Nihilism and Hopelessness Prevail in the Current Youth Culture

Nihilism and Hopelessness Prevail in the Current Youth Culture

Post-Christendom and postmodern ideologies affect the youth culture. I see the result of this union in what Cornel West identifies as nihilism. For the Black community, it carries the sense of being, that increasingly pervades black communities and defines the “lived experience of coping with a life of horrifying meaninglessness, hopelessness, and lovelessness.''[13] West expands the scope of nihilism to the broader culture and purports, “psychic depression, personal worthlessness, and social despair are widespread in America as a whole.” The nihilistic outlook described by West is frequently observed in teenagers during face-to-face interviews, leading them to engage in self-critical or negative self-talk. [14] They refer to themselves as “worthless and ugly,” contemplate suicide, and cannot find peace. I shared at my nondenominational church that teen suicide is twice as common in rural areas than in urban settings and they were shocked! Society, including parents whom we presume know about their children’s mental health, are surprised to learn how prevalent are anxiety and depression and how often they lead to planning and sometimes acting on suicidal thoughts.

Cornel West correctly observed that nihilism is the result of “social forces that seem beyond people’s control. The market forces generate a market morality that undermines a sense of meaning and larger purpose (emphasis mine).”[15] I deal with despair and hopelessness in the rural teen subculture. Teens know little about Christianity or its language as evidenced by the interviews that I conducted and recorded in earlier blog posts. Their grasp of the gospel has been formed by reactions to and from varied antagonisms popularized by social media apps such as Tik Tok, Youtube, and others.

Nineteen out of twenty students I talked with said they are influenced by social media. A desire for immediate gratification compels teens to remain tethered to social media devices. Every student interviewed acknowledged being on a device between midnight and 5 a.m. on school nights and almost constantly during the day. I will send out weekly reminders to a student group and am repeatedly surprised by their immediate response. They are in school!

Without hope and trust, societies crumble. Young people here do not trust the church as evidenced by my interviews and they tell me the government only benefits the rich and powerful. People are afraid. Teens cannot imagine good news or peace, but there is an alternative story that has existed all along. The alternative story is ancient yet relevant. It offers hope and peace to an anxious world. How may we return the sacred to the basis of society? I believe it is only by rightly communicating the gospel of peace that hope may be found.

[13] Cornel West, Democracy Matters, Winning the Fight Against Imperialism (New York: The Penguin Press, 2004)26.

[14] Cornel West, 26.

[15] Cornet West, 26-27.

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