We are a “hopeless” culture in the midst of an existential crisis, and it isn’t Global Warming. The markers surround us, yet none of the high-visibility voices with Twitter followings or new movie releases seem to be aware. In fact, the most prominent personalities in our society are both suffering from the underlying condition and communicating the deadly deficiency to the people they influence.
Last Thursday, the Wall Street Journal featured two articles that addressed the phenomenon, though the link was not recognized by their respective authors. What were they?
One headline caught my attention immediately: “Religion is on the decline as more adults check ‘None.’” The account summarized the results of a PEW study: the number of American adults self-identified as “Christian” dropped from 77% to 65% in the ten years from 2008-2018. The most dramatic decline among the oncoming Millennials. No surprises there, but growing concerns…
The second article was equally chilling: “Youth suicide rate increased 56% in a decade, CDC says.” The Centers for Disease Control was simply reporting statistics, without proposing cause that would explain the effect: among the youngest among us (10-24 in age), suicide has replaced homicide as the most likely cause of death. “Unfortunately, it’s not surprising, but it is highly disturbing,” says Dr. Benjamin Shain, a child and adolescent psychiatrist at NorthShore Medical Group in Illinois. Citing the article, “Despite concern over rising suicide rates, researchers aren’t sure of the exact causes…”
The environmental community is tracking carbon as a key indicator in their questionable prophesy of climate change. The attention given to the factors that make the culture toxic are less notable. Here’s the component that is essential for the future of the human race: it’s hope.
Vaclav Havel was the Czech leader who had a significant role in the demise of Communism in his country. His perspective: “I am not an optimist, because I am not sure that everything ends well. Nor am I a pessimist, because I am not sure that everything ends badly. I just carry hope in my heart. Hope is the feeling that life and work have a meaning. You either have it or you don’t, regardless of the state of the world that surrounds you. Life without hope is an empty, boring, and useless life. I cannot imagine that I could strive for something if I did not carry hope in me. I am thankful to God for this gift. It is as big as life itself.”
Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “Even in the inevitable moments when all seems hopeless, men know that without hope they cannot really live, and in agonizing desperation they cry for the bread of hope.”
Fyodor Dostoevsky – celebrated Russian author from the late 1800s – wrote: “Totally without hope one cannot live. To live without hope is to cease to live. Hell is hopelessness. It is no accident that above the entrance to Dante’s hell is the inscription: ‘Leave behind all hope, you who enter here.’”
It should be no surprise that an underlying contribution offered by the Christian faith is an essential solution to the crisis. Paul’s epic explanation is profound: “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.” (Romans 5:1-5).
Humans require hope to survive and to thrive, and that hope is the promised outcome of an eternal life founded on faith in a relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ. As the American trend continues the slide toward “None,” the immigrants coming from abroad will land in the modern equivalent of Dante’s hopeless hell: “Leave behind all hope, you who enter here.”
Unless… we turn the hopeless tide and re-introduce Jesus to the Nones…