This past Wednesday, we took a look back fifty-years ago to the heady days of the summer of 1969, when many young people naively saw the Woodstock music festival as a part of the dawning of a new era of peace, love, and universal brotherhood. See here. But just one week prior to the festival, a communal hippie “family” was wreaking havoc twenty-eight hundred miles away in Los Angeles, California; a calamity that would subsequently help to deflate the dreams of the “Woodstock Nation.”
Charles Manson (1934-2017) had been in and out of prisons throughout his young life, beginning in 1951 at the age of seventeen. When he was released from prison in 1967, he had spent more than half of his life behind bars. Manson, a charismatic personality, gradually attracted a large number of followers to his clan, mostly young, female runaways. Manson convinced his impressionable disciples that he was the “second coming” of both Jesus Christ and Satan, and they submitted to his absolute control. In Manson’s twisted mind, he believed the United States was headed towards a race war and that his role was to incite it.
An aspiring singer, songwriter, and musician,* Manson had previously been rejected by influential LA record producer, Terry Melcher (producer of five of the Byrds’ twelve albums). On August 8th, Manson sent four of his communal “family” members to Melcher’s former home to murder the occupants as part of his race-war strategy and probably also to instill fear into Melcher. Actress, Sharon Tate, eight-months pregnant, and four others were brutally killed. The following evening, Manson drove the same four followers plus two others to another house, eleven miles from the previous homicide, where they murdered a married couple and staged the scene as another faux racial attack.
Following the two grisly “events,” the entire Los Angeles area went into panic mode. The police investigation was slow going, but clues eventually led to the Manson clan and arrests were finally made in the first week of December 1969. The trial began on June 15, 1970 and the proceedings turned into a daily media circus with Manson and his brainwashed followers performing on cue for the press. But on January 25, 1971, Manson and the direct perpetrators of the LA murders were convicted and subsequently sent to prison for life.
The young people of the nation scratched their heads. Hippies living in communes were NOT supposed to be mass-murderers. The Manson murders revealed the Aquarian ideal of peace, love, and universal brotherhood had a very dark underside. In addition to the Manson killings, the Altamont Free Concert festival, held on December 6, 1969, which was planned as a “West Coast Woodstock,” was also marked by violence and murder.
The hope of the Aquarian dream of the summer of 1969 turned out to be a mirage. But there is real hope and His name is Jesus Christ! The Bible, God’s Word, says that we are all sinners and that we all deserve eternal punishment. But God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16). Jesus Christ, God the Son, came to earth, lived a perfect life, and died for our sins on the cross. But He rose from the grave, defeating sin and death, and now offers forgiveness of sins and eternal life to all those who repent of their sin and accept Him as Savior by faith alone. Won’t you trust in Jesus?
Postscript One: Convicted Manson family killers, Charles “Tex” Watson and Susan Atkins both professed to have accepted Jesus Christ as their Savior while in prison. I read Atkins’ book, “Child of Satan, Child of God,” thirty years ago. She died in prison in 2009. Were Atkins’ and Watson’s professions of faith genuine? I don’t know, but I do know Jesus Christ will save ANYONE who repents of their sin and trusts in Him as their Savior by faith alone.
Postscript Two: The entire nation was shocked fifty-years ago by the brutal and ritualistic Manson “family” murders, but murder has since become quite commonplace in the United States. There were 17,000 murders in the U.S. in 2017. Mass-shootings are becoming an everyday occurrence. As of Aug. 5, there have been 255 mass shootings in the U.S. this year. And let’s not forget the GENOCIDE of 60,000,000 babies killed since Roe v. Wade in 1973.
*Two rock artists who had tried to help Manson land a recording contract were Dennis Wilson (d. 1983) of the Beach Boys and Neil Young.