You can learn a lot about a society by studying the artifacts of its popular culture.
Last night we watched a classic Twilight Zone episode that suggested that maybe the good old days weren’t so good: “Long Live Walter Jameson,” broadcast in 1960 (when I was 11 years old). Before I tell you anything more about it, first consider that The Twilight Zone was a very popular TV show and definitely within the pop culture mainstream; and consider these closing words by Rod Serling.
“Last stop on a long journey, as yet another human being returns to the vast nothingness that is the beginning and into the dust that is always the end.”
Is that a comment indicative of a healthy Christian culture?
“Long Live Walter Jameson” was written by Charles Beaumont, considered a great writer of TV fantasies. Beaumont’s scripts, especially some of the ones he wrote for Twilight Zone, reveal an obsession with death and dying. He died at the age of 38 from early-onset Alzheimer’s Disease, after five or six years of suffering a progressive loss of his faculties. I think he knew his body was trying to tell him something. No wonder he was obsessed with death and dying. It was happening to him.
The story is about a man who is immortal. He has lived over 2,000 years so far, and he wants to die. I found it to be, for all its artistic excellence, as dark a story as has ever been aired on American TV.
And in 1960, no less! An era I remember as being good. I can still say I think it was better than the era that we’re stuck in now–but here was overt atheism coming into Christian families’ living rooms, and who complained?
Were we that far down the pipe in 1960? Based on my examination of popular culture, I suspect that Christianity in Britain was in deep trouble 100 years ago; and that, by the 1980s, it was taken for granted that English people didn’t believe in God. That’s what comes across to me from their old TV scripts.
But is Christianity that much better off in America? When did the toxin begin to seep into our culture, to the point where a popular, mainstream TV show could take an atheist stance in 1960, and remain popular?
Pray for our nation. Pray hard.