Saturday, July 17, 2010

Sunday Sharing: Turning the Clock Back

: How has our country changed in the past 65 years for Christians? And just how much has that changed our personal walks . . . with the Lord; with our families, with our churches, and with those who don't yet know Him?

Whether you're a Christian writer or not, Bear thinks you'll find the following very interesting, as she turns the clock back to the world of 1945, just 65 years ago. Oh, how times have changed . . .

NOTE: Bear is doing something a bit different today. Instead of sharing a favorite video or recorded testimony for Sunday Sharing as usual, she'll share using straight writing. Bear's new computer, running the Linux operating system, is having some trouble handling Internet videos -- it has trouble playing them at all, in fact -- something to do with codecs that Windows has, but which have to be specially loaded with Linux operating systems. If that turns out to be an ongoing problem, Bear might drop the media aspect of Sunday Sharing altogether. But for now, we'll wait and see on the longterm, and take things one week at a time.

Although today's sharing has roots in Bear's interest in learning to write for youth, it actually concerns changes in Christianity in America, in general. But first, to fill in a bit of needed background info . . .

Bear has sold a couple of short stories to small Christian youth magazines in the past, so already has a general feeling for the market, for publishers' guidelines, and for what various Christian publishers are currently seeking in Christian Youth Fiction.

More and more nowadays, Christian publishers tend to be looking for a very soft approach to the Gospel. They want books and short stories that stress strong Christian values; but most publishers apparently don't feel that modern-day youth are going to have much tolerance for teens that go around being "preachy" or "like pollyanna". (And many publishers even state this flat-out in their guidelines for writers).

Often, when you submit a short story to a Christian publisher, if you even use the Name of Jesus in the story, for example, it's changed by editors to the more generic "God", so the story has a wider appeal and bigger market.

Christian youth magazines and book publishers who don't have these types of cautions in their guidelines are few, although some do exist, here and there.

In light of these restrictions becoming ever stronger nowadays, Bear has been researching what Christian youth writing was like in the old days, in order to get some perspective on the issue; and has been praying on how the Lord wants her personally to walk this situation.

Should she compromise and tone things way down for the modern market?

Or is there a way to somehow bridge the gap between the older type of bolder witness (which you'll see as you read the sample below), and today's modern, more hardened, generation of Christian youth?

Bear has read many of those youth books from older days. But for a representative example of what she's talking about, she'll use quotes from just one popular book for teens from 1945 . . .

Ken Saddles Up by Basil Miller -- Zondervan Publishing House, 1945 NOTE: Direct quotes from the book below are indented, block quote style.

Dedicated to: The thousands of wholesome, red-blooded American boys who follow Ken's adventures, and daily pray, "Help me, God, to be as true to Thee as Ken is."

On its back cover, nine other books in the "Ken" series are listed, with titles like: Ken Rides the Range; Ken in Alaska; and, Ken South of the Border. Below the list is written: "Over 190,000 copies of this series in print" (which in those days means it was a fairly popular selling youth series.)

The book opens with 14-year-old Ken and his unsaved (but wholesomely cute) friend Kay riding the desert range together, just outside the Grand Canyon, searching for the rustlers who have stolen cattle from Kay's family ranch. Kay's father has been paralyzed since last spring, and the stolen cattle are desparately needed to pay pressing doctor bills and an overdue mortgage on the ranch. Bank foreclosure is imminent.

On page 14, worried about the troubles they might be headed into, the two decide to pray. (Notice that prayer was so common in those days that even Kay, though still unsaved and not a girl of church, wants to pray) . . .

"Let's stop right here and pray, Ken. I'd feel much better if we did."

"O.K. Let's ground hitch our ponies and pray," said Ken dropping Cal's reins to the ground, thus "ground hitching" his mount. He leaped from the saddle and helped Kay to dismount . . .

Kneeling on the sand, Ken prayed earnestly: "Dear Lord, we are in Thy hands, and Thou knowest what trouble Kay is in. We don't know how much danger we will face before this is over, but we are trusting in Thee to see us through. Touch Kay's heart and make her a born-again Christian. She needs Thee, and her father and Dirk need Thee in this hour of trouble. Save them all. Help us to find out who's stealing the cattle. For Jesus' sake. Amen."

Rising from their knees, Kay and Ken stood for a moment, listening silently to the near-by rumble of cattle . . ."

Notice that in those days, even when outside in public, it was natural and expected for people to pray on their knees rather than standing up.

By page 17, Kay and Ken have become separated while running away from the rustlers and Ken is wondering what to do next . . .

. . . Something must have happened to Kay. He felt that it would be useless for him to ride back and search for her. This would only bring him into the line of the guard's fire.

A verse from the Psalms warmed his heart with its message of comfort: Because thou hast made the Lord ... Even the most High, thy habitation; there shall no evil befall thee, neither shall any plague come nigh thy dwelling.

Notice that a Christian teen in those days was expected to know Scripture well, and to have key verses of Scripture memorized and/or a pocket New Testament with him. (And this has been confirmed to Bear by reading other Christian youth books from this period.) This was normal, not exceptional.

Page 18

As he prayed for help, a voice out of the skies seemed to say: Because he hath set his love upon me, therefore will I deliver him.

Page 20 - Kay and Ken are back together again and on the run . . .

The burst of a machine gun filled the desert night; its withering fire began to kick up the stones beyond the fleeing riders.

"God must help us, Kay!" Ken shouted as they raced across the uneven desert.

"Pray, Ken; pray as you've never prayed in your life. Our lives depend upon it."

Again notice that this is Kay reminding Ken to pray, while she is yet still unsaved. That's how common dependency on prayer was in America, back in those days. Moral people considered it normal to pray, even if they weren't regular church go-ers. In fact, in Bear's family, even back in the early 60's, though she never saw her mother set foot in a Christian church, and her mother made sure she understood that it was very wrong to consider Jesus anything more than a "good teacher", Bear was taught to pray every night before bed, "Now I lay me down to sleep; I pray the Lord my soul to keep. If I should die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take . . . "

(For another example of this, Bear recommends watching some of the older, original black and white Godzilla movies. For example, in one of them, when Godzilla was coming towards a town, that town's response was to go to mass prayer, even though it wasn't a "Christian" movie, per se.)

Page 21 - Ken and Kay fleeing on horseback from the band of rustlers . . .

In the distance he could hear a line of cow ponies pounding the Painted Desert in pursuit. He thought of a New Testament verse which he had read many times: Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you.

"Kay, I believe that God will protect us," Ken said. In his heart he felt the rustlers' bullets would not find their target.

Page 27 - Later, while the two are hiding in the darkness in a valley (the time when even most Christian youth fiction books nowadays toss in the expected romance), Ken leads Kay not to romance, but to the Lord . . .

Then Ken said, seriously, "Kay, before we go, let's ask God to direct us on this dangerous ride. Remember-- tomorrow the big roundup begins. Before two weeks there'll be two hundred thousand beeves on their way to the markets. Believe me, I don't want to miss that fun!"

"I would like that," Kay answered. "I wish you could see to read some verses from your Bible." She knew that Ken always carried a New Testament in his pocket.

"It is too dark for that," the boy replied, "but I can quote some from memory."

"Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted?" he began. "Ye are the light of the world."

"What does that mean, Ken?" Kay interrupted.

"Christians are the light which God has set in the world to show men the way to Christ. If sinners are to be led to Christ they will have to see the light of Jesus shining through Christians."

"Ken, I wish you would teach me how to be a Christian. I want to be Christ's light. Will you show me how?"

For an hour, despite the nearness of dawn and the thirty miles between them and the Bar-H, Ken talked with his friend about Christ's invitation to all men to come unto Him. "The way of salvation is plain, Kay" he said. "The Bible says, Whosoever shall call upon the Lord shall be saved."

"To be saved, then, means that I will belong to Jesus?" asked Kay.

"Yes, you are a sinner, and when you ask to be forgiven, you are born again and Jesus saves you. Let's pray now. Remember -- you must confess your sins and forsake your sins and believe that Jesus saves you right now."

Page 29 - By early morning light, not only are the two still innocent (and unsullied by major sexual temptations at 14 years old), but Kay is now a born-again Christian . . .

"How do you like it?" asked Kay, as they stood together looking at the scene before them. "Isn't it beautiful in the early morning light?"

"Yes it is, Kay." He turned toward her and put his hand on her shoulder. What a wholesome, likeable girl she was! "Let's always be friends," Ken said.

"Yes, Ken," Kay answered. "But listen, cowboy, right now we have a thirty-mile ride ahead of us." With a gay laugh she threw herself into the saddle and raced away at breakneck speed.

One more example of how Christians were expected to pray in those days and how easily they depended on prayer appears on page 47. Ken and Kay have arrived back at the ranch only to find things have gotten worse. Now Ken's little sister was missing, kidnapped, and being held for ransom by the rustlers . . .

"Ken, you talk to God for us," said the old rancher, as he dropped to his knees. "We are doing everything that is humanly possible to find Sandra, but we need God's help or our efforts will fail."

Ken knelt beside his uncle. The others followed his example.

"Dear Heavenly Father," he prayed, "we are gathered at the Bar-H. We love our little sister and want her to come back to us. Don't let any harm or danger come to her. Protect her from those evil men and bring her back to the ranch safe and sound. Thy promise is that if we ask anything according to Thy will it shall be done, and if we ask in faith, believing, it shall come to pass."

"We are asking now for Sandra's return and we believe that Thou wilt help us right now. Help us find the rustlers and break up this terrible black market. For Jesus' sake. Amen."

Note that it was credible for a teen to pray and preach the Lord with a solid understanding of the basic principles of salvation and also to be able to apply Scriptural verses concerning prayer while appealing to God. This wasn't eliminated from books as too "preachy" or "pollyanna" or with the thought that the teen was too knowlegable of Scriptural truths to be believable.

At the end of the book things come to expected resolution . . . The rustlers are captured, the cattle are returned, and the ranch is saved. Ken is rewarded for his part in the matter by an Army pilot being sent out to teach him how to fly a plane (a one-time treat for someone at the age of 14 -- an unusual privilege as reward), which has always been a dream for him.

Page 68, the final page of our story - Ken and Kay are out on the airfield together at sunset, the book's last opportunity for expected romance . . .

His mind was full of wonderful visions for the future -- visions of the good that, with God's help, he might do. His heart was overflowing; surely these words of the Psalmist were his experience, too: The Lord hath done great things for us; whereof we are glad.

Kay and Ken walked down the airfield runway where Ken's glider gleamed in the sun. The lad stroked a long, silvery wing, and said, "Some day, Kay, you and I will fly together."

Kay smiled and said, "I don't know whether I'd feel safe . . ."

"Kay, wherever duty calls, God is there, and we are always safe, for the Bible says, Underneath are the everlasting arms."

And so ends the book.

Again, take note that the other nine books in this series (selling at $1.00 each which is probably equivalent to about $15 apiece nowadays), had sold over 190,000 copies. And the population of the United States and output of the book publishing industry in general were both much smaller in those days. Also note that, in 1945, the date of this book's publication, World War II had been raging for many years and the economy was totally geared towards the war effort, with food and gas rationing likely still in force, even.

In other words, an amazing number of kids were happily reading about Ken and Kay, their heroes.

Another series advertised on the back cover of this same book is the "Patty Lou" series, which is obviously the clone series for girls, with titles like Patty Lou of the Golden West; Patty Lou -- the Flying Nurse; and Patty Lou Home on the Range.

These were all top Christian youth books of the day, and highly popular.

It certainly gives one pause for thought . . .

And pause for prayer . . .

Even, perhaps, pause for prayer on one's knees . . .

Drop by Spiritual Sundays as well, to find links to the whole selection of this week's entries by Christian writers, and/or to add a link of your own and join in the fun! We all welcome comments and discussion! (NOTE: A small percentage of Spiritual Sundays' entries may sometimes be by writers of other religions or of the New Age -- Discernment is advised.)
Bear's news and free multi-media Christian resources: Bear's Writing Den


Denise said...

Nice post.

Virginia said...

Very thought provoking….Great post.
Sweet Blessings,

Charlotte said...

So many things have changed since the 1940s. I was a child during that decade and I can tell you, it was totally and completely different than it is today. We have made a lot of changes for the better, but so many changes have been for the worse. I have no idea how to advise Bear. I guess the best way is to maintain an open relationship with the Lord and he will guide.

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