The 80s: A ‘Me’ Decade of Law-Gospel-Love

This one comes to us from our good friend Jonathan Adams: Minding my own business […]

Jonathan Adams / 4.12.13

This one comes to us from our good friend Jonathan Adams:

Minding my own business at the local Starbucks this morning, everyone’s favorite high brow publication, USA Today, grabbed my eye, specifically, an article entitled “We’d Zap Back To The 80’s, If We Could” written in conjunction with National Geographic’s new documentary “The ’80s: The Decade that Made Us” which airs this weekend. The headline alone had me turning on my Walk-man and singing “Take on Me” by A-ha (the best music video MTV ever put out!). I was instantly transported into my parachute pants and Nike Air Jordan’s, break-dancing on my homemade brake board. For that one shining moment I was the coolest kid in the coffee shop, picking up the paper to read about the coolest decade ever! (See below).


As I read the article, memories of an easier life flooded my head… a time when life was simple, microwave ovens were hot, and rollerblades were my main mode of transportation. The 80’s were good for me. I became a teenager, stole my first kiss, and became a pro surfer (ok maybe not a pro) but life was good in Sunny FL. My only worries were Algebra and whether I would be invited to more than one party over the weekend. The article sums it up nicely:

tumblr_maj06d3a8R1rvoi5to1_500Everyone loves the ’80s – even those who didn’t live through it. From the bad hair and loud clothing to the politicians and leaders – a new survey shows that three-quarters of Americans believe the country was better off in the ’80s than now.

“The ’80s is the first time when we were exposed to the kind of mass media immersion that we now take for granted – we were a blank slate,” said David Sirota, author of Back to Our Future. “The ’80s is the first time cultural messages were able to be sent in ubiquitous and powerful ways and to be repeated over and over and over again.”…

When asked if a presidential election were held today, 58% said they would vote for Reagan over Barack Obama. The online survey of 1,000 adults by Kelton Research for National Geographic Channel also found that Back to the Future was the ’80s’ defining film.

“There is a natural inclination to idealize and love things that remind you of your childhood,” Sirota says. “People remember things fondly from their childhood because it was a simpler time, you weren’t filling out IRS forms.”


But it was more than major events and wacky outfits that defined the decade; technological developments made in the ’80s have undoubtedly shaped the world we live in today. More than half of the nation thinks that the personal computer has had the biggest impact on American life today with the cellphone coming in at 27%. The microwave, Walkman and VCR all ranked around 5%. Other survey findings include:

Michael Jackson was named by 60% of Americans as the musician from the ’80s with the greatest influence on today’s musicians. Close to half of the nation, 46%, believes that the naming of Sandra Day O’Connor to the Supreme Court was a more important ’80s milestone for women than Sally Ride going to space, 36%.

back_to_the_future_part_ii_ver1Americans don’t miss everything about the ’80s. Survey respondents said they hoped shoulder pads, parachute pants, fanny packs and neon clothing never make a comeback. However, more than half of Americans say they miss leg warmers.

“There is something that stands out about the ’80s that is a novelty,” Sirota says. “It’s something that’s still kitschy. It’s distinct in a different way than any of the other decades before it.” Sirota adds: “We are still living in the ’80s. We are still telling ourselves the same stories about who we are, what our country is and we are still creating the same mythologies that we first developed in that decade.”

Yes, the 80’s were solid. A truly remarkable time to grow up and develop a worldview, to be stretched at every turn in the road, controversy music like Madonna’s “Like a Virgin” and Elton John coming out in his 88 Rolling Stone interview just being the tip of the iceberg. But the biggest influence on me had to be 80’s sitcoms. Shows like “Growing Pains” and “The Cosby Show” with even better characters like Mike Seaver, and Theo Cosby. Those guys taught me all the important, er, Facts of Life… And more important they helped me see who I was: an insecure sinner in need of saving. No matter how far those guys fell, their dads always welcomed them back with loving arms. After all, it wasn’t until the end of the decade that Homer Simpson and Al Bundy would introduce the whole “doofus dad” trend.

Whether it was Mike Seaver coming home drunk from a party or Theo Cosby getting busted with his girlfriend in the house, they were always shown love. Regardless of how disappointed the fathers were in their children they always explained the problem, handed over an appropriate consequence (The Law), and then they loved them (The Gospel). Isn’t that the way it is with our Heavenly Father? His Law accusing and exposing our waywardness, driving us to repentance/contrition, at which point grace is revealed… Looking back I realize that, to my teenage mind, it was a message of Law-Gospel-Love being passed down in these sitcoms, week after week, in one-way fashion. And even though I always knew how the episode would turn out, I never got tired of watching. Unintentional twenty-two minute illustrations, you might say, of Simple Minds’ unintentional yet perfect three-minute sermon: