral absolutes by revelation. The mass murder of the unborn by abortion is serious sin. The American postmodern culture has accepted many practices that God abhors. All humankind is accountable to God and will be judged by God in the afterlife.

The Bible contains God’s commandments but in addition to that, it contains more than 3,000 predictive prophecies. Christian scholar Josh McDowell wrote a book titled, “A Ready Defense” that shows how these many biblical prophecies have been fulfilled or are being fulfilled down through history and in our own time. No other holy book of any other faith has anything that even approaches the Bible’s record of prophecy and fulfillment of prophecy. The prophecies and their fulfillments prove that the Bible is inspired by God.

Jesus Christ, the promised Messiah of Israel, came in fulfillment of over 300 Bible prophecies that were written in the Old Testament hundreds of years before His birth. No other figure in all of world history; no king, no emperor, no pharaoh, no scholar, no philosopher can make this claim!

When Jesus suffered and died He took upon Himself the penalty that was due to us because of our sins. He died in our place. In His resurrection He conquered death. It is through Christ that we receive forgiveness of sins because Christ paid the price that redeemed us. Turn to Christ today to receive forgiveness of sins!

 



(C) 2016 William P. Nugent, permission granted to email or republish for Christian outreach.

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