In the 60’s Haight Ashbury was Ground Zero for what was known as the counter-culture movement. The movement was known for its opposition to the Vietnam War, its loosening of sexual ethics, and its rejection of traditional modes of authority.
Spokesmen for the movement were musicians–The Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane, Jimi Hendrix, and Janis Joplin. The gospel of the movement called its disciples to “do your own thing,” “turn on, tune in, and drop out,” and the vision of the movement was the Age of Aquarius. It was counter-cultural from start to finish.
In the first century Jesus sat down with his disciple and presented what is now called The Sermon on the Mount, the most comprehensive description of what he taught his followers. John R.W. Stott said that the Sermon on the Mount “is the nearest thing to a manifesto that [Jesus] ever uttered…To my mind no two words sum up its intention better…than the expression ‘Christian counter-culture.'”
The Sermon’s counter-cultural character challenges societal notions of money, sex, and power. This becomes apparent when one begins to apply his teachings. Blessed are the poor in spirit…if you are angry with a brother or sister, you will be liable to judgment…Do not swear at all…if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also…Love your enemies…Do not store treasures on earth…
Some writers have tried to dismiss the Sermon, saying that it is impossible to obey. In fact, what they are encountering are the Sermon’s counter-cultural claims on us. In preaching the sermon, Jesus was calling his disciples, then and now, to not rely on worldly values and power, but rather to live in the extraordinary and empowering way that he called us to.
That is truly counter-cultural.