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
What does it mean to be a man in this cultural moment?
This all boils down to answering the question, “what does it mean to be human?”
This is a worldview question and depending on one’s worldview, will render different answers.
Worldview answers these questions:
Metaphysical – what is real?
Epistemology – what is true?
Origin – where did I come from?
Meaning – does life have meaning?
Morality – what is right or wrong (good / evil)?
Destiny – what happens when I die?
Identity – who am I and does my life have purpose?
Every worldview must answer those questions in ways that correspond to reality and have coherence.
A secularist-atheist, Muslim, pantheist, Christian, etc will all answer these questions differently. Worldview drives behavior and how we see ourselves in our place in the world. What I believe about being a man in this cultural moment is shaped by my worldview. In the west, The contours of our body ethic are rooted in a worldview and philosophies emerging from Rome and Greece – that were both reshaped and reformed by Christian worldview.
As the Christian ethic is jettisoned for a more naturalistic / materialistic worldview, we don’t actually move toward something new, we move back to something old – Rome.
Therefore, this shift will change how we define our place and purpose in the world, man and woman.
I believe the definition of a man is rooted in biology, theology and character.
What does it mean to be a man?
He does not give in to passivity
He takes responsibility
He leads sacrificially
He defends the weak
He is a voice for the voiceless and a father to the fatherless.
He is faithful
He loves mercy and does justice
He loves well and leads well. (Notice none of these attributes have anything to do with a man’s physical strength, violence or abilities).
“So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” (Genesis 1:27-28)
Note: The content above was taken from a reply I wrote to a friend’s post on Facebook. This is an extension of my recent work in the Colson Fellows residency has helped me crystalize and communicate the contours of what shapes our worldview particularly in America today and our definition of man.
Generational dysfunction begets generational dysfunction, until the cycle is broken. This is not relatively true it is empirically true across cultures.
Politics and economics are downstream from culture. They are lagging indicators.
To affect culture, people use stories. Some of those stories are true and some are untrue. Stories and narratives tell us what to believe and why. Finally, stories generate culture at the leading edge of culture.
We must tell true stories to combat lies.
Stories we tell will determine the future of our culture and whether or not the cycle of generational dysfunction continues.
Note: I’ll be the first to admit my own responsibility for being a part of the problem in the past. I’m lovingly, yet sternly challenging you to read and consider what I am saying. After thoughtful consideration (perhaps 24-48 hours), if you disagree – that is fine. Articulate your disagreement if you like. Emoting is a sign of immaturity and my response will call out immaturity. If that causes a bit of anger to well up in your little heart, so be it. You need to learn to deal with anger and this conversation is not for you – yet.
Boys are crying out for help!
Over the last 50 years, our moral revolution has attacked the sanctity of human life, destroyed the family and diminished the father’s role in society. So, males are nothing more than animals that have sex at will with whomever they want, pursue immediate gratification and comfort, relish violence and affluence and move on like a swam of locusts.
Today boys, as young as 8 years old are immersed in pornography, addicted to violent games/movies and have ZERO respect for human life. As a result, girls (and boys) are objects for their personal gratification, other children are targets for destruction and parents exist to feed and pamper them.
Our boys need to be rescued from this toxic culture and men who have abandoned their responsibilities need to repent and be restored. We need to admit we need to help each other.
No matter how you slice it – Males hold all the cards.
We are paying the price for the “moral revolution”. This revolution is rooted in nothing more than personal immediate gratification (of males – primarily). It says,
“I want what I want and I want it NOW… And I will use the veil of reproductive rights, feminism, sexual freedom, personal autonomy, marriage, coercion and political volition to achieve my personal gratification – be it comfort, affluence, power or orgasm.”
Our children are paying dearly with their lives. Make no mistake – the cost is high for “if it FEELS good, do it” culture. It is no accident that we have arrived at this very moment.
“A poor sailor blames the wind.”
It is also no accident that adult males are molesting and demeaning women, abusing children, stealing, doing drugs, lying under oath, murdering and going to jail at high rates. We raise our boys according to the rules of the moral revolution and when our boys become adults infused with the ‘values’ of the revolution and act out of those impulses – the moral revolutionaries make an ‘out-cry’ and blame everyone except themselves. A worldview that blames systems, things and institutions for society’s problems is rejecting any personal accountability. They will deny this but there will always be a ‘but’ to avoid personal responsibility.
How about raising boys who know what it means to be authentic men?
A man does not give into passivity, he takes responsibility for his own actions, he practices personal accountability and integrity, he is humble, just, kind, self-disciplined, leads courageously and focuses on a cause greater than himself. A man is the voice for the voiceless, a protector of the weak and a provider.
Stop the cycle of blame. In order to raise men of honor and integrity, we must look ourselves in the mirror and ask how we are going to help raise boys into authentic men. It is an issue of our hearts. Boys are crying out for help. Let’s help them by modeling manhood for them – teaching and challenging them to become the courageous men they are created to be.
Ignore the screaming of the moral revolutionaries – they will never stop screaming. That is what they do – they rage against everything. They will not stop raging until they destroy everything – including themselves. I’m not sorry for pushing back against the disjointed and dangerous worldview driving the ‘moral revolution’. As a matter of fact, I’m going to challenge it with extreme moral force.
Dave Ramsey once said,
“We all have a red-faced screaming child inside us. That child’s name is ‘Immaturity’.”
It’s not too late.
Our future depends on our personal accountability today.
How am ‘I’ going to raise my son to be man?
How can ‘I’ support the fatherless who have no role model?
Unbridled skepticism undermines our thinking. It is a revolt against knowing.
The belief that nothing can be known for certain has run amuck in modern western culture. People claim they are absolutely certain that nothing can be known for certain.
Therefore, I refer to it as ‘unbridled’. Why do I say that?
The history of Western thought is for another day. Sufficed to say, during the Renaissance man made himself the center of all existence, completely autonomous and jettisoned meaning. This gave rise to humanism – which has no basis for right or wrong. In the 20th century, Post-modern philosophy claims that there is no objective truth (relativism).
Relativism is the root of unbridled (modern) skepticism. The presupposition of relativism is that objective truth cannot be known. This presupposition self-refutes because its an objective truth claim. In addition, it rejects any basis for knowing truth. Therefore, truth is subjective and relative to the individual (arbitrary). Unbridled skepticism manifests itself in contradiction, hypocrisy and ultimately futility. It undermines itself.
Conversely, I believe healthy skepticism is essentially a search for truth in the matter of things that matter most. In fact, in Greek, skeptomai means ‘to search, to think about or look for…’ The most important endeavor in life is the search for truth. Without it, existence is meaningless and leads to futility like doubting one’s own existence.
Ravi Zacharias says that one must test a truth claim by asking two essential questions:
Do the facts (claims) correspond to reality?
Are the corresponding facts (claims) coherent? Or to put it another way, when you pull all of the corresponding facts together, do they make sense logically?
Unbridled skepticism constantly undermines itself because it’s based in relativism. Therefore, it can’t seek truth as healthy skepticism can because what the ‘unbridled’ skeptic is seeking is amorphous.
An anchor thrown into a cloud will not hold a vessel.
Unbridled skepticism rebels against knowing anything for certain.
I find G.K. Chesterton’s following statement interesting when I observe unbridled skepticism.
“All denunciation implies a moral doctrine of some kind and the modern skeptic doubts not only the institution he denounces, but the doctrine by which he denounces it. Thus he writes one book complaining that imperial oppression insults the purity of women, and then writes another book, a novel in which he insults it himself. As a politician he will cry out that war is a waste of life, and then as a philosopher that all of life is a waste of time. A Russian pessimist will denounce a policeman for killing a peasant, and then prove by the highest philosophical principles that the peasant ought to have killed himself. A man denounces marriage as a lie and then denounces aristocratic profligates for treating it as a lie.
The man of this school goes first to a political meeting where he complains that savages are treated as if they were beasts. Then he takes his hat and umbrella and goes on to a scientific meeting where he proves that they practically are beasts. In short, the modern revolutionist, being an infinite skeptic, is forever engaged in undermining his own mines. In his book on politics he attacks men for tramping on morality; in his book on ethics he attacks morality for tramping on men. Therefore the modern man in revolt becomes practically useless for all purposes of revolt. By rebelling against everything he has lost his right to rebel against anything.”
– G. K. Chesterton
You may or may not agree, but it is worth considering.
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.