When I wanted to reach out to a group of anti-Christian Goths in my highschool, but wasn't sure how to go about doing it, I tapped into the wisdomof Ravi Zacharias, a premier Christian apologist (a person who defends theChristian faith).Ravi Zacharias understands adolescent despair, so I thought he would be theperfect person to help me reach a group that seems to delight in despair.Growing up in India, he was immersed in a religious culture but couldn'treconcile its claim to truth with its lack of power. At 17, he tried to commit suicide. But as he recovered, his mother read to him from the gospel of John, and he found new life. Since then, he has undertaken the ministry of apologetics in a world filled with doubters and skeptics and, sometimes, Christian-haters. He has written several books and speaks all over the world through Ravi Zacharias International Ministries. He helps people understand how Christianity stands apart from other world religions and how its true meaning can be made relevant in today's confusing world. Here's the advice he gave me onreaching out to the Goths:BEN: There are a lot of Goth kids in my school and some of theChristians get freaked out by them. But they have good questions for usChristians who claim these great truths. How can we reach them, especiallywhen many think so negatively about Christianity?RAVI: I'd tell them that their lives are important and that theirunique personalities have great value. Help them see that their life cancount for many important things, that they ought not squander the uniquenessGod has given them in their weaknesses and strengths. One critical distortedreality that has transpired in the past few years is that so many feel thatlife has no real value.I'd also tell them that the more they seek excitement and ecstasy in thewrong ways, the more they reshape their life so as to squander truepleasures and delight. This generation lives by its feelings. When feelingsno longer deliver, they'll find new ways of engineering them. Thisrecontours their reality to bring about sensations that normal pleasures nolonger offer. We've got a lot of pleasure-oriented people but few contentedpeople.
BEN: Why has this nihilistic philosophy become so attractive to somany of today's youth?RAVI: When you're immersed in something like today's youthculture, and you see its hollowness, you give up hope. That happens even inthe church. Kids get very cynical if they don't see continuity between theproclamation and the practice. When this disillusionment sets in amongpeers, meaninglessness and despair become vogue and affirming--like they'retaking life by the throat. It's a rebuke of society both existentially andthen philosophically.BEN: Now and then you run into a Goth that's hardcore Christian.Is Christianity compatible with being a Goth?RAVI: I've seen some outlandish parallels drawn between Jesusbeing a Goth too, with his talking about his way to the cross and his ideaof moving towards death. When you're untaught, then you will become eclecticand pick up whatever you want. People fail to realize that symbols are morethan just an outward expression. So if the Goth style of darkness,bleakness, and despair holds forth for those who claim to be Christian, thenthe message of hope, resurrection, love, and eternal life obviously are notblending. So they have sacrificed a right understanding of the Christianfaith.BEN: How can today's teens have an impact for Christ on theirpeers when the culture is against them?RAVI: My son Nathan, who is 19, and I were walking through thebeaches of Normandy recently. We'd been reading Steven Ambrose, the greathistorian, who recounted an episode in which a commanding officer told acaptain, "Unless we take that building from where the shelling and shootingis coming, we're all going to be dead." The captain said, "I don't know howto take a building." Ambrose asks, "How did one become a captain withoutknowing how to capture a building where enemy fire was coming from?"
We haven't figured out how to enter the little strongholds that assaulttoday's youth. We don't know how to enter into those buildings and disarmthe antagonist. I'm convinced that unless we retrench and learn how to takethese pockets of resistance, we'll leave people vulnerable to ideas that wreakhavoc.BEN: What would one of these strongholds be?RAVI: Technology is a primary example. Some of the brightest mindsin that field are young people. When you look at the video games thatenthrall teens, and you look at what computers are putting on to the moviescreens, you see artistic genius. In "Gladiator," for example, ancient Romeis replicated on the screen, all by computer. If you take art, which retainssovereignty over morality, and if you take scientific ability, which seesitself as autonomous, and then blend the two, this presents a daunting forcein culture. I'd love to see young Christians take Christ so seriously thatthey would use this capability to show the world that not just"spirituality" matters, but spirituality with truth. If Christian kids usetheir strength to harness the imagination and the intellect for beauty andtruth, that will satisfy more than bizarre and sensuous entertainment.BEN: What would you like to see happen in the next 20 years, andhow can young Christians achieve that?
RAVI: The battle of this next decade, if not the century, will bewhether Christ is the exclusive source of truth and whether the uniquenessof Christ is a myth or fact. The beauty of Christ can be seen in the answershe gives to some very tough questions. If people can get a grasp of howunique and coherent His answers are, they won't doubt for a moment thatJesus truly spoke like no other man ever spoke.