Posted in theology

For What It’s Worth

By Elizabeth Prata

Buffalo Springfield. 1966. For What It’s Worth. An anthem that captured a moment, a movement, a revolution. And it wasn’t about the Viet Nam war.

For What It’s Worth (Stop, Hey What’s That Sound) (often referred to as simply “For What It’s Worth”) is a song written by Stephen Stills. Performed by Buffalo Springfield, it was recorded on December 5, 1966, released as a single on Atco Records on December 23, 1966. … The song is a staple of period piece films about 1960s America and the Vietnam War, such as Forrest Gump, and often used as a common shorthand to quickly establish the atmosphere of 1960s counterculture movement and protests.” (Wikipedia)

Stephen Stills and Neil Young were part of that folk rock group before it disbanded three years later. Stills wrote FWIW in 15 minutes after hearing of the police response to hippie protests in the Sunset Strip in Los Angeles. Developers wanted to turn the run-down strip, lined with long-haired youths milling about, folk-rock musicians warbling strange music urging use of psychedelic drugs, and grungy diners with flickering neon, into an orderly upscale financial district. They lobbied officials to institute a curfew, and upon enforcing that curfew, the hippies protested. Over time the protests got bigger and bigger, and eventually turned violent. They became riots, a moment in time when the stable old ways clashed with the new unknown ways of life. The word ‘counterculture’ emerged into the vernacular.

FMI: Sunset Strip Riots

Those who know their Bible should not be surprised at the state of the world as it is.” -Martyn Lloyd-Jones

As the 1960s progressed, widespread social tensions also developed concerning other issues, and tended to flow along generational lines regarding human sexuality, women’s rights, traditional modes of authority, rights of non-white people, end of racial segregation and white supremacy, experimentation with psychoactive drugs, and differing interpretations of the American Dream. (Wikipedia).

For centuries since the United States’ founding, for the most part, Americans shared an ideal finally named in 1931 as The American Dream. This nation, settled by those seeking a better life, enjoyed freedom from burdensome taxes, upward mobility based on work ethic and merit, home ownership and voting rights, and freedom to move about and settle where they pleased. This was a lifestyle not available in other countries. This set of ideals is captured in the concepts of democracy, rights, liberty, opportunity and equality.

And for many years…centuries, this is how it was. Horatio Alger’s rags-to-riches stories aimed at young boys, the Gilded Age of ragged immigrants finding the sweet spot and accumulating massive wealth, and the ‘pull yourself up by the bootstraps’ and can-do attitudes made an aura of anything can happen…for anyone…anytime.

Until 1963. President John F. Kennedy was shot and killed. This pierced the nation and caused eyes to turn away from traditional modes of authority and hierarchy. It unsettled minds. As people looked for different ways to live, they began re-thinking the American Dream.

Suddenly the notion of ‘authority’ was negative. Disaffected youth constructed various modes of living as communes, free love, rejection of authority, protests, riots, and calls to solve social ills became the main cry of a generation. For What It’s Worth captured all that and propelled a generation away from culture as we had known it and into foreign waters dark with portent.

We’ve never recovered.

There’s something happening here
But what it is ain’t exactly clear

For What It’s Worth

The thin veneer of the overarching worldview upon which the original Puritans founded the nation disappeared in the blink of an eye. Not that all people in America had been Christians, but the core was solid and radiating out from there had been social pressure to conform to morals and principles contained by the Ten Commandments. Coming with the 1960s’ rejection of secular authority was also rejection of biblical authority.

The term “worldview” is used to describe a core set of values and principles through which the world is understood. A worldview is a compilation of an individual’s perceptions of the world, essentially the way a person understands reality.

Compelling Truth

Just a year prior to Kennedy’s assassination, the US Supreme Court declared school-sponsored prayer unconstitutional. Though the next series of Court decisions seemed to cement that no prayer was allowed in schools, and some administrators took it even farther, the reality was that public elementary, middle, and high school no longer led students in prayer. Not that prayer in school resolved anything, a long list of social ills were present even during the years prayer was uniformly accepted and enacted in public schools. But the Court’s decision highlighted prayer as a negative, and its removal was a billboard that began relegating God to the corner of public life.

There’s battle lines being drawn
Nobody’s right if everybody’s wrong

For What It’s Worth

Then the Assassination, Sunset Strip riots, the counterculture movement began, and a clash of worldviews wrestled for American souls.

Wherever you live in the world, around you there exists a culture. It has history, contains ideals, and is acted out every day by the people living it. In Bible times, as new believers’ eyes were opened they became horrified as they saw the depth of depravity in Corinth. Rome was the capital of the world powerfully and politically, but was also home to much depravity.

Paranoia strikes deep
Into your life it will creep

For What It’s Worth

The secular worldview is the worldview of non-believers. The Christian worldview is the reality upon which us believers make decisions, live our lives, and look forward to the after-life. We know there is something better for us now and forever. The secular world’s pendulum swings constantly, back and forth, to and fro. They are restless like the waves of the sea, (Isaiah 57:20) always seeking a better way, a more comfortable culture, a happier circumstance. They will not find it.

No matter how many countercultural revolutions there have been and there will be, no matter how many idealistic youths robustly sing protest songs, no matter how many Court decisions clamp down on laws or release people from laws…there will always be Jesus.

For what it’s worth, and it’s worth the world and more, the only worldview that will carry us through is a Christian worldview. This worldview is based on repentance, grace through faith, obedience to Jesus, and walking a sanctifying path. This path is narrow, but it leads upward. The secular path, the one that the restless tread, leads down. Darkest blackness is reserved for those who tread it. No anthem, no social ill resolution, no protest will help them then.

The waves of the sinner are stirring up the sea in America to a roiling boil. Our culture is currently awash with the refuse and mud cast up by their agitation. We believers live amid this mud and filth, but we are clean. We are in the Ark, floating on the waters of sin, shame and disaster but not drowning in them.

Cling to the worldview that includes Jesus. He is Light. He is Holy. He is Eternal. He will allow all this to go on until the moment He doesn’t. His plan transcends all human action, all attempts at changing the culture, all resolutions of man. The pendulum swings back and forth as people seek a better way. For those of us He foreordained, we know the better way. We have peace amid the storm. We are clean despite their mud. Be grateful, so grateful for our Savior. Pray in praise and thanks to Him, even this moment!


Christian writer and Georgia teacher's aide who loves Jesus, a quiet life, art, beauty, and children.