Were the golden days all that golden?


I know people my age often pine for the good old days. The good old days are typically defined as a period of time in the past that one thinks was pleasant and better than the present time, a time when life seemed quite a bit less complicated than today.

I must admit that sometimes I think of the past nostalgically and wistfully. The day I graduated from high school was a sad day for me, because I was going out of state to college and I knew that it would be unlikely that I would see many of my friends again, because we were all scattered in so many directions.

In 1955 The Four Lads came out with their hit song, “Moments to Remember.” I recall hearing it on the radio on the afternoon of my graduation:

Though summer turns to winter
And the present disappears
The laughter we were glad to share
Will echo through the years.

When other nights and other days
May find us gone our separate ways
We will have the moments to remember.

I cherished those years; and yes, life was less complicated. I drove a 1952 Plymouth Mayflower automobile in those days and I actually knew how to maintain and repair on my car – well, I could do small repairs. I could change the oil and filters and on one occasion I actually changed the alternator. I don’t even know if my current vehicle has an alternator; or if it has one, I don’t know that I could find it.

Those were the days before Rubik’s cube, GPS, modems, routers, browsers, cell phones and laptops. In those uncomplicated days Java was a cup of coffee or an island in Indonesia. Cookies were something sweet you could eat when you got home from school. Spam was canned meat, and although Dwight Eisenhower and Gracie Allen endorsed it, I never considered it in my top ten list of delicious delicacies. Ram was a male sheep. Re-boot was when you had to put your boots on again, because you forgot to put on your socks the first time.

Now, we have JPEG, PDF, HTML, ADSL, CAD, CPU, FTP, GIF, ROM, SAAS, and SEO and it is driving me crazy to keep up with all of the new terminology and technology. It is more challenging than learning Greek and Hebrew. Sometimes I long for those days that seemed less complicated and problematic.

In those days I collected and sold Coca Cola, Pepsi, Hires Root Beer, RC ,and Dr. Pepper bottles for two cents apiece. Ice cream cones sold for a nickel; and you could fill up your car with gasoline for $4. The year I was born the national debt was $51 billion. Today it is more than $21 trillion.

I guess those were the good old days, but to be honest I confess that I like refrigerators better than ice boxes, escalators better than stairs, air conditioning better than window fans, electric ice cream freezers better than those you had to crank by hand, and automatic transmissions better than cars with straight shift or manual transmissions.

So far as spiritual things are concerned I liked church growing up – maybe I liked it because my “Papa” was my first pastor. I still like sanctuaries with beautiful stained-glassed windows, tall steeples, and brightly lit worship centers full of Ozzie and Harriett or Beaver Cleaver families arrayed in suits and ties for the men and Gainesborough hats and pearls for the women.

Journalist Travis Scholl explains, “We can’t repristinate any supposedly golden age, largely because the golden age usually wasn’t so golden.” True religion is obviously far more than what one wears to church. Years ago, I wrote an editorial suggesting that a lot of people have a lot in the show window, but not much in the store room. Our faith must be more than a façade or a recollection of how it used to be.

In those day a lot of those men in fine suits and colorful ties rushed out of Sunday School to smoke a Camel or Lucky Strike cigarette and the sidewalk around the front of our church and the breezeway between the educational building and the church auditorium was generally covered with cigarette butts by the end of the Sabbath.

Those supposed “golden” years were also tarnished because it was during those years that eleven o’clock on Sunday morning was called the “most segregated hour” in America.

It was during those “golden” years that Billy Graham railed on those who embraced tolerance saying, “We have become tolerant, because we have demonstrated a willingness to put up with beliefs opposed to our convictions and we are permitting things that that we should never approve.”

Perhaps even more concerning is that while many senior adults are devoted Christians and always looking for ways to serve and witness, many seniors have become so jaded on institutional church life that they rarely bother to darken the doors of those hallowed spaces anymore or they vainly search for a church that accommodates their “preferences.”

Mark Buchanan, in his book Your God is too Safe, describes this malaise as “chronic spiritual fatigue.”

Satan has always been our chief adversary and sin has always resulted in guilt, shame, pain, condemnation, and regret.

However, let us always remember that God is just as powerful, just as omnipotent, just as omniscient, just as immutable as ever and the blood of Jesus is just as efficacious and cleansing as ever.

Admittedly, what we sometimes refer to as the golden age is somewhat tarnished – maybe it was an age of only 10-karat gold.

It is important for me to be useful in this fourth quarter of my life. Since God has not changed, and since Jesus is both Savior and Lord, and since we are empowered by the Holy Spirit, I want to challenge my fellow senior adults to approach the years ahead with a new resolve to serve and honor our Christ with a passion to make the era before us an age characterized by 24-karat gold – an age we can remember in heaven as our finest era.

Billy Graham, culture, nostaligia, senior adults