I’ve recently been watching old episodes of the Andy Griffith Show on Netflix. This show has become one of the most beloved television programs in history ever since its original run in the 1960’s. If you’ve watched it before, you know that it was based on the fictitious town of Mayberry, North Carolina, and formed around the fictional character of the town’s sheriff, Andy Taylor, his son Opie, and his Aunt Bee, as well as the various characters around the town. The show presents a rather idyllic view of life in a small southern town in the 60’s, but it stayed fairly true to life with the type of situations the characters would encounter, although the writers took some poetic license for the sake of entertainment and humor. But each show was a morality tale that seemed to mostly follow a Judeo-Christian viewpoint that can be linked back to specific scriptural principles: love, kindness, and respect for all the characters no matter what their quirks were; love and respect within the family and a sense of duty for family members; kindness and patience with children; community responsibility and common love within the community for all its members; the use of common sense, humor, and compassion for solutions to all problems rather than the use of force and control; everyone flawed to some degree and needing to learn, even the adults; there are no experts in the show that control all things and dictate to everyone else how to live; and there is little to no judgment of others.
Ironically, or perhaps blessedly, the show was aired during a time of national turmoil with: the Civil Rights Movement and racial friction; the Vietnam War and the rise of the anti-war movement; the rise of laid-back hippie culture and drug experimentation; the spread of mass media, giving us a constant barrage of sights and sounds that we had never seen before; the further industrial and technology spread, bringing with it a restless culture that was constantly on the move and losing its roots to the past due to lost family and community connections; and the decreasing influence of church and God in our culture and institutions. I’m sure that there were other pressures, but this short listing gives a feel for the chaos that seemed to consume us as a people during the 60’s. So the Andy Griffith show probably seemed like a small oasis of sanity in a culture that seemed to be wildly out of control. Everyone needs a break sometime, and we all need a periodic rest or escape that gives us the strength to keep plugging away in the most difficult times of our lives. So this was perhaps one of the ways people could escape for a few moments to catch their breath in the midst of such chaos.
If I had to pick one of the main cultural influences that had the most impact on our country, I would have to say it was the loss of our connection to church and God. I know for a fact that you can lead a pretty chaotic life and still have order and peace so long as you have God to show you the path through the chaos. I have lived that truth out with the various family issues and my problems with PTSD in the aftermath of my combat service. It is easy to be consumed by the constant barrage of demands and problems that can come at you in life, and it generally gets worse as you get older and try to raise children, maintain relationships, and make an impact on the world through your job and community activities. Usually as we get older and prove ourselves more, we get more responsibility laid on our shoulders, which means more demands. Hopefully, though, as we get older, we also get wiser; we learn what things are really important, and we put our energy into those things first and let the rest take care of itself. Moreover, if we have lived a life walking closely with God, we will have learned to turn more and more over to His control, and He will have built more and more of Himself into us by the work of sanctification through the Holy Spirit. So, we will have much more of the peace that passes understanding, and we will have the calmness of
spirit and the courage of experience to face whatever life throws at us with more grace and aplomb.
I pray today that each of you will grow greater in His grace and find peace in turning things over to Him and letting Him show you what’s important and how to walk an orderly path through all the chaos.