Evangelicals vs. Aquarians

Just read an interesting analysis on the the simultaneous rise of the cultural left and right (“hippies and evangelicals”) through the 50′s and 60′s. Brink Lindsey argues here that they were both reactions to post-war material prosperity:

On the left gathered those who were most alive to the new possibilities created by the unprecedented mass affluence of the postwar years but at the same time were hostile to the social institutions — namely, the market and the middle-class work ethic — that created those possibilities. On the right rallied those who staunchly supported the institutions that created prosperity but who shrank from the social dynamism they were unleashing. One side denounced capitalism but gobbled its fruits; the other cursed the fruits while defending the system that bore them. Both causes were quixotic, and consequently neither fully realized its ambitions.

I love neat sweeping theories of history; I can’t take it overly seriously but it is so fun. Lindsey argues that the eventual failures of either side of the culture wars has bequeathed us a sort of libertarian-ish working consensus for society’s values. I’m not convinced based on the abbreviated treatment in the article, but he definitely knows how to write a good cultural history. And with great relevance — all too often I suspect today’s political and cultural dynamics are still rehashes of the 60′s/70′s, despite big changes like the end of Communism, the start of the Internet, and the like.

And of course the article has wonderful stories such as this:

The peculiar career of Arthur Blessitt illustrates evangelicalism’s debt to the cultural left. In the late ’60s, Blessitt hosted a psychedelic nightclub called His Place on Hollywood’s Sunset Strip, an establishment whose logo combined a cross and a peace sign. “Like, if you want to get high, you don’t have to drop Acid. Just pray and you go all the way to Heaven,” Blessitt advised in his tract Life’s Greatest Trip. “You don’t have to pop pills to get loaded. Just drop a little Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John.” In 1969 Blessitt began his distinctive ministry of carrying a 12-foot-tall cross around the country—and, later, around the world. On one of his countless stops along the way, at an April 1984 meeting in Midland, Texas, he received word that a local oilman, the son of a prominent politician, wanted to see him privately. The businessman told Blessitt that he was not comfortable attending a public meeting but wanted to know Jesus better and learn how to follow him. Blessitt gave his witness and prayed with him. The man, George W. Bush, subsequently converted to evangelical Christianity.

Apparently this article is excerpted from a new book; there’s a decent enough NYT review by George Will, though burdened with his usual “look at me, I’m a smart conservative thinker and like to talk about Burke!” shtick.

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2 Responses to Evangelicals vs. Aquarians

  1. Mike says:

    interesting stuff. Will and Lindsey are libertarians right? Why are they judging the value of liberty in the light of the immorality of affluence? Judging liberty in the light of something else doesn’t seem very libertarian.

    Also Lindsey should know better than to assume this third part in light of our current situation:

    “the typical bluestate liberal is considerably redder than his predecessor when it comes to the importance of markets to economic growth, the virtues of the two-parent family and the morality of American geopolitical power.”

  2. Brendan says:

    I’m not sure about Will, but Lindsey is definitely a libertarian. I didn’t interpret Lindsey’s article as asserting any immorality of affluence; I thought his value judgments were more along the lines of “markets create wealth”. I think he’s annoyed at the cultural right and left for rejecting aspects of capitalist society.