The human quest for meaning is not a new one, but the current chaotic scene, that can easily breed hopelessness, has taken on new dimensions. The government no longer seems to be functioning as a structure of peace and order and justice. The top government official personifies all the things that George Washington warned against in his second inaugural address. People in places of influence seem to have lost their moral compass. And the church easily gets consumed with agendas and institutions that seem to have nothing to do with the life and teachings of Jesus Christ. The dominant cultural religion (as I have often said) seems to be something of a self-satisfied humanism. Too often the whole of life seems to be what one of my mentors described as: a boundless, bottomless sea of chance.

Add to that the growing escapism offered by the digital, iPhone, TV, hedonistic culture, in which you can totally ignore life as well as the treasures of literature and of history, even the threatening realities on one’s doorstep. Or, one can tune-out those sitting across the table, or walking next to them by becoming obsessed with the stuff on their iPhones. Connected but not communicating. A century ago T. S. Eliot wrote his remarkable poem: The Waste Land. A half-century later, Walker Percy probed something of the same issues in a renowned novel: Lost in the Cosmos. But if, and when, persons can (and do) create their own digital world that is usually quite narrow, so that the larger issues and questions of truth, meaning, knowledge, and moral guidelines can be ignored, or consigned to being somebody else’s territory. Life becomes ‘me and my own interests’, … a road to nowhere.

Or, one can all get lost in an intellectual parlor game of: what is truth? Or, is there truth? Or, “that may be your truth, but not mine.”

Yet, we who are the followers of Christ, are those who are to be formed into Christ’s likeness: in our thinking and behavior and our identity with the glory of God. We worship him who said: “I am the way and the truth, and the life.” We are unequivocal in that. And that embraces Christ’s love for the world, and for our enemies, and this world’s estranged personalities.  It also means that we rejoice in all of those who become the voices and agents of righteousness and justice.

Ah! But the flip-side of that (somewhat theoretical) look at our cultural scene is the heartening report of the moral outrage of those kids in Florida, whose 17 friends and teachers got killer by a troubled boy who could easily buy an AK 47, and become another episode in gun violence … and who, when the President and many adults refused to see gun control as an immediate need, became quite vocal. (As one writer on this generation observed: “They have a highly sensitive BS detector) They tweeted back to the President that all of his hesitations and his lame excuses were a bunch of BS. Then they set about to become an organizing voice immediately in order to begin to put pressure on the government to ban assault weapons.

What this says is that, at least these kids do have a moral compass. They have become a moral and ethical voice in this culture that has seemed so increasingly lacking in moral and ethical backbone. They are (self-consciously or not) saying that life has meaning, that there are standards of knowledge and behavior that are God-given. The story of these kids from the high school in Parkland, Florida indicates that many of them have been formed in Christian and Jewish communities.  And, I for one, am so very heartened by a rising generation who are vocal and principled and energized to be and do what needs to be said and done. This life for them, at least, is not to be that of those lost in the cosmos. I am heartened by their boldness, and their ethical vision. May their voices be the bellwether that make of this tragedy the beginning of a new generation fraught with meaning, and committed to social righteousness.

About rthenderson

Sixty years a pastor-teacher within the Presbyterian Church. Author of several books, the latest of which are a trilogy on missional ecclesiology: ENCHANTED COMMUNITY: JOURNEY INTO THE MYSTERY OF THE CHURCH, then, REFOUNDING THE CHURCH FROM THE UNDERSIDE, then THE CHURCH AND THE RELENTLESS DARKNESS. Previous to this trilogy was A DOOR OF HOPE: SPIRITUAL CONFLICT IN PASTORAL MINISTRY, and SUBVERSIVE JESUS, RADICAL FAITH. I am a native of West Palm Beach, Florida, a graduate of Davidson College, then of Columbia and Westminster Theological Seminaries.
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