At the time of this writing, the Old Year of 1970 is about ready to hobble out of our lives on his wobbly walking pins - it being the 31st of December, the final gasp, so to say, of a year fraught with much unpleasant news and ominous forebodings. But, when this column will reach the homes of its readers, the world will be looking hopefully toward the season of Easter - the one historic event that is capable of lifting humanity from its morass of gloom and despair.
It oftens makes it difficult to know what to write about - the blessed gift of a Savior given to the world, to teach mankind how to live with his neighbor by the one consuming commandment of love, which we are still celebrating in our hearts, or the forthcoming occasion of His supreme sacrifice on a cross which became necessary because we wouldn't live as He taught us.
But all news was not bad, as the Old Man with the scythe limped his way off the 1970 calendar in place of the cherub of '71. In a recent interview with Billy Graham on the TV Today Show, moderator Hugh Downs asked his opinion of recent reports about a great movement back to Christianity by many people, both young and old.
Said Graham, in reply, 'There is a real movement of return to the true principles of the Christian faith - it is not the Puritan form, but the hard-core, disciplined Christianity among both the young and old, and I've especially noticed it on the campuses where I've held services. There has been no rioting or lack of discipline there.'
We have just returned from a sortie into the city of Dayton, Ohio, to do some last-minute shopping for post-Christmas bargains before the old year's demise. And as we drove through the parking ramp, we saw hundreds of out-of-state licenses on cars from Indiana, Nebraska, Illinois, even as far away as Wisconsin and Mississippi. Later, as we ate our lunch in Dayton's largest department store restaurant, we saw many young people wearing badges denoting august occasion. These were not hippies, but clean-shaven, neatly dressed young people - only a part of thousands who had converged on the city to attend a Wesleyan Christian Conference. The big Sheraton Hotel had even removed all ash trays and other bric-a-brac, usually cluttering the hotel corridors, in preparation to welcoming youth who no longer have to depend on such things in the lives they are living.
Just this morning - the last day of 1970 - as I listened to the Today Show on TV, I was heartened to observe two officials of a World Evangelism Movement being interviewed in New York. One was a Negro, the other a white man, and both were in complete accord as they explained the purpose and mission of the convention to the interviewer.
The purpose of the convention was to work out new ways of taking Christianity to other nations throughout the world. Their dominating theme was the spreading of the Good News by the preachings and teachings of Jesus Christ as Savior. There were no ugly words exchanged as often has been in mixed panels, merely for one side to gain an advantage over another. For all were in complete accord, having come together for the sole purpose of uniting their forces in the name of Divine Love.
What refreshing news this all is for us to hear, just at the close of a year which has been fraught with so much in the way of gloomy and unpleasant happenings. It strikes a new hope for the forthcoming year, even before it has arrived. It proves that people are getting fed up with just having their ways. The public is getting tired of rampant evil, running loose and un-chained on campuses, on theatre screens, in questionable literature, and even publicly on the streets.
In visiting a large book store in a Dayton Mall, the lady clerk who waited on us even gave encouraging insight.
'A man came in recently and asked me where we kept our 'dirty books',' she said. 'I answered that the only dirty books we had were on the subject of ecology.'
'You know what I mean by dirty books,' the customer replied. 'If you don't have any, what's this world coming to, anyway?'
'Well, we tried the dirty books, but finally gave them up because they simply didn't sell,' was her reply to him.
'I believe the world is getting better. People are getting tired of such stuff,' she said to us.
In a recent chat with a friend of ours - a man who is a good Christian -I said, 'By the way, you seem to be advertising another kind of movie now and then in your theatre.'
He hung his head and then explained. 'I don't want to show such movies,' he said very gloomily. 'But the producers force them onto me, and I'm running a theatre for a chain and have to take their orders.'
His wife then chimed in, saying, 'And the latest trade journals put out by the movie industry are now telling us that things will have to change from the sex angles - because they are no longer selling like they thought they would.'
At first the public thought it wanted everything, without any hold-backs or restrictions. Now, since they've been seeing everything, and finding out how nauseous it is - they are becoming quite bored and unhappy with it all.
We see so many young people walking around with long and unkempt hair -especially the males. Last summer when I was eating a sandwich down at Wright State University campus, the young student who was cleaning off the cafeteria tables had a long beard almost like Solomon's - and when he'd bend down to wipe the table top, that beard almost swept the table itself. At first it brought a sickening sensation to me, and I resolved that if I was manager of that restaurant the first thing I'd do would be to either fire that long-bearded student or force him to shave. Later I got into a conversation with the student, and, upon kidding him about his beard, I found him to be a most pleasant young fellow, and he laughed in a very humorous manner about it all. He was not as bad as I had thought, but a real good fellow who explained that he was majoring in elementary education.
Another male student we saw was dressed in horribly dirty and baggy overalls tied around his middle with an old rope. His huge, unkempt beard enveloped his entire head, and the tiny old-fashioned spectacles he was wearing looked more like Peter Tumbledown, the old farmer in the cartoon strip, than a modern university student. In fact he was actually frightening to look at. His appearance was the trampy kind that usually marked the recluse from society - the type that people shied away from in fear for their own safety. Yet if we had talked to him, we no doubt would have changed our views and discovered a young fellow who was interested in getting an education. Although he could still get that education without all the excess head foliage and seedy-looking overalls.
Long hair on young men has in fact become a symbol of defiance - defiance to the ways, often the failures of their elders in running this old world. I can remember that when my older brother got out into the world and tried to study classical music for a career, he walked around with a mustache and very long hair. It was an act of defiance against the world for bringing on the great depression that was making a living hard and difficult then. But it also represented his love for the great music masters whose lives he had been reading about and who were his youthful idols.
But I also can remember that, when I graduated from high school, there was a bulletin posted in the classroom library stating that 'The high school graduate was only worth $9.12 in a day's wages, whereas a college graduate would be worth $18.00 and some cents.' There was no mention about a person's character being worth a few cents, or his ideals counting for a thing. I often felt, in my budding youth, that virtues were to be held high, also. And I, too, resented such cheap values being placed on the higher human qualities. Many of our young people are not totally wrong in pointing the finger of guilt and hypocrisy to their elders who still are making a mess of this old world. After all, they, the older ones, are printing the pornography, and promoting the sex films with which they entice the young, merely for the profits they can reap. Is it any wonder that youth is pointing the finger of guilt to those in command?
We were heartened recently by a young group of musicians and actors who came to our school to give a performance. At first we thought they appeared to be some far-out set. But in our conversation with them, we found them to be a very dedicated group of young Christians.