Certain people wear certain T-shirts to make a point.
At my high school in a Chicago suburb, the preps wore shirts with Abercrombie & Fitch and Old Navy emblems. The metal-heads wore tees advertising their favorite bands, like the guy who wore a Cannibal Corpse "Eaten Back to Life" shirt, with the image of a bloody half-eaten corpse on the front. Then there are the Christians, like me, who use their T-shirts to send a message about God. One of my favorites is a shirt my brother wore that read, "Die" (on the front) and (on the back) "Become nothing to gain everything."
But one shirt I saw made me rethink this whole T-shirt thing. I was walking to my car after school and saw a kid pulling on a shirt that said, "Christian Killer."
This made me stop and think. His t-shirt made me wonder what exactly it was about Christians that aroused so much hatred in this guy. I wondered if he'd ever sat down and talked with a real Christian. It also made me want to reach out to him and others in my school who wore similar shirts. 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 the Goth kids--also known as death-metal heads, nihilists--was that much of what they do is for shock value.
Their preoccupation with death and atheism and Christian-hating comes from
their being outcast and living a life where they've been hurt. Some come from
broken homes; some found it hard to relate to the "cool" crowd; others, like
one kid I know, grew up going to a church that cared more about the money the
family gave than what they believed. 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 aren't Christian.
I was taken aback the first time I saw someone wearing one of these
shirts, but the shock had an opposite effect from the one intended. The way I looked at it, if I am strong in my faith and alive in the real world, I don't have to be shaken up. Once you get past the initial shock, it's easy to see how human these kids are. They just wanted attention and respect as humans.
I decided it would be good to talk to some of these kids and find out why
they were so hostile toward Christians. During a study hall, I asked the
guy who wore a T-shirt that mocked Christ why he felt that way. I found out his complaint wasn't with Jesus, but his Catholic upbringing, which he felt was hypocritical and too focused on money. Their family was barely making it, and yet they felt pressured to give all this money to the church.
The Goth kids talked about atheism and the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche, who, in addition to saying God is dead, also regarded
Christianity as "the most fatal seductive lie that has yet existed." Not that these guys had seriously studied Nietzsche. They told me they'd gone to a couple of atheist websites.
I asked them some questions every worldview has to deal with, regardless if God is in the picture. I asked them where the universe came from in their philosophy, if suffering is real, and what was the nature of immortality.
Some questions they answered, some they didn't. But my point was, any
belief system, in the end, demands a measure of faith. Saying that Christianity, in their minds, doesn't answer those questions doesn't mean their belief system is off the hook and doesn't have to answer them.
Most Goths make a big point about the hypocrisy of the church. They'll say, How can Christians claim the moral high ground after what they did in the Inquisition, the Crusades, and the annihilation of the American Indians? And they definitely have a point. These episodes have hurt the cause of Christ and left a stain on the testimony of the church.
I point out that that argument works both ways. Hitler--who most everyone would recognize as having done really bad things--was influenced by Nietzsche. In fact, Hitler's terrible deeds are the logical outworking of Nietzschian philosophy. If there is no God, and so no right and wrong, you become your own god and determine your own right and wrong. 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: They violated the
teaching of Christ and contradicted them. I tell them, you can't judge a
philosophy by its abuse.
These are smart kids trying to find something that makes sense out of their broken lives and disillusionment. To someone like that, nihilism is very seductive. Even still, I found that many of them were relieved when I challenged them. They didn't really want to believe that life has no meaning and that there are no moral absolutes. I found they hadn't really studied this doom-and-gloom philosophy, except what they read on websites.
And they challenged me to think about the hard questions of Christianity. I
had to dig into the Bible and read a lot of philosophy. They helped me
understand that just because there are hard questions doesn't invalidate
Christianity. It doesn't mean you have to give up.
The most important thing I found is that, far from being Christian killers, they were open to talking to someone like me. Some were still skeptical, but others said they would be interested in coming to my youth group, and 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?
Yes, it's challenging talking to someone about Christ with the words "Christian Killer" staring you in the face. But it is also a challenge for them to keep wearing those shirts once someone has done that.