I grew up in the 1960s. Anyone who lived through those years will remember that those were turbulent, violent, and unsettling times, when events seemed to threaten the very foundation of our nation. In fourth grade, we learned what the word assassination meant when John F. Kennedy was struck down. The assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert Kennedy followed within five years.
Those were also the years when the war in Vietnam was raging. I remember the evening news daily reporting the growing number of Americans killed in action. In reaction to that war, violent demonstrations broke out on college campuses across the nation. At Kent State University in Ohio, National Guard troops killed four protesting students.
The tumult was not limited to politics. The younger generation seemed intent on rejecting everything their parents and grandparents had believed in. Time-honored institutions and values were ridiculed. Woodstock became the symbol of a culture that had turned away from everything the previous generations had valued and respected.
At the time, I don’t think we realized just how close our country came to being torn apart. But somehow, by God’s grace, our nation survived those years and enjoyed relative peace and prosperity in the decades that followed.
When I was at our synod’s youth rally last summer, I looked out on two thousand WELS teens and recalled those years of the 1960s and my own teenage years. I was so thankful that God had placed these young people into Christian homes and families, thankful that he had made them his own through Baptism, thankful that they had learned biblical truths and values in their childhood years, and thankful that they had gathered to hear God’s Word and grow in their faith through his gospel.
But I was also concerned. In many ways these young Christians are coming of age in a world and culture that almost make the 1960s seem tame by comparison. They will be—and already are—facing challenges to their faith and Christian living that I never faced. Today, the attack on Christian values and institutions is not being carried out by a few radical leaders on college campuses against “oppressive” institutions; it’s taking place in every area of our society by those institutions themselves. Godless philosophies and ideas have infiltrated education, corporations, news and entertainment media, and even the government. Once again, the nation seems to be teetering on the edge of catastrophe.
But as dark as these days may seem and as challenging as the days ahead may be for our young people, we have reason to be optimistic. Our hope rests solely on God’s promises. He has told us that when we instruct children when they are young in the way they should go—and we have—when they are old, they will not depart from it. God has promised us that no matter how bleak and hopeless the circumstances make us feel, the gates of hell itself will not be able to withstand the power of his church and his saving gospel. God has given his people—including the next generation—the sword of the Spirit and the shield of faith, which are able to overcome and defeat all the powerful forces of Satan and his allies.
I’m glad that I was able to look out on that crowd of WELS young people. Because of what God has done for them and what he will do through them, I know the future is bright.
Author: Mark Schroeder
Volume 109, Number 10
Issue: October 2022