I was an atheist, and insufferably superior about it. I considered myself more rational, more evolved than my naïve religious friends. But there was one thing I couldn’t explain: The Wallaces. The Wallaces were the unofficial den parents of our high school theatre group, and their home, in contrast to those of my other friends, exuded peace. On the way to a post-show party, I told a friend, “I don’t get it. The Wallace’s lives are based on a delusion [they were committed Christ-followers], and yet they’re the most together people I know. How can a fake foundation support such a strong house?”
Eight years later, I began rebuilding my life on that same foundation. But before I got there I test drove another worldview, incorporating the ideas of French philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau. I was particularly enamored with his theory that natural humans (“noble savages”) live an idyllic existence until corrupted by modern “civilization.”
Unlike Rousseau, however, I took a class in Anthropology.
The first two field studies I read supported my worldview. The next three blew it to nanobits. The one that ultimately liquidated my romantic view was a study of the Yanomamo, a tribe of “unspoiled” Amazonians whose key values were lying, thievery, and physical abuse—the more stolen goods a man owned and the more battered his wives and children were, the more he was admired. Life among the Yanomamo was, for all but a few violent sociopaths, a living hell.
The values that people live by matter. If they’re true, they flourish, if they’re false, it’s Yanomamo time. Charles Nordhoff, an agnostic 19th century journalist, visited communal societies all over America. His conclusion? Cultures built around faith and selflessness were peaceful, happy, and flourishing. Those build around “progressive” ideas like atheism, pantheism, and open marriage were unequivocal disasters.
My generation has a lot to answer for. We were the ones who coined the phrase, “Never trust anyone over 30.” Our legacy? When asked in a poll during the early 90’s what worried them most, the next generation answered, “Values,” explaining that my generation had failed to show them what truths to base their lives on, or if there even were any truths.
My wife and I wrote a comedy sketch during the 90’s in which a group of young adults plan an office party. They decide to end the party with a contest to see who can commit the best suicide. It was dark humor. We never expected it to come true.
The Blue Whale Challenge, which began in Russia, was named for blue whales who lose their sense of direction and commit suicide by beaching themselves on stretches of sand far from home. Its founder, Philipp Budeikin, a failed psychology student, claims to have created the Challenge as a way to “cleanse” society of “biological waste.”
God feels differently: “When Jesus approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it and said, ‘If only you had known this day what would bring you peace—but now it is hidden from your eyes.’” (Luke 19:41-42)
Despair is epidemic. Suicide rates have doubled, and among children and young teens, tripled. Trust in traditional values, civil behavior, and faith are all spiraling downward (of the top ten suicide countries, nine also have the highest percentage of atheists). Sociologists blame the internet. But that’s shooting the messenger.
It’s the message that matters. And the heart of the one receiving it.
Truth isn’t window dressing. It’s a foundation. Without it, the building collapses. The Wallaces built their house on a Rock, and by their example taught me to do so as well.
Please, if you love those who are perishing…
Do the same.