By James A. Wilson
The sixties were what I call a maverick season; so is ours.
The term maverick originates in a pioneer Texan. Samuel Maverick was a patriot who fought at the Alamo and helped draft the Texas Declaration of Independence. He owned large tracts of land but was indifferent to the bean counting practices that make business possible – so neglectful of branding his cattle it became proverbial in Texas that stray cattle on the prairie were referred to as mavericks. Yet he was utterly civic minded, serving multiple terms as a city mayor and state legislator known for his integrity and outside-the-box thinking. His reputation for blowing off the party line when it proved un-useful added dimension to the term that took his name. When something needed doing Maverick would turn up, do what needed to be done, and move on to his next engagement. It was this maverick spirit that animated so many of my generational peers – the Boomers – and which is so needed today.
The sixties were a time of uncommon patriotism when multitudes of young men and women – all colors and creeds – answered their country’s call although Vietnam was an undeclared war and many voices urged them to absent themselves. (Despite the draft countless Boomers volunteered.) Countless others volunteered for the John Kennedy created service organizations. In these organizations they did construction, medical missions, and educational activities for poor people in the US – Vista – and around the world – the Peace Corps. They marched for civil rights and found the content of character really was more important than skin color, as Martin Luther King preached. They opened and staffed free clinics, food banks, and addiction recovery homes. They offered humble service – whether military or civilian – in response to the strident voices of their time.
Of course there were plenty of needy people to serve. The decade saw countless people – of all ages – trapped in drug and alcohol addiction, ignorance, dysfunctional family structures, and abject poverty. This multitude was always with us, but the emerging Boomers showed an unprecedented level of compassion and a curiosity to develop new ways to help – ways that required ownership and pro-active participation from those served.
The biggest and most colorful cultural phenomenon of the sixties was the advent of the Jesus People. Birthed on the beaches of California and Oregon, many of them were drugged out hippies miraculously brought down from their acid, speed and opioid highs, re-launched with what they described as the spirit of Jesus Christ. They addressed a world of demonstrators chanting, “Hell no; we won’t go,” bombings, and hard hats rioting against them with a supernatural love and a can-do spirit. They began the modern recovery movement through ministries like Teen Challenge. They launched the short-term missions movement with its emphasis on local control and initiative through ministries such as Youth With a Mission and Frontier Missions. Fallout from their influence included a general democratization of commerce and politics, community literacy programs, and a spirit of what this author calls warfare by honor. Such an approach leads to reconciliation across the board through mutual honoring and engagement. They rediscovered respect for tradition as a supernatural gift without kowtowing to traditionalists.
What can their movement – and their season – teach us today?
In our current culture of rage and promiscuous prejudice – we believe things not because they are demonstrably true but because our buds believe them – we can learn from them the things they attribute to that spirit of Jesus. We can value the quest for what is really real for its own sake – like my characters in Generation – choosing to believe that commitment will produce good fruit if we stick to it. The Jesus People understood why Jesus led His disciples on an eighteen month journey over a three days’ walk from Galilee to Jerusalem; He obviously valued more than destination.
We can learn that we all live in glass houses; there really is something to that Golden Rule, especially when we think the other guy undeserving. These Jesus People got it that love without truth is not loving, and truth without love is not truthful. Respect beginning with repentance from our own bad behavior before we expect it of others is really the highway to resurrection.
Finally, we can learn that a rising tide lifts all boats, and this is crucial. The Jesus People knew enough to focus on the tide more than on their own personal boats. They re-focused – which is the essence of repentance – on clearing the swamp instead of battling one alligator at a time while the other gators are closing in.
James A. Wilson is the author of Living As Ambassadors of Relationships, The Holy Spirit and the End Times, Kingdom in Pursuit, and his first novel, Generation – available at Bounty Books, or at firstname.lastname@example.org