Years ago, in a episode of the TV show, M.A.S.H., Hawkeye, the zany doctor given to serious bouts of philosophical reflection, commented on his fear of the dark. One of the other characters replied, “There is nothing to be afraid of. There is nothing there.” “That’s what frightens me”, Hawkeye replied.
Broadly speaking, the current philosophical offering laid at the feet of contemporary western societies is this: life is essentially an indifferent composite of atoms, randomly arranged, of which your life is simply one, meaningless expression. Deal with it. Gee, thanks.
The Christian faith needs to push back and push back hard against the voices of nihilism.So, I have two suggestions as Christians enter the daily battle.
First, at every opportunity LAUGH at those who suggest that life is a meaningless trek from nothing to nowhere. Treat such nonsense as nonsense deserves to be treated; with laughter, seasoned with a healthy dose of scorn, even ridicule.
To wit, in a recent encounter with a young proponent of the current nihilism, after he had voiced his say, I just laughed. “You can’t be serious”, I chuckled. He became enraged. “Why don’t you take me seriously?”, he fumed. I replied, “When you say something serious, I will.” “You don’t sound like a pastor to me”, he fired back. I laughed even more heartily. “And just what do you expect a pastor, who believes in God, to say in the face of your gospel of meaninglessness? Should I just roll over and die?”
Second, respond to these voices from the darkness, for that is where they comes from, with THE VOICE FROM THE LIGHT. Share what you know of the Gospel of grace and the authentic, meaningful life with God that is uniquely born out of the very message of Christ’s cross and resurrection. So I continued with my young friend, “Do you actually enjoy stumping for the powers of nihilism and emptiness? Wouldn’t you prefer to use your voice and its powers on behalf of a word that actually brings life and peace, reconciliation, hope and love to the world, to you, instead of ripping those things away from people?’ He got quiet and thought for a moment then said, ” Let me buy you a cup of coffee and let’s talk.” And we did, seriously.
My young friend did not go away from our conversation converted to the Easter faith. But the seeds were sown. I do know he went away with the Good News of that faith ringing in his ears. I hope he understood that, in the end, I took him with real seriousness, as person who, like all of us, must struggle with the hurts and hopes of living.
Our Lord Jesus Christ never allowed himself to become the advocate of this ‘ism’ or that ‘ism’. He was, and is, the advocate for the poor, lonely human heart, adrift from God and who feels all too often an alien in the place that was meant to be home. To share the Easter faith in an age of nihlism is to recognize that behind the facade of those who advance the cold rationalisms of our age, beats a human heart. And human hearts were made for meaning. In Jesus Christ the heart finds that meaning – and its true voice.