200 Years of United Methodism
An Illustrated History

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The Sixties: America Under Siege

The 1960s had scarcely begun when Americans began to wonder if their nation had slipped out from under God. Instead of a chorus of unity, diverse noises issued from the country's 106 ethnic groups. Rosa Parks got tired of being told to move to the back of the bus, so she got off and was followed by nearly all the blacks of Montgomery, Alabama. The Russians smuggled missiles into Cuba. President Kennedy was assassinated. Riots erupted in major American cities. The pitting of American against Oriental in Vietnam led to the pitting of American against American at home. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated. And over all loomed a mushroom shaped spectre.

America was under siege in the 1960s and almost capitulated to the forces of disorder. Many old stabilities seemed to be crumbling. But just as in the 1930s, when economic depression failed to drive people to God, Americans in the 1960s declined to seek stability in the church's certainties--partly no doubt because the church had become tentative about its certainties. Was God personal or the abstract Ground of Being? Was Jesus the God-Man for all seasons or just a man for sundry reasons? Was the Spirit holy or a LSD-induced high? Theologians waffled, pastors wavered, and congregations wafted away.

What to do to get people back to church? Banners, balloons, and bongo drums were tried. So was communion with crackers and Coke. Preachers proclaimed the death of God and the birth of the post-Christian age. Teachers propounded an approach to sex that was like playing tennis with the net down. Some people cottoned to the preaching and the netless game, but the Church of Saint Fad did not really catch on.

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