2016-11-18
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 Christian faith). 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: BEN: 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? RAVI: 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 people. BEN: Why has this nihilistic philosophy become so attractive to so many of today's youth? RAVI: 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 then 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 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 faith. BEN: How can today's teens have an impact for Christ on their peers when the culture is against them? RAVI: 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 havoc.

BEN: What would one of these strongholds be? RAVI: 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. BEN: 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.

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