Dave: Oh, don’t get me started on the 50s
I am so fucking sick of hearing about how the 50s were a more righteous decade
Indigo: so dave, tell me about what you think about the fifties
Dave: Only if you tell me what you think about Proposition 8
Indigo: proposition 8 can go fuck itself. your turn!
Dave: The 50s did fuck themselves. That’s why the country fell apart in the 60s.
I wrote about the fifties here.My essential thesis is that evangelicals look back on the 1950s as a golden age, because the 1950s is when the white church was on top. Men were in charge, whites were in charge, and so they got to pretend that everything was fine.
It’s not blacks who claim that the 1950s were great; they recognize the heyday of the 1960s, when the Church of the Oppressed rose up and shook the nation to its foundations with its cries of “We will overcome” and “We are not afraid.”
The Church of the Oppressor was running the show back then. We had defeated the Nazis, the liberals were too cowed to do anything, and no one questioned the idyllic happiness of a world where father knew best.
Then you had the race riots, and the Civil Rights movement, and women’s lib, and then gays had the gall to start claiming that they EXISTED, and the church’s dominant social position collapsed.
The essential fault of any dominant social institution is that it is dominant. Scripture is clear that God is on the side of the weak and the oppressed, not on the side of the mighty, but might is where we all want to be, because it gets easier that way to make the world the way we want it to be. The call of Christ is to surrender power and control, and make yourself a servant to others.
If the 1950s really had been a great decade, then the white church would have been lifting up the black church instead of being content to ignore it or even oppress it. And the black church, lifted up and exalted, would have humbled itself before the white church, and we’d have had a hotbed of charity and goodwill.
That’s why I get so freaking exasperated with evangelical leaders and their followers who want to impose their vision of God’s will on the rest of society. Once it’s imposed, it’s not God’s will. He woos, and does not bludgeon or force. I’ll take it a step further: It’s the child-rearing techniques often espoused in evangelical circles, further misapplied, on a grand social scale.
You could argue that there are times when it’s necessary to spank a child, mostly because the child is nonverbal and will understand the unpleasant stimulus of a spanking, provided it’s delivered promptly and reasonably, and otherwise will not be deterred from self-destructive behaviors. These are things like if the child persists in efforts to touch a hot stove, more serious consequences than a spanking will result, so the spanking is meant to thwart self-destruction.
But children grow up. I’d love to see my friend Cherie, who stands about 5-foot-6, try to spank her 6-foot-4 14-year-old son. I’d love to see her try to put him in time out.
At some point, discipline becomes letting the child make the wrong choice and then live with it. You’re there to help them deal with it, but not to bail them out. That, I am convinced, is how God disciplines us.
Let’s say that, total losership aside, I were to have an adulterous relationship with a friend of mine. There is no need for God to smite me. I will have just smote myself, by destroying every relationship that matters to me in this world, and not just mine, but the relationship my partner in adultery had. And doubtless I would have destroyed whatever relationship she and I had, as well.
God would remain there, waiting for me to return to him, own up to what I had done instead of making excuses and blaming other people, and begin the long trek toward restoring those relationships. Its a journey that probably would take my entire life.
A lot of the crap like Proposition 8 is church groups — and it is completely appropriate in this case that church family groups are among the biggest opponents of gay rights — trying to force society to obey what the church leaders know is best, like parents trying to control a grown or nearly grown child.
And when society won’t obey, we get the lectures. We get evangelical leaders threatening to put disobedient senators on the hot seat. We get calls for boycotting certain businesses, to punish them. It’s about maintaining control.
Honestly, if I am convinced that for a gay friend of mine to have sex with a same-sex partner is the worst thing she can do,the wisest thing I could do would be to let her do as she pleases, and then be there for her, without judgment or rancor, when her life falls apart.
And that’s what aggravates me so consistently about many evangelicals today, because they still see it as being about putting the right controls on others’ behavior. Many of them know the Bible very well, but they have failed to understand grace. They have given other people loads too heavy to carry, ones that they themselves can’t even carry. I’ve called one friend in particular whom I know on that. He keeps depicting grace as something that kicks in after you’ve done all you can, in other words, as grace you have to earn — but he just doesn’t see the problem. It’s all about submission to the imagined will of God.
And so that’s how I feel about the 1950s and why I’m tired of hearing them described as a great decade for Christ-centered virtue and the righteousness of a lost America.
The hankering for a return to the supposed godlier era of the 1950s is, in the end, a desire for greater control, greater power, and a willful ignorance of what was happening in that supposedly golden era, usually perpetrated by people who weren’t there, by people who were too young to understand what was going on, or by those who have become grumpy old people who remember when you could get into a movie for a dime and by God these young people need to listen to them.
Copyright © 2009 by David Learn. Used with permission.