Some people wear certain T-shirts to make a point. At my high school in a Chicago suburb, you saw plenty ofof the preps wore Abercrombie & Fitch and Old Navy emblems worn by the preps. The metal-heads wore T-shirts advertising their favorite bands, like the guy who wore a Cannibal Corpse shirt with the title of their album "Eaten Back to Life" on the front, alongshirt with the image of a bloody half-eaten corpse. Then there are the Christians in my school, like me, who use their T-shirts to send a message about God. One kid wore a Sonic Flood shirt that read, "I need you Jesus/Because it's all about you." One of my favorites is a shirt my brother has worn that we got from our youth group: "Die" [on the front] and [on the back] "Become nothing to gain everything."
But oOne shirt I saw made me rethink theis whole T-shirt thing. I was
walking to my car after school one day and, in the school parking lot, I saw a kid pulling on a shirt that said, "Christian Killer." This caused me to think about a couple of things. First, it made me wonder what it was about Christians that aroused so much hate in this guy. And second, it made me want to reach out to him, and those others in my school who wore shirts that advertised their hatred toward Christians. I needed to understand why someone like him wanted to kill someone like me--or at least why he would want to advertise the thought on a T-shirt.
The first thing I discovered when I started to get to know kids from this fringe group--sometimes known as Goths, or metal heads, or death-metal heads, or nihilists--was that a lot of what they do is for the shock value. The preoccupation with death and atheism and Christian hating comes from their being outcast and living a life where they've been hurt. They say there is no God or that he is dead, and that there is no right or wrong. People will pay attention to that, even people who wouldn't call themselves Christians. They shock even nonChristians when they wear T-shirts that make fun of Christ.
I was taken aback too, but the shock had the reverse effect. The way I looked at it was, if you are strong in your faith and alive in the real world, you donít have to be shocked by these things because thatís how human nature is. Itís so easy to see how human they are, and so to try and be salt and light, like Jesus said. They just want attention and respect as humans. I didn't have to overcome anything to approach them.
I decided that it would be good to go up to some of these guys and talk to them and find out why they felt this way about Christians. At study hall I went to sit with them and asked the guy who wore a T-shirt that mocked Christ why he felt that way. I came to find out that his complaint wasn't so much against Jesus as it was against his religious upbringing that he felt was shallow, hypocritical, and too interested in money.
At study hall they were talking about atheism and the philosophy of
Friederich Nietzsche, who, in addition to saying God is dead, also said, "I regard Christianity as the most fatal seductive lie that has yet existed, as the great unholy lie (*The Will To Power*)." Not that these guys had seriously studied Nietzsche. They told me that they went to a couple of Web sites where there are a few arguments for atheism, which they ate right up.
I started questioning them on some critical points that every world view has to answer, regardless of whether God is in the picture. Like, I asked them where the universe comes from in their philosophy, and if suffering is real, and what is the nature of immortality. Some of these questions they answered and some they didnít. But the larger point is, any belief system in the end, demands a measure of faith. They would attack Christianity because it didn't answer (in their minds) some of those questions. But what I tried to show them was, just because that might be the case, doesn't mean they're off the hook when it comes to what they believe to be ìtruth.î
When you talk to people who hate Christians, they make a big point about the terrible atrocities of the Inquisition and the Crusades and the annihilation of the American Indians. And they definitely have a point, because these episodes have hurt the cause of Christ and left a stain on the testimony of the church. But I try to apply an important principle when they go down this road. That is, Hitler--who most everyone would recognize as having done really bad things--was influenced by Nietzsche. And Hitler's terrible deeds are the logical outworking of Nietzschian philosophy. If there is not a God, and so no right and wrong, you become your own god and determine your own right and wrong. So, the like the Bible says, you know it by its fruit. But the Inquisition, the Crusades, and the annihilation of the Indians, are the *illogical* outworking of the teachings of Christ. In order
for these episodes to be carried out, the teaching of Christ had to be
violated and contradicted. So, I try to say to them, you canít judge a
philosophy by its abuse.
These are smart intellectuals and because of their disillusionment and feeling outcast, nihilism has seduced them into believing this dispairing philosophy. Talking to them, however, I found that many of them were relieved when I challenged them. A lot of them didn't really want to believe it and Hadn't *really* studied it, except what they read on Web sites. Some were still skeptical about Christianity, but others said they would be interested in coming to my youth group. But even the skeptics were very open to discussion. They loved talking about these things as much as I did. So, who knows what seeds were planted?