The band, Pink Floyd made this question famous on their 1979 album, “The Wall”. Under the haunting drones of synth chords and samples from the TV series, Gunsmoke, the listener is confronted with the question, “Is there anybody out there?” The question is repeated as the melancholy of the soundscape rises and finally breaks into a ethereal acoustic guitar melody accompanied by lonely violin. It provides some relief but not quite enough. The question still lingers about the mind, “Is there anybody out there?” It’s truly a genius two and a half minutes of music.
In the Pink Floyd movie “The Wall” this song plays at the point where the bitter and alienated Pink (the main character) is attempting to reach anybody outside of his self-built wall. The repeated question “Is there anybody out there?” suggests that no response is heard (1).
I remember back to my music and DJ days when I would be in the DJ booth playing records to a packed club of hundreds of people, yet there was an underlying sense of alienation. I could see people around me – but why does the question still gnaw at my soul? “Is there anybody out there?” Does anyone even care?
There have been seasons in my life when I’ve felt alone. Even when I had family and friends around, I suffered from disconnectedness. At points, this lead to depression and anxiety. Its hard recognize from the outside. By God’s grace and the love of family and friends, I don’t suffer like I did so many years ago. However, there are shadows of how I felt in those seasons that remain as a remembrance. I think it is important that I remember rather than forget what it’s like to feel alone. There can be no deep ministry to others without memories of our own misery.
Today, many people feel alienated and lonely in our technology-driven, pseudo-connected, over-stimulated, hyper-autonomous and instant gratification-focused cultural moment. We’ve relegated our relationships and existence to online platforms, how can we not be driven to alienation?
I think a dangerous new religion is emerging in the West. It’s called Alienation.
It has its own doctrines of disconnect and loneliness. We carry our slick, shiny, flat-screened idols in our hands all day. It’s sacraments are dopamine drips through a communion of ‘likes’ and screen scrolling. It’s worship is seen on the altar where authentic human relationships go to be sacrificed. Alienation has its own cathedrals built for one. It has its own hymns and liturgy and even ideology and emerging politics. The enlightened state of the religion of alienation is loneliness and ultimately, despair. This despair brings some to their own end at their own hands – the ultimate sacrifice.
“Contemporary man is alienated. He is alienated from the past because he has no cultural roots anymore. He’s been taught to despise the past. He is alienated from a real vibrant society – his social ties are thin and few. That shows up in his sexual habits which seem to have no meaning beyond that of the pleasure or the despair of the moment. He has very little connection with the natural world – the outside world.
If I could jump into Pink Floyd’s 1979 masterpiece, I would add one three letter word at the end… “Yes!”
Yes, there is someone out there, just like you. In fact millions, just like you. Human beings all over our world just wanting to connect in an authentic and meaningful way. But how do we overcome alienation that has become so pervasive?
It starts with a light switch. We begin by turning on the lights in the dark room for those who are lonely so they can see that there are others in the room.
We must recognize alienation and loneliness and label them as enemies of what is good, true and beautiful about the human experience. Humans are hardwired to connect with others. When humans don’t have connections, they can’t live meaningful lives of vibrance. We need relationships – we need each other. Our creator designed us to be in relationship.
We must restore what has been lost in this current lonely age.
If we do nothing, I fear that history will see this chapter as the loneliest in western culture. It doesn’t have to be this way. But it starts with you and me. Whether its the kitchen, the campfire or the nursing home on the holidays, we must be intentional about bringing life back to life. We bring hope and connection to the lonely lives of others and ourselves.
Restoration overcomes alienation. We must work to rescue one another from the cold grip of loneliness and despair. We restore lives through relationships.
To the haunting voice that asks, “Is there anybody out there?” We must break through self-built walls and shout, “Yes, we are here!” and “You are not alone!” and “God loves you and so do we!”
Now, go and do. The cure for alienation is real-life personal connection. That connection needs to be restored.
“And he (God) made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us, for ‘In him we live and move and have our being’…” (Acts 17:26-28a)
The Bible says, “Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” “It is the law of the cross, it is a sacrificial law. Christ gives rest to the heart by giving burdens to the shoulders. And, as a matter of fact, it is in being burdened that we usually find rest… Heavy luggage is a cure for weary hearts.” So, we must bear each other’s burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ.”
– F.W. Boreham
When something bad happens, you will see #hashtags rise like bubbles in a glass of soda.
Today, the path of least resistance is to get emotional, post a hashtag and move on. There is no follow through. There is no justice.
Hashtags can be detrimental to a cause if used improperly
When influential people, particularly political types begin using hashtag and memes, it communicates that someone is actually doing something about a problem. The problem is nothing is actually done. It gives the appearance of action without any substantive action.
In 2014, the terrorist group Boko Haram kidnapped 300 girls from their boarding school in Nigeria. Famously, the “Chibok Girls” became known around the world. It appears everyone was speaking out and demanding their freedom. This is a healthy response to injustice.
A few weeks later, like the bubbles in the glass of soda – the outrage and hashtags vanished.
What ended up happening?
Essentially nothing. Boko Haram, the media and others exploited the girls. Were they released? Nope. Four years later, over 200 girls are languishing in the hands of terrorists. In addition, Boko Haram is holding hundreds of other children captive that are not counted with the Chibok Girls. What about them? Where is their hashtag?
The problem with a “#hashtag” movement is that it is all about emotion, it contains no plan and no perseverance. There is no real commitment because the hashtag itself is transient and short-lived by design.
Hashtags are created to trend on social media until they are knocked off the top by other trendier hashtags.
Not all hashtags are bad. However, if you want to create a movement, don’t make the hashtag the main driver. A hashtag is a spark.
If you want to drive cultural change or advocate for the freedom of the Chibok Girls, you better have a ton of fuel to keep the fire burning until the objective is realized. It may take months or years. Nothing good comes easy. How committed are you?
A better way:
Build your tribe, plan your mission and pursue your cause relentlessly. When you’ve made some decent progress, add a hashtag.
Note regarding image: I believe First Lady Michelle Obama’s response to the kidnapping of the Chibok Girls in 2014 was a healthy and good response to this injustice. However, it indicated something was being done at the top of the international power structure. We all failed to follow through in fighting for their freedom.
I don’t expect anyone to read this. Therefore, I’m writing this to myself because I need to hear it. It is a hard truth.
If I have discipline about what I eat and how much I exercise I feel good, think clearly and I have the freedom to participate in a variety of activities in life. So, if I lack discipline in what I eat and how much I exercise I feel bad, I lack energy and I eventually fall into the tyranny of health problems. I no longer have the freedom to participate in the robust activities of life. Laziness put limits on freedom. This is self-inflicted tyranny.
A Word on Discipline:
The word ‘discipline’ carries a negative connotation in modern western culture today. It evokes constraint and goes against our perception of personal autonomy. Therefore, we have come to believe that discipline is somehow the enemy of our freedoms and rights to live however we want.
What a load of tripe!
Don’t confuse punishment or the enforcement of obedience with practicing self-control and training in moral character.
Modern America is a nation marked by self-centeredness, immaturity, blame, victimhood, permissiveness and sanctioned negligence. Make no mistake, this is what we have become and it’s a problem. If we do not solve it, our culture will crumble and something worse will replace it.
Today, when something negative happens, we collectively point fingers. We blame each other instead of taking ownership and personal responsibility.
BTW, Social Media and #Hashtags exacerbate the problem because we are foolish and lazy enough to believe that just because we vented our blame and victimhood online, we have actually done something to solve the problem.
[Again] What a load of tripe! Nothing but lazy, lazy, lazy.
“As soon as discipline is neglected in a nation … as soon as comfort becomes an aim, it needs no inspiration to foretell that ruin is near.”
De Saxe wrote this in the 1700s. It has been true throughout history.
A Lesson from History
The ancient Roman Empire didn’t fall as a result of being beaten by a powerful army. It ‘fell’ because the Roman citizens as a whole became lazy and comfort-driven on an individual level. Their morals and unity crumbled because they lacked personal discipline. Consequently, they did not have the moral fortitude to push back or mount a volitional response to the degradation happening around them. As a result, the mighty Roman Empire’s hubris, laziness and lack of discipline stands as history lesson of why the mighty fall.
Discipline begins with ‘Me’:
Discipline is a good thing. Without it, individuals, families, communities and societies crumble.
Discipline starts with ‘me’. I cannot expect my family, friends and fellow Americans to practice discipline without me.
Discipline is all about self-control, training in moral character and behavior.
Discipline brings freedom and good things into our lives. Freedom without discipline is anarchy and chaos – which will lead to tyranny.
The question is: What can I do today to practice discipline and personal responsibility?
“He dies for lack of discipline, and because of his great folly he is led astray.”
[Content Warning]: The following narrative contains graphic descriptions of human depravity and evil. I am bound by my conscience to share this truth but I want to caution my readers that the content is heart-breaking and disturbing.
[February 8, 2018] It has been nearly two years since I became involved in local efforts to combat human trafficking in our area. I serve on the 5 Stones Anti-Trafficking Taskforce with local law enforcement, Homeland Security, community leaders, concerned citizens and several non-profits. All of us recognize that we have a big problem in Fort Worth with DMST (Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking). That is to say, that children are being bought and sold for sex in our city and beyond. The average ages are between 12-14 years old. And you know how we arrive at averages, right?
While we are seeing small victories on a local level, there is so much more to do. However, I want to share a dimension that I believe will provide you some perspective and open your eyes to this scourge on a global scale.
I’ve been praying that God would bring victory over the scourge of trafficking in our city. I have also been quietly praying for humility and compassion as He has given me a voice of influence to bring more people to the fight. He has been answering prayer for victory in spades. Yet, before I could allow pride to puff up my heart as if I could take any credit, God crushed me and thus brought me low. He answered my prayer in 3D. That is to say, it was a swift, three-dimensional answer for victory, humility and compassion.
Yesterday, I met with a local team that was formed to assist children rescued from trafficking locally. God brought this team together in short order and formed the program. This was a huge victory for our community. Following the meeting, we each walked to our cars to go our separate ways. We stopped to celebrate right there in the freezing cold. As we celebrated, a friend pulled me aside to share his work with me.
Without going into detail, his ministry is on the frontlines of rescuing children from trafficking both domestically and globally. They operate in some of the darkest most dangerous places in the world.
Places where our worst nightmares go to have nightmares.
He reached into his pocked and produced a smart phone. “Lance, THIS is what we are dealing with…” He went on to describe the horrors of women and children being sold into slavery, murders and torture that would make you physically sick.
Then, he pressed play on a video on his phone. The location and group involved will remain nameless. It was in the middle-east.
I saw a man dragging a tiny child, screaming and crying into what appeared to be a make-shift medical tent. There were other men scrambling around the inside the tent. The video was shaky and I couldn’t understand what I was watching at first. My friend began telling me what I was seeing as the video played and everything came into focus.
This toddler, a little girl had been kidnapped – torn away from her family along with dozens of others from her village. This was not a ‘medical tent’ I was seeing. Although it had the appearance of one. It was a slaughter house. Not where animals where killed and processed into food, but where little children were slaughtered and their organs removed for sale on the black market.
As I watched this screaming child helplessly being dragged and run over by men moving about the room, the camera focused on a man standing over a child’s body – hand’s thrust into the little one’s torso. Underneath, was a stack of two or three lifeless bodies of little children.
These monsters were cutting open children to harvest their tiny organs and selling them. Pure unequivocal evil.
The reality of what I was witnessing set in and I turned away in horror. I lost my composure and like being slammed to the ground, the breath was completely knocked out of me. I stepped away and doubled over. Tears of hurt, rage and helplessness filled my eyes. For a moment I felt like I was caught in a vortex of hyper-reality and my worst nightmare.
What is it I just saw? How can that be real?
It was very real and it is happening as you read this.
Those images and screams will haunt me for the rest of my days. It was a crushing blow to my heart. It was if the Lord said, “This is what they are doing to my little ones… Remember this evil.” Then He reminded me that He is Savior, not me. He will execute justice and vengeance because He is good. I realized I am also accountable to what I now know.
In less than 3 minutes time, God had answered a three-fold prayer in three dimensions. He broke my heart for what breaks His. He uses the weak to humble the strong.
I cannot unsee what I saw. I cannot forget. It would be a tragedy to forget. To do nothing would be wrong. As the great abolitionist William Wilberforce once said when he told British Parliament about the horrors of the African slave trade;
“You may choose to look the other way but you can never say again that you did not know.”
Now I know. But, what can one man (or woman) do?
In the Bible, every seemingly impossible command comes with divine enablement and accountability. This enablement is only manifested in humility and complete dependence upon God (See John 15: The True Vine). We must be rooted in the truth of God’s word, bowed in prayer, love mercy and do justice.
“Rescue those who are being taken away to death; hold back those who are stumbling to the slaughter. If you say, “Behold, we did not know this,” does not he who weighs the heart perceive it? Does not he who keeps watch over your soul know it, and will he not repay man according to his work?”
Today, when our superficial little world is falling apart with ‘first world’ problems like waiting in line at the store or sitting in rush hour traffic, remember this story. Be grateful for the relative safety of your family. Pray for victory, humility and compassion. Be ready for the answer. Be ready to act. Raise awareness by telling others. Maybe one day the western media will shine a light on this. But until then, “this little light of mine… I’m going to let it shine.”
Please know that there are great organizations working to combat the dual scourges of trafficking of humans and the organ black-market. Please pray for them.
For more information on the trafficking of human organs around the globe. Simply search Google with keywords: “Human organ trafficking”, “United Nations organ trafficking”. Here is a good article to provide an overview: click here…
I have been down to the Texas coast twice in the last two weeks since Hurricane Harvey.
The first time was to recon the area and connect with local churches and city leaders in Aransas Pass and Rockport. I lead a team of men who were tasked to serve a small local church on my second visit. Over the years, I have seen the devastation of Hurricanes Andrew and Katrina, the EF5 multiple vortex tornado in Joplin, the EF3 tornado that hit downtown Fort Worth, the rubble of the twin towers in New York City and other disasters. However, Hurricane Harvey is different. Hundreds of miles of Texas coastline from Corpus Christi to Beaumont are disaster zones. Destruction can be seen 20-40 miles inland in some areas. The southern-most zone where Hurricane Harvey made landfall looks much different than the north. The destruction in Aransas Pass and Rockport came from straight-line winds of 130-140 mph and mini tornadoes spun off by the hurricane. In Houston and Beaumont, the destruction is from massive flooding.
Wherever you go along the coast, you’ll see devastation everywhere.
It is heart-breaking. Most of the attention and support is flowing toward the Houston area. Therefore, when you talk with people in disaster zones hundreds of miles outside of Houston, you’ll soon learn a heart-breaking truth. The people outside of Houston feel forgotten. Look around the small towns and villages, you’ll see why. FEMA, Red Cross, etc. have little to no presence in those areas. Small communities are forced to fend for themselves and depend on what little outside help comes their way.
“The people outside of Houston feel forgotten… Where is their voice?”
The city of Houston receives the media’s focus. Most of what you hear outside of the Houston area is; “Houston, Houston, when are you going to Houston? How are we going to help Houston” Don’t get me wrong, I love Houston and they absolutely need help. However, there are millions of people who don’t live in Houston yet lost everything. Where is their voice? Every time people along the coast hear, “Help Houston”, they are hearing something else, an unintended message of, “We have forgotten you!”
In conclusion, here is the challenge for every Texan.
1. Help Houston!
2. Don’t forget your fellow Texans’ cry for help outside of Houston. Help them too!
There is a lot of name-calling going on. People are sick of it.
The best way to get people tune you out is to start name-calling. Name-calling is neither helpful nor constructive. In fact, it’s destructive. There has never been an instance when calling someone a name has actually caused a positive outcome.
Seth Godin states, “The best reason to brand someone with a pejorative label is to push them away, to forestall useful conversation, to turn them into the other…. When we call someone misogynist or racist or sexist or a capitalist, a socialist or an abstract expressionist, what are we hoping for? Every one of us is on the ‘ist’ spectrum, so the label becomes meaningless. Meaningless labels are noise, noise that lasts.”
In addition to Seth Godin’s list, consider the names people hurl at each other: Libtard, racist, bigot, redneck, homophobe, etc…
By calling someone who disagrees with you a name, what are you trying to accomplish?
Try to think of any instance when employing the name-calling tactic has elevated or furthered a conversation or brought value or peace?
You cannot. Why is that?
The answer is… Because name-calling is a logical fallacy (Ad Hominem).
Ad hominem attacks can take the form of overtly attacking somebody, or more subtly casting doubt on their character or personal attributes as a way to discredit their argument. The result of an ad hom attack can be to undermine someone’s case without actually having to engage with it. (yourlogicalfallacyic.com)
Ad hominem (Latin for “to the man” or “to the person”), short for argumentum ad hominem, is in which an argument is rebutted by attacking the character, motive, or other attribute of the person making the argument, or persons associated with the argument, rather than attacking the substance of the argument itself. (Wikipedia)
Facebook and Twitter have provided platforms for people to throw nasty verbal jabs safely from behind a computer keyboard without having to engage directly with someone they disagree. It’s easier (safer) to type something than to actually say it in a face-to-face interaction.
We have established that Name-calling has accomplished zero and is counter-productive. It is a logical fallacy. It is a bunch of noise. There have been no great accomplishments by name-calling in history. The title of this post is just as ludicrous as name-calling itself.
This is a personal blog. The opinions expressed here do not necessarily represent those of my employer or my church. The opinions of expressed by guest authors and commenters do not necessarily represent my opinions.