Every generation has its challenges. Tom Brokaw wrote about those growing up during the Great Depression and fighting in World War II as “The Greatest Generation.” Without doubt, many suffered through hard times and overcame the brutalities of a war that ended 70 million hopes and dreams. Those who saw warfare firsthand experienced something that the rest of us cannot imagine, no matter how hard we try, and no matter how graphic Hollywood portrays it. We, their children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, are here because some of them were the blessed survivors.
Is it too cynical to ask an objective question, “Was this truly the greatest generation?” Or was it simply a great title for a book, and a mantra people repeated without questioning? Those of that generation can certainly hold their heads high when it comes to overcoming adversity. While people often speak of the “good ol’ days,” how many really want to go back to the hardships they faced? No thank you! We prefer our indoor plumbing, air conditioning, and comfortable car with all the electronic gadgetry, especially the warm seat on a “ten-below” morning!
Looking More Closely
So much of this progress is the direct result of the intelligent and hardworking men and women of that generation. They gave us television, took us to the moon, and made life easier and safer for those of us they brought into the world. But perhaps this last point is where the greatest generation fell short. In their sincere desire to give their children a better life than they had growing up, they raised a generation of spoiled, ungrateful rebels-without-a-cause. At least that is the case in the Western world. Certainly, not every baby boomer was spoiled, ungrateful, and rebellious, but too many were. In place of gratitude, many blamed their parents for what troubles they did have.
Music executives from the greatest generation discovered it was monetarily profitable to tap into the natural youthful desire to chart one’s own course. They gave us “rock and roll” and all that eventually came with it: disrespect for authority, sexual license and drug culture. The Beatles came out of Liverpool clubs to the United States singing, “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” but in short order they wanted to put something in it. Their song “I Am the Walrus” clearly spoke the message, “Smoke Pot, Smoke Pot, Everybody Smoke Pot.” Even if people deny the meaning of the words, no one can deny the impact that the Beatles’ libertarian attitude about drugs had on the culture they so powerfully influenced. And, of course, they were not alone—in neither their suggestive lyrics, nor their licentious example.
The legacy of the greatest generation was tarnished by a sincere, but ultimately misguided desire to provide an easier life for their children. Not all baby boomers went the wrong way, nor was it entirely their fault for rebelling against events they could not understand. Vietnam was one of the challenges of that generation.
Much of what we see following World War II down to our time today is the result of accepting ideas from science falsely so-called. Many of the greatest generation embraced Charles Darwin’s idea of creation without a Creator, as well as ideas by social thinkers, such as Karl Marx, who promoted an end-justifies-the-means philosophy. The theories of Sigmund Freud were followed by the work of Masters and Johnson, which significantly contributed to the launch of the sexual revolution, and John Dewey injected liberalism into education in the United States and elsewhere. Dr. Benjamin Spock published Baby and Child Care in 1946, helping promote a more permissive approach to rearing children. Not all that Spock wrote was without merit, but the pendulum swung far, and the boomer generation ended up far less responsible than their parents. All these and many others over the last couple of centuries played a role in transforming the world to become what it is today. For all their positives, the greatest generation failed to recognize or defeat these wrong-headed movements.
It was the greatest generation that allowed prayer to be kicked out of American schools in 1964. The sum of the last 75 years has been what amounts to a total loss of moral authority. God was out. Human “reason” replaced the Bible. France, the United Kingdom, Australia, the United States and most other Western nations have bought into the doctrine of secular humanism, the idea that you can have a moral society without God. How is that working out?
People are overwhelmed by governmental corruption and ineptitude and are turning to more radical leaders to solve their problems. What we see today is the rise of the “strong man,” not only in the West, but around the world. When governments fail to solve the people’s problems, people are willing to give power to a populist. Sometimes a strong leader steps up and takes charge in a positive way. Other times nations get an Adolf Hitler or a Benito Mussolini.
Few people know that the term “dictator” was once used in a positive sense. The Roman Republic was originally ruled by two men, not one; but when a fiscal or military crisis arose, a single individual was chosen to lead the country for a short duration, perhaps as short as six months. They understood that a strong leader who will take decisive action is needed during difficult times. His title was Dictator. When the crisis was over, they went back to two-man rule.
England had a strong leader in Winston Churchill, but they were not ready for or desirous to have such a man prior to, or after, World War II. The person Time Magazine called “Man of the Century” was turned out of office once the crisis was over.
For decades, the Church of God has proclaimed the rise of the strong man—something the world is only beginning to recognize, as seen in a few recent headlines. The prophet Daniel foretold an end-time King of the North and King of the South in Daniel 11. The book of Revelation refers to both a strong political leader, known as the Beast (the same as the King of the North), and a strong religious leader, the False Prophet, popularly referred to as the Antichrist.
The Beast and False Prophet, it appears from Scripture, will bring a deceptive sense of order, peace, and prosperity to the world, but it will be quite temporary and its end will come suddenly (Revelation 17:12; 18:9–10).
Our world is descending into a time of great trouble as each succeeding generation moves further away from God. God warns in Romans 1:18–19, “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them.”
Generations in Denial
As man explores the inner workings of living cells, he is confronted with design, machinery and engineering, the likes of which Charles Darwin could never imagine. Inside our cells are protein machines that transport materials from one location to another along self-assembling highways. There are waste disposal systems, recycling plants, and communication mechanisms. Note this quote from Michael Denton’s Evolution: A Theory in Crisis.
Molecular biology has shown that even the simplest of all living systems on earth today, bacterial cells, are exceedingly complex objects. Although the tiniest bacterial cells are incredibly small… each is in effect a veritable microminiaturized factory containing thousands of exquisitely designed pieces of intricate molecular machinery, made up altogether of one hundred thousand million atoms, far more complicated than any machine built by man and absolutely without parallel in the non-living world (p. 250).
That is an amazing statement: “far more complicated than any machine built by man”! And this is something that can be verified by scientists who believe in evolution! Consider what this means. Even a modern jet aircraft cannot match the complexity found in living cells! And yet, we are expected to believe that they came into being by chance!
DNA is nothing less than code written by an intelligence far greater than our own. Even though the Apostle Paul had no idea what man would discover in our day, he continues in Romans 1:20, “For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made…”
Only the most hardened, prejudiced or ignorantly deceived can possibly believe that life, with all its beauty, design, and complexity could happen by chance; but humanity has chosen to believe a lie rather than God (v. 25). The result is recorded in advance. “And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting” (Romans 1:28).
What we see today is the result of rejecting God. A debased mind is one void of judgment. The moral decline in our Western world is difficult to explain. It makes no sense! One is at a loss for words to discuss intelligently what we see. No vocabulary will do! No wonder we read about an angel placing a mark on the foreheads of those to be spared at the end of the age: “And He called to the man clothed with linen, who had the writer’s inkhorn at his side. . . ‘Go through the midst of the city, through the midst of Jerusalem, and put a mark on the foreheads of the men who sigh and cry over all the abominations that are done within it’” (Ezekiel 9:3–4). While this speaks of Jerusalem, we must not forget that Jerusalem is symbolic of the house of Israel at the end (Ezekiel 4:1–3).
Praiseworthy, But All Too Human
Every generation has its moments of greatness or shame. Tom Brokaw’s greatest generation certainly had its moments of greatness. They were survivors and doers. Nothing lazy about them! Individually, many did a commendable job raising their children. I happen to be one of those children, and I have only admiration for the love, wisdom and balance my parents had in raising my sister and me. They were not perfect parents, but they were good parents. Sadly, speaking generationally rather than individually, that generation did not do so well. Their children, my generation, brought us a host of social ills. In them are the words of the Proverbs fulfilled: “There is a generation that curses its father, and does not bless its mother. There is a generation that is pure in its own eyes, yet is not washed from its filthiness. There is a generation—oh, how lofty are their eyes! And their eyelids are lifted up. There is a generation whose teeth are like swords, and whose fangs are like knives, to devour the poor from off the earth, and the needy from among men” (Proverbs 30:11–14). Sadly, subsequent generations have done even worse.
The greatest generation? Perhaps not quite as great as we would like to remember them.