What happened in the 1960s?

By Augustinus

The West fell in the 1960s. This is both good and bad. To the extent that the Church is the West and the West is the Church the fall of the 1960s has meant that the church has been in crisis since then. Westerners, as a consequence, have been lost spiritually since then. On the other hand the Church never was only Europe and the West. Europe and the West kept the Church alive during the first 1500 years of the faith and then helped to spread the faith throughout the world. In the beginning the faith was strong in the near east-even outside of the Roman Empire. But Islam virtually, but not entirely, wiped out the eastern Church. After the schism between the orthodox and Roman rites Christianity flowered in the West and then spread globally with the rise of the West. that rise was due mainly to science and technology. The West developed science and technology and the rest of the world did not. In any case, between 1500 and 1800 westerners spread the faith to the new world and parts of Asia and Africa. thus, the church was no longer identified only with Europe. Islam was in decline, the Asian religions like Buddhism and Hinduism were stagnant like the cultures they inhabited and everywhere Europe and Christianity were in the ascendant. But then the 20th century dawned and with it the great European-centered World wars that lasted for some 50 years and tore Europe apart. The great bloodletting, and the resultant annihilation in the space of a minute of Nagasaki and Hiroshima, the domination now of Russia and the eastern European countries by totalitarian and atheistic communism and finally the horrors of the holocaust led the best Europeans to stop and think about what went wrong!

Part of that great reflection on what went wrong was Vatican II which was convened after the period of the World wars. The children of the parents who fought in the world wars defined themselves in opposition to everything that they believed created the world wars. You cannot go through a conflagration that violently slaughtered some 50 million people without some period of penance and conversion. The 1960s was a period of violent repudiation of what went before and that was its healthy element. But it threw the baby out with the bathwater. it failed to do its homework on what exactly went wrong.

The 1960s was an attempt to identify what went wrong but it was a failed attempt. Vatican II did not attempt to identify what went wrong but it divined the need of the faithful to attempt to open up to a world in need and pain and disorientation. That was the positive element in Vatican II. It was a pastoral council seeking to engage the world now prostrated by the world wars.

But who was trying to understand what went wrong? Some religious philosophers and theologians tried. The Jewish philosophers tended toward the view that God had absented himself from humanity. The protestant theologians did the same. Orthodox theologians fell silent under the heel of the Soviets and Roman Catholic theologians through up a wild range of theories–none of them at all convincing as most of them settled on the evil is a mystery meme.

Secular philosophers and scholars also tried to figure out what went wrong and each of them identified one piece of the elephant…imperial competition for markets; growth of science and technology, population and demographic trends, ethnic tensions and so forth.

The fact that the world wars began and centered in Europe suggests that the rise of science and technology had something to do with it. My own feeling is that science and technology has made huge population increases possible. the world went from several hundred million in 1800 to 6 billion just two centuries later. These huge rises in population numbers place wild demands on fallible, scared, opportunistic political actors and governments who then make stupid decisions and pull the world into irrational wars.

Science is the great disruptor and the Church still refuses to come to terms with it.

 

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