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Archive for October, 2020

My oldest grandson turned 18 this month. This is a sobering rite of passage (especially in an election year). Such a birthday deserves a special letter from grandma. In writing that letter, I shared some personal thoughts just between grandma and grandson, but also similarities between his 18th year and mine. Here is the historical portion of my letter:

Dear Grandson,

At 18, I was excited about the life that stretched out ahead of me. I remember riding in the car with a friend of mine. When the radio blasted out the song “I’m 18 and I Like It,” he cranked up the volume and sang along. Me? Not so much. I sensed this was a transitional time for me. I was looking beyond 18… to adulthood.

In chorus, we sang “The Age of Aquarius.” When the “moon is in the Seventh House,” did we really think we would experience:

Harmony and understanding
Sympathy and trust abounding
No more falsehoods or derisions
Golden living dreams of visions
Mystic crystal revelation
And the mind’s true liberation…

A lot of troublesome ideologies and theories were floating around during my eighteenth year. Evolution was taught, but my biology and science teachers didn’t chastise me for believing in creation. One of my classmates was living with her boyfriend. None of my friends’ parents were divorced. Most everyone went to church. However, in looking back, I recognize that secular humanism in the form of sex education, “social justice,” and “liberation theology” were making their way into church bodies.

I turned 18 the November after Woodstock (August 1969). I remember thinking: What an odd thing to do. Sleep in the rain on a muddy field while smoking weed and getting high. All over the country there was a sense of “being different than our parents.” In 1967, the song explained:

If you’re going to San Francisco
Be sure to wear some flowers in your hair.
If you’re going to San Francisco
You’re going to meet some gentle people there.
… All across the nation,
Such a strange vibration,
People in motion,
There’s a whole generation
With a new explanation.

When a few high school and mostly college-age people went to San Francisco with “flowers in [their] hair” they lived as “hippies” in “tent city” communes. Drug use was common. “Make love, not war” was graffitied everywhere.  Some may have thought they were creating a utopia. To me, it seemed lonely, dangerous, and hopeless. The full court press against institutions of family, church, and government had been set in motion. Too many in my age group seemed to want to “do whatever feels right to me.” By January of 1973, “free love” led to Roe vs. Wade. I admit to not knowing much about abortion during my 18th year. Ten percent of my graduating class was pregnant. All five girls gave birth to their babies and all married. Later, I would learn of at least two area college girls who went to New York for abortions prior to 1973.

In my 18th year, Black Lives Matter.inc did not exist, but the Weather Underground did. Originally called the Weatherman, this militant group of young, white Americans formed under the leadership of Bill Ayers and Bernardine Dorhn in 1969 on the University of Michigan campus. The organization grew out of the anti-Vietnam movement and evolved from the Third World Marxists, a faction within Students for a Democratic Society (SDS). They represented the “New Left” that was active on college campuses during my junior and senior years. The confessed ideology of this group was a mix of Communism and Black Power. Their cause was to advance Communism through violent revolution and use of street fighting. They called on people my age to create a “rearguard” action against the U.S. government that would weaken and collapse the country.

Christianity stood in the way of Communism. This is true because Christians have hope. It is difficult to beat down someone who has hope and can find meaning even in suffering. It is difficult to divide people who see one another as members of one human race. For this reason–between my 18th year and yours, my grandson–Communists with their anti-God ideology worked tirelessly to infiltrate churches and compromise Christians by way of sexual and gender identity, same-sex “marriage,” transgenderism, social justice, and critical race theory. In part, I wrote The Failure of Sex Education in the Church: Mistaken Identity, Compromised Purity because I was beginning to see how many of the Communist goals for the U.S. had already been accomplished.

Communism sobered me up in my 18th year. But I only saw the consequences of its aggression in countries far away. Constantly in the news during my senior year was the war to prevent South Vietnam from being completely taken over by Communist North Vietnam. At that time, we weren’t told what to think 24/7 by “talking heads” on TV. Instead, we received “news” from on-location reporters who photographed and reported what they saw rather than offer their opinion for debate.

The Kent State riots started on May 1 just before my graduation in 1970 when a mix of bikers, students, and out-of-town young people assaulted police with beer bottles and engaged in criminal behavior. On May 2, the campus ROTC building was set on fire by arsonists. Protesters surrounded the building, cut a fire hose, and assaulted fire fighters with rocks and other objects. City officials and downtown businesses were threatened. I remember it well. A National Guardsman and four students were killed. It was a bit frightening yet seemed far away. Today the riots in Seattle, Portland, L.A., Minneapolis, Kenosha, Washington D.C., and NYC don’t seem very far away at all.

Many of the songs during my 18th year reflected the restless culture. There was “Woodstock,” “War,” and “I Want to Take You Higher.” Strangely, during our senior year your Grandpa and I went to a Sly and the Family Stone concert at Iowa State University. Neither of us liked the band but, hey! It was a great excuse for high school seniors to mix with university students.  Truth be told, the concert was a bust. Sly and the Family Stone did not show up because they were stoned!

In the fall of my 18th year, I was a student at our local community college. There was only a hint of rebellion and unrest. Mostly just talk. Curiosity. And stories told of soldiers going to and returning from a sadly politicized war. I sat next to a student in chemistry lecture who had just returned from Vietnam. He was very quiet. Very private. (Good looking, too!) I tried talking to him. But he responded with few words. I can only guess what images were etched in his mind. Later, it was important for me to stand at the Vietnam Wall in Washington, D.C. Seeing the names of soldiers who gave their lives left an impression on me. I could never understand why Hollywood types like Jane Fonda could aid and abet the enemy and, therefore, betray the American boys, husbands, and fathers who sacrificed to press against Communism.

In my advanced writing class, I took on a big project. I wrote a lengthy story about the terrors of war from the perspective of a wounded warrior who was left a quadriplegic. It was a strange story for a girl to write. But I was a strange girl. I started reading books about the Holocaust and Nazi War Crimes in 8th or 9th grade. I believe that such reading prepared me for the pro-life work that I would one day be involved with. Perhaps I wanted to be more familiar with the past so that I could better recognize “good” and “evil” in the present. Like you, my grandson, I was trying to pay attention to what was going on in the world. I wanted to enjoy life, friends, and activities. I wanted to be involved in meaningful ways. I wanted to make a difference. But I did not want to compromise my faith. I won’t lie. There were a lot of temptations. Today I have to believe that the Lord of my life kept me from some dangerous choices and close calls.

A part of my 18-year-old person wanted to be in the city where “things were happening.” I assumed I would be moving on from the community college to a university. Eventually, I envisioned living in Minneapolis where I would be an interior designer. Well, that was one possibility. But I was also starting to be interested in theology. What a mix! An interior designing theologian. Ha!

Upon reflection, my grandson, I see so many similarities between my 18th year and yours. At 18, one is poised on the brink of adventure. There is excitement. But there is also some anxiety. We do better with both when we know who we are.

God gave you His name and His Spirit at your Baptism. Through water and Word, you became a son and heir of God because of what Jesus Christ has done for you. You are a character in God’s Story. No matter what is happening in the culture around you, remembering who you are to God will help you know how to think, speak, and act.

How do I know that? Because between my 18th year and now, God has been merciful and patient with me. He has taught me much about who I am and why I am here. There have been good days and bad. Successes and failures. Through it all, I didn’t hold on to Him nearly as tightly as He held on to me. I wonder. Do you think it might be that He had me experience the roller-coaster of 18-plus years so that I could be a better grandma to you?

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