Good Friday and American Nostalgia

With the approach of Easter my mind invariably reverts to my boyhood memories of Good Friday in America before the sixties culture shift.

I was raised in Royersford, PA, a small industrial town of about 4000 people about thirty miles northwest of Philadelphia. Best I can tell, our town was typical Middle America. I sense that culturally it did not differ much from a town of a similar size in Kansas or Texas. In fact, my travel to some of those towns has often reminded me of my boyhood days. Consequently, I sense that the mood and activities on Good Friday in Royersford paralleled those manifested in much of American during those days.

The centerpiece of Good Friday was a community church service that extended from 12 noon to 3pm in which pastors from the Protestant churches each spoke on one of the seven last words of Christ from the cross. (The Catholics had their own service.) These sermons were interspersed with hymns and other special music.

From noon to 3pm all the stores were closed, and there was practically no traffic, even on Main Street, except those going to and coming from the service. Apart from those few cars, no noise was heard. All work ceased. People tended to talk in a whisper. This inactivity and silence, of course, was in remembrance of and respect for Christ’s crucifixion during those hours. (I believe that Christ was on the cross from 9am to 3pm, but noon to 3pm was the prevailing view at the time.)

For many people the entire day was set aside as sacred, and the atmosphere maintained from noon to 3pm prevailed to a lesser extent throughout the whole day.

Why is this memory special to me?

First, it takes me back to Christian America. Today’s post-Christian America would reject such civic acknowledgment of the death of Christ. Then it was part of the culture. For those who never experienced Christian America, let me assure you that it provided a wonderful environment in which to live. Liberals seek to ridicule and belittle it, and they must to cover the destruction with which they have inflicted this country, but those of us who experienced this marvelous culture know better.

One day when our children were about eight and 10 year old, they were watching the news on television while my wife was preparing supper. The particular news item had to do with some college kids protesting about something and the police being summoned to quell the riot. My wife began to cry, and one of my children asked, “What’s wrong, Mommy.” She responded, “I’m so sad because you will never know the America in which I was raised.” I am sad for all of you that never had the privilege of experiencing that America. It was truly wonderful.

This leads to the second reason why my Good Friday recollections are so special. How wonderful to have whole communities remember and honor Christ in this way. Even if many of those people were not believers, they possessed a worldview that exalted Christ, acknowledging who He is and what He had done.

This perspective on life not only made a difference on Good Friday, but it reflected itself in their values, interests, attitudes, and behaviors. Divorce was practically nonexistent, homosexuality was viewed as a sinful, deviant behavior by practically everyone, drugs were unheard of, pornography was relegated to dirty little cigar stores patronized by dirty old man. Decency and honesty and godliness were viewed as qualities for which we should all strive. People displayed responsibility in their work, their finances, their parenting, and in virtually every other area of life.

As I reflect on the antithesis of these qualities that characterize our current society, I would give almost anything to see American reverts to the Christian culture and the Good Friday worship of those pre-60s years.

I sense that could happen, but I believe it would only happen in an environment of hardship such as a severe depression that made survival an all-consuming task. If this type of trial would restore America to its past Christian culture, I would consider such a hardship a blessing from God.

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