The 1967 Summer of Love and its Message for Today


Article #311

by Bill Nugent


This past summer was fifty years since the 1967 Summer of Love. It was a watershed. It was a pivotal time in our history. It was so much more than just flower children singing peace songs. It was the culmination of decades of philosophical and political turmoil.


The leaders of the new hippy movement put out a call to all the hippies across America to come to San Francisco in the summer of 1967. The Summer of Love unfolded in a chaotic way and brought in about 100,000 people by most estimates. There were speeches, rallies, music, free food, sexual promiscuity, drugs and boatloads of emotional idealism.


It opened with the Monterey Pop Festival, June 16-18, 1967, just south of San Francisco. Acts included Eric Burden and the Animals, Simon and Garfunkel, Canned Heat, Jimi Hendrix and The Mamas and the Papas. There were gatherings and festivals throughout the summer in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park.


It’s impossible to really understand the meaning of the summer of love and the hippy movement that promoted it without looking at the deeper philosophical backdrop. The hippy movement wasn’t a flash in the pan. There’s an important message for us all in understanding the idealism, narcissism, pessimism, apathy, activism and optimism of the young people who transformed western civilization beginning in the 1960s. If we understand the lesson of the hippies it will shed valuable light on the human condition as a whole.


The hippies had youthful idealism and zealously sought to change the world and make it a place of utopian peace. On the other hand, many of them had stifling pessimism that sought to, as Timothy Leary put it, “Tune in, turn on, drop out.” These are polar opposites. What could possibly cause these cross currents of hippy attitude? Dropping out and getting high on the one hand and zealous political activism on the other! I think the answer to this conundrum is postmodernism. Postmodernism is the philosophical backdrop that explains the ironic twists and turns of the whole confused era of the 1960s.


Postmodern philosophy really came of age and went mainstream in the 1960s yet fewer than one in a hundred people can succinctly explain what postmodernism actually is.  Postmodernism, as its name suggests, is that which comes after modernism. Modernism came out of the Enlightenment “age of reason” of the 18th century. Postmodernism is an emotional rebellion against modern reason, rationality and order. Postmodernism, when you boil it all down, is just moral relativism. Moral relativism is the idea that each person makes up his or her own morals and no moral code is better than any other moral code.


The sixties slogan “Do your own thing” really captures the essence of postmodernism. The 1980s slogan “Perform random acts of kindness” is another postmodernist morsel.


The parents of the sixties hippies were modernist in their philosophical outlook. Modernism says there is absolute truth; there is a superior moral code and that moral code is traditional, educated, sophisticated western values. The parents of the hippies said “America is morally good and we must stamp out fascism, communism and whatever other ism gets in our way.” The parents resisted the postmodernist rejection of modernism. This was the “generation gap.”


To get perspective, let me give you a brief history of how the hippy movement got started.

There arose a new movement in the late 1940s called the “beats” or “beatniks.” They were a generation older than the 1967 summer of love hippies. The beat generation came out of the alienation and anonymity of 20th century urban life. The term “beat” means down and out. They rejected the material success of the 40s and 50s. A beat hero was Jack Kerouac (1922-1969) who wrote the seminal book On the Road and the play The Beat Generation. An inspiring quote from Jack is “I have nothing to offer anyone except my own confusion.” William Burroughs and Allen Ginsburg were Jack’s associates.


Beatniks were also called “Bohemians” and “hipsters.” The men wore goatees, sunglasses and berets; the women wore black leotards and let their hair grow long and flowing. They used the 1930s Jazz term “cool”  and phrases like “cool, man, cool!” and “groovy.” Their politics was liberal but their political involvement negligible.


There was a generational shift when the crowds of young hipsters started hanging out with the old beats. The younger people wore bright clothes and believed in political activism to change the world. The beats called them “hippies.” The beats hung out in the North Beach section of San Francisco. The hippies preferred a neighborhood around the intersection of two streets called Haight and Ashbury in San Francisco near Golden Gate Park.


The beats had often dabbled in eastern religion and the hippies who followed them often did too. But there arose among the hippies many who turned to the love of God through Christ. The year 1967 also saw the rise of The Jesus Movement. It was an ironic sight to see young people who overtly rejected their parents conservative ways suddenly embrace Bible based Christianity. Many were baptized in the Pacific ocean. They called themselves “Jesus People. The nonchristian hippies called them “Jesus Freaks.” Chuck Smith and the Calvary Chapel churches were influential in the early years. The Jesus movement spread across the nation and lasted many years as young people by the thousands, dare I say millions, turned to Christ to receive forgiveness of sins.


Postmodernism essentially springs out of Darwinism. Darwinian evolution is the claim that human beings are descendants of apes and therefore, people are mere products of nature. Implicit in this is the claim that humans have no souls, no life after death and no future. Conscious thoughts cease at death. This is why postmodernism leads to nihilism. Nihilism means nothingness; no purpose for existence and no real reason to try to improve society. No wonder so many hippies tuned in, turned on and dropped out!


Postmodernism also leads some people to reject the pessimism of nihilism and embrace narcissism. Narcissism is radical self love. It is self preservation and self indulgence. Narcissism is also – and this is crucial – the impetus to form a new moral code based on one’s own moral preferences. Each person makes up their own moral code. People who make up similar moral codes then join up and try to force their moral code on the rest of society. They agree on a new set of politically correct moral absolutes. Francis Schaeffer called such absolutes “arbitrary absolutes.” This accounts for the radical social activism of the postmodern leftist hippies of the 1960s. They wished to impose a socialist utopia on American society. It sprang out of their narcissism.


The hippies had a wide variety of viewpoints. Some wondered “why try to improve a society of evolved apes that have no souls and no future?” Just get high. Others joined together to form communes and separate themselves from society. Others wanted to make America and the world into one giant commune. Some of the hippies turned to Christ and said “We’re not evolved apes, we are children of God and we have souls that will live forever. We must turn from our sins and ask for forgiveness through Christ who died for our sins. We must win others to Christ because human life is sacred and people will live forever either in a place with God or in a place without Him.”


The majority of the Summer of Love hippies didn’t turn to Christ but rather returned to their homes with new narcissistic zeal. Their culture of sexual promiscuity, drugs and alienation soon filtered through American society so that today many hippie values are mainstream. The idealism that led them to believe that they could unite the world in love has long ago subsided. The 1980s saw the rise of the “Me Generation.” The “free love” sexual promiscuity caused family breakdown and spread venereal diseases. Broken families produce broken people and they’re everywhere.


There is ultimate truth and absolute moral values. These moral absolutes are not discovered by modern man’s reason or conjured up from the emotions of the postmodern narcissistic self. The moral absolutes were revealed by God in the Bible. They include the Ten Commandments and the teachings of Jesus. The Bible is a book vindicated by hundreds of predictive prophecies and their fulfillments. No other writing of any kind throughout all of human history has anything to compare with that. Most sacred writings of other faiths have few, if any, prophecies. The predictive prophecies contained in the Bible are like God’s signature on His holy book. His holy book says “God is love” (I John 4:8). Emotions do matter after all.

Steps to salvation:

Jesus said “Ye must be born again” (John 3:7).

  • 1) Believe that God created you and loves you and sent the Messiah (Messiah is Hebrew for Christ) to redeem you.
  • 2) Believe that Jesus Christ came in fulfillment of over 300 Bible prophecies to die for you, to take upon Himself the penalty of your sins (Isaiah 53:5-6, John 6:29, Romans 4:5, First Peter 3:18).
  • 3) Turn from sin and call on the name of Jesus to receive forgiveness of sins (Romans 10:13).
  • 4) Receive Jesus as Savior and experience the new birth (John 1:12, Acts 2:38).
  • 5) Follow Jesus Christ as Lord (John 14:21).

Prayer to receive salvation:

“Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Romans 10:13).

To receive the salvation that Jesus purchased for us at the terrible cost of His suffering and death on our behalf I invite you to pray this simple prayer:

“Dear heavenly Father, I thank you for sending Jesus, the promised Messiah, to die for my sins. I admit that I am a sinner. I repent of my sins and I ask for your forgiveness on the basis of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. I ask you to fill me with your Holy Spirit to empower me to serve you under the Lordship of Jesus Christ, Amen.”

If you prayed this prayer in the humble sincerity of your heart then you have received everlasting life, which includes power to live right in this life and entrance into heaven in the afterlife!

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

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