Crying I cannot believe the world that I see
Is not for me
Praying please take me home
I’m here all alone and slowly I fade
If you could see my misery
Would you believe in opacity?-Ebony Tears
I am no philosopher. I don’t have the mind for it. But I know I have to have some understanding of this field of study because I am pretty sure the current problems between people in my country boil down to differences in world view.
Even this non-intellectual can see that there is an underlying cause to the self destruction going on in American today. In my lifetime, we Americans have gone from a people who had a basic faith in God, country and each other to a certain nihilism.
It has gotten so that I don’t want to open up news sites on the Internet anymore, although I am an avid follower of world events. I try to avoid following the news too deeply because I become anguished. It brings me evidence of the condition of the human soul in the 21st century.
The media tells me that political nihilists are using violence to do away with the previously established order in American society. In fact, I have a sneaking suspicion that the culture I was born into is no longer there and has been gone for many years.
For example, I heard the sermon of a now-deceased pastor yesterday describe how an asinine judge (his words, not mine) entered a judgement against a man who had shot an intruder. The latter had sued this man, minding his own business in his own home, and won. This was 30 plus years ago.
I confess that my own basis for life comes from the Bible. From the Scriptures I can tell right from wrong, although I also admit that I am not always good at following their instructions. That a man could win a lawsuit against someone who was defending himself and his loved ones in his own home just seems completely upside down and definitely violates the tenets I have garnered from the Word of God.
By definition (I am informed by a group called “All About Philosophy”), nihilists reject the values I believe in. In fact, they oppose any values or truth at all, believing that values are worthless and knowledge of truth is not possible. Further, those nihilists involved with politics believe if any good is to come they need to do away with religion in addition to political and social orders.
As I contemplated these philosophical thoughts the last couple of days, the New York Times published a column by Pankaj Mishra which basically confirms my idea that nihilism is alive and well in America. Mishra finishes his discussion, entitled “America, from exceptionalism to nihilism” by noting that America has accelerated it. He calls nihilism our country’s “most insidious tendency”and that we are helpless to stop it. His article is worth reading for his tracing of how we have arrived at this point in our history.
In my view America’s plight is primarily a spiritual issue. Many of our people it seems have so rejected God that they are incapable now of accepting truth.
This situation is not new. Swedish death metal band Ebony Tears discussed the condition of such individuals in lyrics published 20 years ago. In their song “Opacity” they describe a person full of hate, confusion and pain.
Today some of these folks portrayed by Ebony Tears are out on the street dressed in black and covering their identities in masks, lashing out at the institutions and people they believe have caused their demise. They are living through a nightmare and involving the rest of America in their haunted ordeal.
It’s easy to throw up the hands over the darkness around us in America today. But as one who believes in a living God I know He is powerful and I therefore can be hopeful of renewal in the nation that I love.
Evangelical pastor Greg Laurie noted a few years ago in the Christian Post that America has had four spiritual awakenings in its history, all during tumultuous times: during the formation of the nation; during the expansion to the West when lack of love and sexual sin was common; at the time of a stock market crash in the mid-19th century; and in the 1960s when the Jesus Movement took hold in the midst of the assassination of the Kennedy brothers and Martin Luther King, Jr and the debilitating war in Vietnam.
Given the prevalence of evil our current times are surely a candidate for revival. Only the intervention of God and his truth will overcome the closed hearts of today’s nihilistic Americans.
How do we get to revival? I do know that revival starts with the individual. I cannot influence what others do, but I do have control over myself. So I can begin revival by starting with myself.
I can also ask God for it. Over 40 years ago Phil Keaggy, one of the greatest musicians America has ever produced wrote about how God can effect my own personal transformation:
All my life I have been searching
For that crazy missing part
With one touch You just rolled away
The stone that held my heart
Now I see that the answer was as simple
As my need to let love in
Keaggy further describes the consequences of opening the heart that has heretofore refused to allow God’s light and love in:
Like waking up from the longest dream
How real it seemed
Until Your love broke through
And I was lost in a fantasy
That blinded me
Until your love broke through
I don’t have to continue living in a horrible dream. Neither do my fellow Americans. All of us– progressives, conservatives, libertarians, and even the nihilists can allow God’s love to break through and change our dark, self loathing, destroyed hearts.
With a nationwide heart change, one caused by a turning to God, Americans can stop the self-inflicted damage we are causing to our country and turn it around.