The 1950s: Are you sure you want to live there?

Recently when we posted an article about change in worship and noted that some people in our churches seem to want to return to the 1950s, one commenter who found absolutely nothing to like in the piece said, “I’d love to live in the 1950s.”

Happy Days. Chevrolet convertibles with the huge fins.  Malt shops and sock hops.  Mayberry was America and America was Mayberry.  Ike was in the White House.  Elvis was in his ascendancy.  And Andy Griffith was sheriff.

What’s not to like, right?

I smile at that.

No one loves the 1950s more than those who never lived them.

My wife said, “In the 1950s, every time a plane went overhead I thought it was possibly carrying an atomic bomb to drop on us.”

Such was the attitiude of fear pervading this land.

In the early 1950s, I recall walking home from church with my grandmother after one of those meetings in which the preacher scared the living whatever out of us, and hearing the planes overhead–hey, this was Birmingham and they had lots of planes!–and I was thinking the same thing as Margaret: “We’re goners.”

You want to return to that?

Civil Defense was training people to stand on rooftops and spot aircraft, just in case one from the USSR showed up.

People were building bomb shelters, and television ads told how to survive the initial blast of an atomic bomb.

At the same time the preachers were decrying the worldliness of the churches and very few of the congregations were doing anything about missions. There were almost no witnessing programs by any denomination, and volunteers traveling to foreign mission stations to do short-term projects were discouraged by mission boards because they interfered with the work of the career missionaries.  No denomination had disaster relief ministries.

The 1950s were not a golden age of anything. I lived through it. I graduated from high school in 1958.

The so-called golden age of television–that’s what they called the Fifties–gave us the dumbest, boringest, mind-numbingest programs you can imagine. These days, at least you can turn to the National Geographic channel or see what the weather is doing or switch over to an old western. In those days, we had Milton Berle and Omnibus and 15 minutes of news each night with cigarette-smoking John Cameron Swayze. Yes, he smoked right there on the tube.  The Today Show had a chimpanzee as a regular. The Tonight Show had Jack Paar.  It was uniformly awful. Oh, and we had three channels. Count ’em, three.

In the 1950s, cigarettes were everywhere and no venue was safe from the deadly fumes. You could actually smoke inside hospital rooms. Signs were posted on doors to alert you to the presence of oxygen tents–that stuff is flammable–so you were not to smoke in ICUs and such.

You want to return to that?

The automobiles were “unsafe at any speed” and turned highways into death traps.  No seat belts, no air bags, and no unbreakable windshields.  If you went on a long trip, expect a few blowouts along the way.  Eventually toward the end of the decade, someone came up with the idea for the interstate system,  for which we are so grateful.

Jim Crow laws were in existence all over the south and racial prejudice thrived throughout the land (not just in Dixie).  The schools which blacks were asked to attend were an embarrassment, and most churches proclaiming “God is love” would have turned into battlegrounds if the pastor had suggested opening the doors to all races.

There were a few good things in the 1950s.  They were better than the 1960s, that’s for sure–with their riotings, assassinations, and the Vietnamese war, the most divisive engagement this country was ever in.

Nostalgia is a liar. Nostalgia suffers from a poor memory. It cancels the negatives and embellishes the positives.  You end up forgetting the low wages and horrible working conditions and racial prejudice and get teary-eyed remembering a time that did not exist.

In the difficult days of the wilderness wanderings, some of the Lord’s people longed for the “good parts” of Egyptian slavery, if you can believe that. “We remember the fish which we used to eat free in Egypt, the cucumbers and the melons and the leeks and the onions and the garlic” (Numbers 11:5).

How quickly they forgot the harsh slavery, dismissed the cruelties of the Egyptians who murdered the Hebrew babies, and overlooked their complete lack of freedom. Incredibly, they longed for the fish, the melons and the onions.

So with those who want their churches to resemble the 1950s.

Perish the thought.

I cannot find one place in Scripture where the Lord approves His children wanting to return to yesterday.  Each day brings new challenges and opportunities and God is doing fresh things daily.  If “His mercies are new every morning,” as they are, I suspect it’s also because the needs of that day will be brand new also.



7 thoughts on “The 1950s: Are you sure you want to live there?

  1. The by-word living through the 1950’s was ‘these trying times’ – only selective memory allows them to be thought of as ‘the good old days’.

    • I would love to live in the late 50s, 1960s. I know there were hard times but now seems so much worse. Born in 1959, we had no tv until I was 10 y/0. could ride my bike freely throughout our large neighborhood for hours – just return home by 5 pm. My nephews now stay in the house all day in the summer (ages 13 and 9) with blinds drawn while parents work (mother is home 3 days, but she is scared too). (Accountant and Engineer – nice neighborhood). They have had go-carts and bikes stolen from their property in this nice neighborhood – even my brother’s p/u truck – later found/recovered in a swamp in Mobile, AL. (My eldest brother’s home in Biloxi – SUPER nice neighborhood (5,000 sq ft home) was once burglarized.)
      NOW our cops are under assault and our ‘president’ is a limp noodle – — – every man for himself. GOD Bless us all! 9

  2. Believe me, I would have included Ecclesiastes 7:10 had I known about it!! “Do not say, ‘Why is it that the former days were better than these?’ For it is not from wisdom that you ask about this.” Great.

  3. As one who was born in 1945, I appreciated the article. Here’s the deal for any age: You have GOD and you have man and you have the demonic. Therefore, you will always have THE GOOD, the Bad, and the ugly! No matter how bad men are or how ugly the demonic is in any era– GOD STILL REIGNS SUPREME! THE LORD JESUS CHRIST is still building HIS church. And for the genuine Christian– the best is yet to be! And sometimes, like the Psalmist, it is good to look back at the PAST faithfulness and mercies of God! (Ps. 77:10-14)

  4. Thanks for the new stuff you have revealed in your text. One thing I would like to comment on is that FSBO interactions are built with time. By releasing yourself to the owners the first saturday their FSBO is actually announced, before the masses begin calling on Monday, you create a good interconnection. By sending them equipment, educational resources, free records, and forms, you become a good ally. By using a personal interest in them and their circumstance, you develop a solid interconnection that, in many cases, pays off once the owners decide to go with an adviser they know plus trust – preferably you.

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