Ravi Zacharias understands adolescent despair, so I thought he would be the
perfect 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't
reconcile 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 on
reaching out to the Goths:
There are a lot of Goth kids in my school and some of the
Christians get freaked out by them. But they have good questions for us
Christians who claim these great truths. How can we reach them, especially
when many think so negatively about Christianity?
I'd tell them that their lives are important and that their
unique personalities have great value. Help them see that their life can
count for many important things, that they ought not squander the uniqueness
God has given them in their weaknesses and strengths. One critical distorted
reality that has transpired in the past few years is that so many feel that
life has no real value.
I'd also tell them that the more they seek excitement and ecstasy in the
wrong ways, the more they reshape their life so as to squander true
pleasures and delight. This generation lives by its feelings. When feelings
no longer deliver, they'll find new ways of engineering them. This
recontours their reality to bring about sensations that normal pleasures no
longer offer. We've got a lot of pleasure-oriented people but few contented
Why has this nihilistic philosophy become so attractive to so
many of today's youth?
When you're immersed in something like today's youth
culture, and you see its hollowness, you give up hope. That happens even in
the church. Kids get very cynical if they don't see continuity between the
proclamation and the practice. When this disillusionment sets in among
peers, meaninglessness and despair become vogue and affirming--like they're
taking life by the throat. It's a rebuke of society both existentially and
Now and then you run into a Goth that's hardcore Christian.
Is Christianity compatible with being a Goth?
I've seen some outlandish parallels drawn between Jesus
being a Goth too, with his talking about his way to the cross and his idea
of moving towards death. When you're untaught, then you will become eclectic
and pick up whatever you want. People fail to realize that symbols are more
than just an outward expression. So if the Goth style of darkness,
bleakness, and despair holds forth for those who claim to be Christian, then
the message of hope, resurrection, love, and eternal life obviously are not
blending. So they have sacrificed a right understanding of the Christian
How can today's teens have an impact for Christ on their
peers when the culture is against them?
My son Nathan, who is 19, and I were walking through the
beaches of Normandy recently. We'd been reading Steven Ambrose, the great
historian, who recounted an episode in which a commanding officer told a
captain, "Unless we take that building from where the shelling and shooting
is coming, we're all going to be dead." The captain said, "I don't know how
to take a building." Ambrose asks, "How did one become a captain without
knowing how to capture a building where enemy fire was coming from?"
We haven't figured out how to enter the little strongholds that assault
today's youth. We don't know how to enter into those buildings and disarm
the antagonist. I'm convinced that unless we retrench and learn how to take
these pockets of resistance, we'll leave people vulnerable to ideas that wreak
What would one of these strongholds be?
Technology is a primary example. Some of the brightest minds
in that field are young people. When you look at the video games that
enthrall teens, and you look at what computers are putting on to the movie
screens, you see artistic genius. In "Gladiator," for example, ancient Rome
is replicated on the screen, all by computer. If you take art, which retains
sovereignty over morality, and if you take scientific ability, which sees
itself as autonomous, and then blend the two, this presents a daunting force
in culture. I'd love to see young Christians take Christ so seriously that
they would use this capability to show the world that not just
"spirituality" matters, but spirituality with truth. If Christian kids use
their strength to harness the imagination and the intellect for beauty and
truth, that will satisfy more than bizarre and sensuous entertainment.
What would you like to see happen in the next 20 years, and
how can young Christians achieve that?
RAVI: The battle of this next decade, if not the century, will be
whether Christ is the exclusive source of truth and whether the uniqueness
of Christ is a myth or fact. The beauty of Christ can be seen in the answers
he gives to some very tough questions. If people can get a grasp of how
unique and coherent His answers are, they won't doubt for a moment that
Jesus truly spoke like no other man ever spoke.
When I wanted to reach out to a group of anti-Christian Goths in my high
school, but wasn't sure how to go about doing it, I tapped into the wisdom
of Ravi Zacharias, a premier Christian apologist (a person who defends the