Monthly Archives: April 2011

Wrestling with Nihilism


     And by Nihilism, to clarify, I mean the philosophical idea that there is essentially no meaning or value in the universe and correspondingly, our human lives.  However, I am not intending to be highly philosophical; rather, this is a personal or subjectivist rant on nihilistic ideas.  My universe has seemed meaningless for a variety of reasons.  I don’t intend to elaborate on them all here, lets say, its too personal but if anyone knows me well (an I mean really knows me) then they probably know of which type of struggles I am referring to. 

     The problem with minority perspectives is that they subjugate the individual perspective to the majority system and create a working order (a universal system, cf. universe) and consequently exclude and oppress.  This seems to be a fundamental tenet in liberation thought.  Thus, the Gospel becomes a means to liberate repressed minorities.  Drawing on Freirean theme, the minority group or even the minority individual becomes the readers, the interpreters and story tellers of their own realities.  Thus they counter the status quo.  In doing so they become the stampers of their own reality and their own meaning as they feel through the textual nature of their lives.  There is, of course, a fundamental error if one stops at this point; i.e., that the source of knowledge and meaning comes from humans or from within human collectives or individuals.  All meaning (as human beings know it) is interpreted by and through humans but not all meaning comes from meaning.  The Christian presumption is, as I believe, all meaning and knowledge comes from God.  This doesn’t offer an explanation as to why life can still feel meaningless even when we know it has meaning from God. 

  Therefore I will not keep silent;
   I will speak out in the anguish of my spirit,
   I will complain in the bitterness of my soul.
 Am I the sea, or the monster of the deep,
   that you put me under guard?
 When I think my bed will comfort me
   and my couch will ease my complaint,
 even then you frighten me with dreams
   and terrify me with visions,
 so that I prefer strangling and death,
   rather than this body of mine.
 I despise my life; I would not live forever.
   Let me alone; my days have no meaning. 

(Job 7:11-16, NIV)

     At many times I have wrestled with these same vexing ideas motivated by the most volatile emotions of general dissatisfaction with life in the status quo.  Add onto this the feeling of guilt that as a Christian one has no excuse to be discontented.  “But its my right,” screams the inner free (read liberationist), American, individualist!  Subjugation either to the perceived norm (as defined by the status quo) or to my own desires both bring a sense of agonizing meaninglessness.  But there is one more piece to see this situation more clearly. 

     Within the individual human being is actually a kind of plurality revealed by the dialectic process of “talking to yourself.”  As as a Christian we can add the conversations (or battles) we have with both God and demonic spirits within our own field of being.  Paul lets us in on this in the seventh chapter of his Epistle to the Romans.  Its helpful to remind myself at this time that God is the source of knowledge and meaning.  Therefore the idea that there is a special type (secret) of knowledge to be attained by certain minority perspectives that need to be found out is actually gnostic in a way.  If however, the idea is introduced that each group (including minority groups) needs to wrestle in (immersion) with (intimacy) and under (submission) the text (Sacred Scripture) as the source (with Christ) of revealed truth it is no longer hearsay but actually a Gospel of liberation. 

     I can recognize that in my own situation neither the status quo nor my own subjective feelings are the determining factors of the meaning of my life or the things in my life.  Only in as much as these two sources conform to revelation do they have a legitimate role to subjugate and even then they do not subjugate unto themselves but unto the Word of Life.  To be subjugated, to be subservient, to submit are all appropriate postures when the reality is the living God: not human systems or institutions of oppression.  But God can and does demand our very lives.  And the realization of this should cause a life altering crisis, a metanoia moment that altars the shape of our lives forever.  The reality of this is illustrated in baptism.  We drown our sinful selves in the waters of baptisim to rise into a newness of life, called into being by the voice of God. 

     So what I’m realizing is that my inability to access emotively or intuitively a sense of genuine meaning and fulfillment in life is actually the symptom of my inability to conform to the will of God.  “And what a wretched man I am, who shall save me from this body of death.”  And so I realize just how sinful of a man I am. 

     But I also realize how sinful of a man Jesus died for.  “Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!”  I’m starting to re-member, to re-realize just how desperately in need I am of Christ and his work, all of it and nothing less.  I need Jesus to be the strong man who comes into my heart and life and will fight the fights I know I’ll loose because I’m weak in the flesh.  I need him to fight the demons I’m powerless to fight w/o the spiritual weapons that come from the Spirit of Christ who lives in us.  It must be a demonstration of the resurrection power of the Spirit at work in us to vanquish forever the powers of hell that assail against our souls.  We must buffet our flesh if we are going to win this race.  We get to share in the sufferings of Christ, not we have to.  And there we will find our joy.  I must.  I’m desperate at this point.  And all along I should have been because the clock is ticking and the laborers are few.  And I need Jesus to intercede for me, I need him to stand in my gaps, I need the intercession of the Spirit on my half with noises to deep for utterance or the shape intelligible sound.  I need him to transform the beastly noises of pain and abuse into the angelic noises of praise and joy.  This is my resurrection.  

The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me,
   because the LORD has anointed me
   to preach good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
   to proclaim freedom for the captives
   and release from darkness for the prisoners,
 to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor
   and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn,
  and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
   instead of ashes,
the oil of gladness
   instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
   instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
   a planting of the LORD
   for the display of his splendor.

  They will rebuild the ancient ruins
   and restore the places long devastated;
they will renew the ruined cities
   that have been devastated for generations.

(Isaiah 61:1-4, NIV)


Come on Jesus, intercede for me.  I know I need it.