Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Renewed violence in Chicago...and the violence of a nihilist culture

This recent sobering report from PBS on gun violence in Chicago, I think, points rightly to several of the phenomenon's culprits: separation from opportunities and long-term hopelessness rooted in racism.

But more is at play, I believe in the increase in Chicago shootings. It's a factor in world culture today evidenced in different ways among affluent whites, young males in different countries, dishonest people on the make, indifferent sexual partners, and others.

It's what I call nihilism, a belief that nothing matters but being more, having more, conquering more.

As the report points out, the gang members killing each other in Chicago aren't motivated, as members were in the past, to protect their turf, a stupid reason to shoot someone anyway. Now, they're just shooting when someone insults them, crosses them, or gets in their way.

When nothing but you and your survival are threatened, life becomes expendable, cheap. Especially other people's lives. The answer to the question posed by the world's first murderer to God--"Am I my brother's keeper?"--should be obvious to everyone. Of course, we are all our brothers' and our sisters' keepers. Our lives are undeserved gifts from God; caring for each other is one way we express our gratitude for the gift.

Nihilism drives terrorism, dirty business dealings, and cavalier attitudes about sex and family, among other things.

Our penchant for it is inborn. But much in today's culture says it's getting the upper hand.

I believe that the solutions to these issues are many and varied--economic, cultural, social.

But I also believe strongly that every effort to subdue nihilism and promote community and justice will fail unless there is also a transformation of people's hearts and minds.

And that, I believe, can only come from the God we know in Christ.

Christ is the essential factor and the linchpin for any good to come out of any evil. He won't make any of us nor any society on this planet perfect if we turn from evil--evils like racism, indifference, and nihilism.

But when we surrender to Him daily, He begins to change the way we look at others and ourselves. He starts to transform us from the inside out.

Let's pray for an end to violence and pray for our neighbors whoever they are.

Let's pray for an end to institutionalized racism.

Let's do our own bit to contribute to justice and mercy in this world.

Let's love God and our neighbors practically every day.

Let's ask God to renew and revive us through the saving work He's done through Jesus.

Let's trust in Christ and ask Him to make us over in His image.

To find out more about this new life Christ can give to us, keep reading this blog. I write about it all the time. I even try to live it.

[Blogger Mark Daniels is pastor of Living Water Lutheran Church in Centerville, Ohio.]

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