(This is a sermon that my Republican minister father gave about hippies in Attleboro Massachusetts, probably in 1967 or 1968. Weirdly, he liked hippies. My Uncle Harold Douglas recently found it and my sister Pam thought it belonged on the blog. Happy Thanksgiving to all — JH)
Are You Turned On?
by Rev. Russell Charles Murphy
"You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." — John 8:32
Five weeks ago today in the feature section of the Boston Herald, there was a half-page article entitled, "Middle class hippies turn on without LSD." There was a picture of perhaps fifty people, from vairous walks of life, different ages and backgronds, lying on the floor on their backs, practicing what the writer called "body awareness." The thrust of the article was that there were housewives, clerks, executives, actors, secretaries, school teachers, mechanics — you name it — who were seeking ways to break out of their shells, their outwardly enforced images of themselves, and find out who they really were. They are part of a veritable movement that is rapidly spreading across America practicing what is called "sensitivity training." The object of this training is to free the invidividual from unhealthy inhibitions, to make him aware of this intrinsic worth when he, or she, is separated from all the trappings of clothes, education, money, religion, automobiles, positions which so often even we ourselves mistake for the real self.
For the past year I have had intermittent contact with this movement as the methods of self-awareness and liberation have been used in training of church and industrial executives. More lately I attended the annual meeting of the American Association of Humanistic Psychologists in Washington the last week in August. What I have seen in these experiences has been very exciting, while it has been frightening. It is exciting in that in some instances I have seen personalities blossom, creativity of leadership burst forth like lightening, individual dignity achieved where before there had been stifled talent and self-deprecation. It has been frightening because it has revealed so clearly the suppressed, frustrated, neurotic character of our society. It has shown me that far too high a percentage of people are cast in social molds they despise but cannot break; framed in stereotypes they hate but cannot escape; forced into roles they are ill fated to play, but cannot find a true role for which they are fitted. In short, they are not themselves, they are not mensch as the German says it so well — human beings. The self, the personality, the God given individuality that each of us possesses is blanketed with the regimes of duty and custom until we must ignore ourselves and pretend to be something we are not if we are to be accepted. And it is further frightening to see how difficult is the struggle, and how uncertain the direction the liberated spirit will take when in the jargon of the day, the individual gets "turned on."
Hippies are the most exaggerated example of those who are "turned on." They have chucked the whole parcel of middle class social garbage out the window. They see it as completely phony, with its two-car economy and its split-level personality. They want something more, something special, so they take LSD and "make a trip." But before we are too harsh on the hippies, remember what they are saying to us. They are rebels against the inherited patterns of education, religion, and government into which they have been born. One hippie to whom I recently talked said, "your generation is morally bankrupt. You can think of no way to stop wars, to bring peace. I have a way; just stop fighting." And whether we agree wit him or not, we can agree that he is making his point as an individual and making it in the face of a growing danger that the masses may have been brainwashed and led down the path of disaster. Perhaps more of us, who will not go so far as LSD, should take a trip into our own personhood, to see if within us there is some new power to discover the way of peace.
If you will permit me to suggest it, you and I should get turned on. One phrase so often used in the humanistic psychology movement is "human potential." Do you realize how terribly powerful one single convinced individual can be? Think of Gandhi, or Karl Marx, or Thomas Jefferson, or Jesus Christ. These were turned on people. They broke out of the mold, they spoke from their inner souls, and the world could not help but listen. Do we have the will to do it? Or are we perhaps more like a man I met at a professional training session recently where some of the techniques of group therapy were being demonstrated. Three hundred of us, all professional people, were asked to form in groups of six members each, then to sit down on the floor, pull off our coasts, loosen our ties, and if we wished, take off our shoes. In my group there was a Washington lawyer, approximately my age. The other five of us did as we had been instructed. This man, all through the exercise, kept his coat buttoned, and his tie pulled up, and his shoes neatly polished. He simply could not conceive of himself without those marks of his profession to bolster his own image of himself. Three times in the next two days he defended himself apologetically for his refusal to join the group in this one small effort to bring ourselves to a common level of human-hood. He knew that this one action revealed something he would rather not face: that he was not sure just what was behind that mask, and he dared not risk letting the group find out!
However we achieve it, it is my goal for us as individuals of Second Church that we each one reach the full potential of our humanness. This I believe is what Jesus meant when he said "you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." For the briefest moment, begin with yourself where you are right now. Are you distinctly yourself, or are you what your family, your profession, even your religion would make you? How long has it been since you stood outside and looked to see just what you look like to your own eyes? How we float along, just filling space, doing the habitual jobs, accepting the conventional values, dressing our bodies and using our minds to suit the opinions of others. A noted psychiatrist has proposed that Americans are ashamed of their bodies, for all the display they make of them. He says that in America we can only talk of the body if it is sick. We have not accepted it as a value in itself. He suggests that the Eastern religions have much to teach us at this point. As for our minds, we stifle them in pedestrian involvement with cheap literature and banal art. Why do we not turn our creativity, our imagination, even our fantasy, to the issues which threaten the destruction of our society? Why are we willing to shrug off Detroit and Harlem and Newark riots, feeling that we are immune to this danger, and therefore not called on to help solve the problems which caused them? It is because we have been lulled into the belief that "we" as individuals don't matter anyway; that only the collective body known as government can bring to bear resources to meet problems of this size? No bigger lie could be told. Speaking on the future of education in the United States in Washington two weeks ago, Dr. Harmon of Stanford University said, "I agree that by 1984, either the individual will have come to a new awareness and a new influence in the affairs of state; or the state will have become more and more fascist, as a mindless, almost hypnotized populace surrenders more and more of individual freedoms to it." He concluded, "I would hope for the first, but realistically I expect the latter."
How do we go about getting "turned on?" Well, we might quit hiding behind all the things we think make us important. The Jews to whom Jesus addressed the text are a case in point. They were quite snobbish because they were the children of Abraham. They had family behind them. Furthermore, they were quite wealthy, and educated, and well dressed, and socially prominent. They had it made! Not so, said Jesus. You are all bound up in false judgments. I say, look at yourself, for that alone is what is valuable, and if you free it to truly be yourself, then you will know what true freedom is. (Jesus believed — and so do I — that there is something beautiful, something good, something to make a contribution to the world — in each person. It is only up to us to let it shine out. And second, if we would be persons, we must being seeing others as persons too. We must let them be turned on, not strangled into the straight-jacket of our blueprint for their lives.
For a brief second, try and experiment: Think of the person sitting next to you in the pew (don't turn your head). Have you ever thought of that person as a human being before, with the same kind of physical and emotional needs as you have? It may be a member of your family, or a friend with whom you are very close. do you know that I find that practically all the marital problems I am called on to counsel, all the child parent controversies I listen to, all the civic charges and counter charges we hear in our council chambers, would be relieved if the people involved would only stop to think of the others as real persons? The racial difficulties we face will only be resolved when we stop seeing each other as negro and white, and start seeing each other as persons. We have made much progress with the Catholic/Protestant division just because Pope John opened the door for this kind of exchange of humanness between us. There is much left to be done, but we can do it.
This is the first full Sunday worship of the new church year. Do you want to be "turned on" for a better and richer fellowship within our church? Do you want to break out of the old ruts of "business as usual" and see something vital and challenging go on at Second Church? Then I urge each of us to give God a chance to take us — as we are — and turn us on; to approach the church with a new awareness of its humanness, but also its divine mission; and to give us the freedom with brings lightness of heart and joyousness of spirit in all that we do.