YOUTH, VIOLENCE AND DRUGS
by V. Rev. Gregory Ofiesh
A Sermon preached by the VERY REV. GREGORY OFIESH Pastor of St. Nicholas’ Church, San Francisco, California, on August 20, 1970 at the Chicago Archdiocesan Convention. Fr. Gregory is Chairman of the Department of SOYO and Inter-Orthodox Youth Relations, and Spiritual Advisor for the North American Council of SOYO. The text of his Sermon was Matthew 21:43 “Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a nation producing the fruits thereof.”
FOUR STUDENTS SHOT DOWN ON COLLEGE CAMPUS!
STUDENTS ATTACK ADMINISTRATION BUILDING!
STUDENTS DEMAND PARTICIPATION IN PLANNING NEW CURRICULUM!
STUDENTS TEAR UP DRAFT CARDS AND FORBID R.O.T.C. ON CAMPUS!
STUDENTS ENCOUNTER POLICE AND NATIONAL GUARD ON CAMPUS!
STUDENTS SEEK NEW ANSWERS TO PROBLEMS WITH REGENTS!
YOUNG PEOPLE WANT TO SHARE IN NATIONAL POLICIES!
It seems that in each period of history young people have cried out in frustration and disappointment. They treat their parents as strangers: they go off to strange lands: find a strange life: wear strange clothes and speak in strange tongues.
Born in the struggles and pains of revolution, this country’s forefathers often did not have enough food or clothes. They created a system rooted in liberty, freedom and truth, secured and kept safe by their loved ones and themselves. No period of history, no age or time has known the security, the conveniences and the luxuries enjoyed by the people of today.
The most significant factors in our present age contributing towards the formation of the new society are, namely, TECHNOLOGY, PSYCHOLOGY, and PSYCHIATRY.
Technological achievements and advancements following World War II have offered more food, better clothing, bigger cars, bigger homes, and papers of security that have made man quite independent. In addition, man has created awesome weapons, and offered his sons in little wars to protect his security and blessings. Thus, we live in affluence.
Scientific progress in psychiatry has enabled physicians and pharmacists to develop a drug-oriented society. They have manufactured depressants such as narcotics, sedatives, and tranquilizers, which affect the brain and spinal cord to dull our fears and to ease our tensions and anxieties. Hallucinogens and stimulants, which work on the central nervous system, are employed extensively by medicine as psychoactive agents. LSD and STP were originally prescribed to “open up” and study the psychotic behavior of patients in mental hospitals. Stimulants were originally devised for mild problems of depression and overweight: some of them, the amphetamines, were at times taken by students to help them stay awake in preparing for exams, or by truck drivers on long and lonesome trips. Consequently, drugs have become an integral part of the faith and fiber of our society. We are definitely a drug-prone society. Adults use drugs to answer all their ills.
The youth of today, facing the decade of the 70’s, are also products of the “new psychology.” Psychology in the family gave children a keen and new sense of independence. In this present age, technology, psychiatry, and psychology have exploded the bomb of the new age, and the fruits have begun to ripen.
Their precepts taught the children of the new generation how to take care of “their’’ own room, how to fix “their’’ own bed, how to dress “themselves.” They were led to be self-expressive individualists. They were blessed by their parents with their own money, with their own car, and with their own job.
What is now at stake? The value of the family — the place of parents — the honor and respect to society and to the neighborhood — should young people respect their parents? Do they view their parents experiences as relevant in their own lives? Their goals vary considerably from those of their parents.
This is our society of today. No society in history has ever had to deal with a mass educated self-expressive, and technologically prone youth. There are approximately 24 million young people between the ages of 18 and 24. The largest majority of them are directly confronted with international politics. It is relevant to their lives. They will either have to or not have to go to Vietnam. They will either go to college or face a technological society which will make them “mere laborers” in a space age. They know that they will live in one town and perhaps work in another. They fill the emptiness with material goods. Young people want to maintain control over their lives. We taught them how important they were, and now in a sense of fear, they want to protect themselves.
According to the Fortune-Yankelovich survey, 60% of our young people are pursuing fairly conventional career objectives. They are concerned with higher education because of what it will offer socially and materially. Almost 9 million of the younger generation today are in or have been to college. The other vice, or are pursuing vocations. Of the 9 million in college, approximately 6 million are pursuing well-defined objectives. The thoughts and sentiments of this group are remarkably similar to those who have never attended college. They both share values of a common nature. The hard core problem exists in the remaining 3 million, who are naturally in the minority, but are particularly identified by their lack of concern about making money. They are invariably directed toward the Humanities in college. Here they find their counterparts in the same dress and in the same philosophy — yes, there are progenitors in the new left — the college professors.
The faculty, especially in the Humanities, is the last leading force drawing this 3 million, who are undecided, bored, restless, unwilling to go to Vietnam, and finally, are disgusted with themselves and with life.
Now only 10% of this 3 million are extremely interested in finding challenges intellectually relevant to themselves and to society. They have embraced positions that are controversial and dissenting in relation to critical national and international issues. This 10% has organized The New Movement. The two basic goals of The Movement are — one, that the individual must share in the social decisions affecting his life; and two, that society must organize the vehicle for this to take place.
Splintered and fragmentized, we find such groups as the SDS (Students For A Democratic Society), which took credit for precipitating the many disturbances at Berkeley, San Francisco State College, and Columbia. Others, such as The Resistance, The National Mobilization Committee To End The War In Vietnam, The New University Conference, Resist, belong to various extremes of the left. They have united their goals with the fantastic literary talent of their peers in the field of journalism — namely, two news services, The Liberation News Service — New York, and The Liberation News Service – Massachusetts, as well as the Underground Press Syndicate. They have become the media for The Movement to reach out to its adherents. This group of political activists, wearing strange clothes, taking weird drugs, dancing to strange music, and seeking the unknown God, will, I predict, pose a national threat.
This militant active group, emotionally unstable, will employ violence to attain its goals. These young people have unconsciously reacted with destruction in retaliation to their parents and to the establishment — from toys in their childhood to the Administration building as young adults. Disturbed and confused, they are lost and dangerous. They could lead this country to extreme Leftism on the one side, or cause a Hitler on the other side of the pendulum.
The remaining so-called silent majority of our youth — except for the international political situation — have found in essence the same pattern of life as society as a whole. They are concerned with ecology and pollution, violence and immorality. They want to face and destroy bigotry and poverty. They want to know why the world’s wealthiest nation will let a large portion of its population live in the ghetto.
These young people, men and women, have made fantastic strides, even in business. No other period of history has found such a youth revolution in big business. Young executives, in their twenties, have been offered, and have reformed the most challenging of enterprises. No other generation has made progress as our youth of today has made and will continue to make.
They tell it as it is. Ponder upon the words of a song, “Mr. Businessman,” written by Ray Stevens:
“Itemize the things you covet as you squander through your life:
Bigger cars, bigger houses, term insurance for your wife.
Tuesday evenings with your harlot, and
On Wednesday it’s your Charlatan
Analyst— He’s High up on your list.
You’ve got air-conditioned sinuses and dark, disturbing doubt
About religion, and you keep those cards and letters going out.”
The new place of rock, soul, country and western music has been a major victory for the new culture, yet the young people have not thrown out the cultured favorites of the past. They appreciate the sights and sounds of Frank Sinatra, and Sergio Mendez, Beethoven, or Bartok.
Young people today dominate culture in America — namely in the theatre, fashions, art, literature and music. They are expressing their “thing” in practically every facet and level of society.
Why the big difference between the political activists on the one hand, and the mainstream college, married or single, young adult? The family and the Church in each of these situations have built upon the advancements of technology and the other sciences. These parents have given their young people not simply a sense of individuality, but also a sense of cohesiveness within the family. They merely took the advancements of the new sciences to build upon the tradition they themselves received from their fathers. The real core of young people even in the activist groups will return to the mainstream if the basic values of family and respect for society have been realized in the home and in the school. They were taught the relevance of their own lives because their family life was real to them. Parents taught their child to stand as an individual, but within the framework and fiber of the family. They taught their child that his name, as well as his family’s name, and the community, were very important to him. The ambivalence and impetuousness of youth were minimized by the concern of his family and teachers. Not only was I important, but we were important. We did not fear insecurity because we were secure unto each other.
The Church of today cannot stand outside of us as a museum merely to be gazed upon and admired, nor as a theatrical production wherein we are entertained, nor as a pharmaceutical center for concoctions to relieve our maladies; but the Church must be relevant in our lives. The Church is the kingdom of God. We must initiate programs in which family awareness becomes an awareness to the child that he belongs to the family of God.
The same commitment to the family becomes the commitment to the Church. We need these experiences as we call the Holy Spirit to become real within us. We need to teach our young people that the church is concerned for them. They must be involved in retreats in order to meditate and examine their lives. They must feel the euphoria of living through fasting. They must be involved in camp programs where they can be with younger brothers and sisters, teaching them to share and live with one another. We must teach them that the spirit of God is dwelling within them when they visit the elderly and the sick. We must initiate tutorial programs to aid and assist the underprivileges. We must teach them that man does not live for bread alone. Young people must develop a moral fiber and a strength in order that their own lives will reflect the image of Christ. That instead of fears and pills, drugs and violence, that each man is our brother, and that we must “run with Jesus,” to each of them, as Christ ran to us. That the Liturgy must become that beautiful stream that carries us unto the Kingdom of God, where each of us, as a new person, partakes of the new and unique life and transforms the world, our nation, our family, and ourselves — unto Christ.
Our young people today are more intellectual, more sophisticated, and are more concerned than ever before in history. They are real — I believe in them. They do not want to stand on the mountaintop to gaze down into the valley in awe. They want to jump; and they want to get into the thick of things. Are we ready to let them?
Our young people cry for leadership and to witness Christ — and what do we give them — sterile and empty sermons? Dances and parties? They want to MOVE — they want to experience the new life — the Orthodox Christian young person with this beautiful embodiment of truth wants to go out into the world as the Master said; and we do not let him.
What did the Master say —?
“When you have not done it unto the least of these My brethren
Ye have not done it unto Me.”
“And a child shall lead thee.”
From Word Magazine
Publication of the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America