Technologically we’re wiring the planet; theologically we are short-circuiting our psyches. April 20, 2009 is the tenth anniversary of the Columbine killings. The title of the late Robert Bork’s book Slouching Toward Gomorrah, pulsated through my mind like neon 10 years ago as I watched the aftermath of the killings. While a cacophony of Christian voices claimed we were in the midst of revival, to me it was apparent when Columbine happened that Western Civilization was as Bork said, “A monster of decadence” and “we are now slouching not towards Bethlehem but towards Gomorrah!”
The tragedy at Columbine High 10 years ago is merely the latest in a series of wake up calls. While presidents are intoxicated by the prospect of wiring schools for the information age, we are losing the souls of our children. Visual stimuli and information bombardment have become a sick substitute for wisdom and understanding. As our kids travel down this information highway, they’ve picked up a basis against reason, rationality, and responsibility. The problem is that by and large our children lack the necessary skills to process information, and as a result they become increasingly nihilistic.
Out of this nihilism has emerged a culture of death. While this culture has produced a muddy mixture of the macabre, two distinct images have emerged. I call them white knuckled and bare knuckled.
White knuckled kids are best characterized by the Gothic scene. Goths live on the edge, they’re fascinated with death and a love of the morbid. They watch scary movies and walk thru graveyards in their dark gender-bending clothing and fingernail polish contrasted with white pancake makeup, portraying a sense of the haunted. They pride themselves as being individualistic and introspective, and consider their preoccupation with the dark side just a harmless form of artistic self-expression.
Bare knuckled kids are characterized by the industrial scene, and are more apt to manifest violence and aggression. Their songs not only satirize social and spiritual virtues, but fixate on shocking musical expressions of serial killing, suicide, and sadomasochism. As with the Columbine killers, these industrial teens often display a bizarre fascination with blood drenched video games. Rather then being merely fascinated with death, bare knuckled kids are often fixated on destruction.
Those who suggest that there is no connection between what are kids seeing and hearing and how they’re acting are just dead wrong. Studies suggest a direct causal relationship between violent behavior and the kind of violence portrayed in movies, music, and magazines, and billions of advertising dollars are spent each year on the very premise that behavior is going to be impacted.
As underscored by the late Robert Bork “music is used everywhere to create attitudes—armies use martial music, couples listen to romantic music, churches use organs, choirs, and hymns.” It has been well said the information industry is “on the verge of becoming a hallucinogenic barrage of images, whose only grammar is pacing, whose principal theme is energy. We are losing our ability to manage ideas; to contemplate, to think.”
The insights of Carl Bernstein are poignant and direct. I remember him saying, We are creating “the idiot culture…For the first in our history, the weird and the stupid and the coarse are becoming cultural norms maybe even cultural ideal.”
Christians, however, should not be content to just curse the darkness, we have to be prepared to build a lighthouse in the midst of the gathering storm. It’s imperative that we look beyond the destructive behavior of troubled teens and minister to their alienation and despair.
We must see our children as even a higher calling than our careers. Our children don’t care how much we know until they know how much we care. They are not unreachable; they are an often neglected mission field in our very own homes. We have to come to grips with the fact that Congress and the courts are not the real problem. The real problem is Christians who have abdicated their responsibility to be salt and light. I love what Os Guinness once said, “The time has come for evangelicals to wake from our lethargy or turn from our fear, blaming, and victim-playing. We must move out into all spheres of society, presenting the case for the gospel of Jesus in ways that are fresh, powerful, imaginative, compassionate, and persuasive.”
Having said all that, I think it’s important to celebrate rays of sunshine peering through the clouds. I see them all the time with the kids that come into my home. I too am thankful for a houseful of children that love the Lord and use their gifts for his glory and the extension of His kingdom; kids that look forward to the future, and of course the future beyond the future, because this life is here today and gone tomorrow. We see this in the tragedies of our children, when their friends die at young ages. We see death all around us. As a result it is ever more critical that we begin living for that which is eternal and that we put our priorities straight.
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 Robert H. Bork, Slouching towards Gomorrah (New York: HarperCollins, 1996).
 Bork, front cover flap.
 Nihilism is the view that existence has no meaning or purpose, thus denying any objective ground of truth.
 Bork, 144.
 From a speech delivered in October 1995 to the International Radio and Television Society by Ted Koppel, New York City, as quoted in Os Guinness, Fit Bodies Fat Minds: Why Evangelicals Don’t Think and What to Do about It (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1994), 80.
 Carl Bernstein, “The Idiot Culture,” The New Republic, 8 June 1992, 24-25, as quoted in Guinness, 70.
 Guinness, 150.