By Jad Tabet
In a 1981 sermon titled “Choices” where he talks about the importance of choosing to worship God despite our weaknesses, Billy Graham makes the apt observation that “young people today want a challenge”. He says choosing to follow Christ provides a challenge that is engaging to people, both young and old. Today, as I look back at my Christian upbringing, I wonder why I and many of my friends from both inside and outside the Church did not make this choice. I do not know if Graham meant to diagnose the lack of engagement that the Church provided the youth in its community back then, but today in Lebanon, forty years later, as we move towards an already tumultuous and violent parliamentary elections, these words seem as relevant as ever. I say this because in retrospect, I see how many of my friends and I were looking for identity but could not find it in Christ. Rather, we found it in worldly pleasures and in corrupt politics.
In The Denial of Death, secular author Ernest Becker states that the modern individual “edged himself into an impossible situation. He still needed to know that his life mattered in the scheme of things… He still had to merge himself with some higher, self-absorbing meaning… If he no longer had God, how was he to do this?” This statement says a lot about the mode of life of the post-modern individual and the power we give to ideology. One way to fill the unfillable void in the absence of a relationship with the ever-loving Christ is the pursuit of a romantic partner. Fleeting pleasures, including alcohol, sex, and drugs also fit the bill. All of these allow us to subscribe to a man-made ideology that can dictate for us our values in life. But for us Lebanese who have inherited the collective trauma of fifteen years of Civil War from our parents and then thirty years of internal cold war, sectarian political ideology is a stronger and more accessible metanarrative to subscribe to. It also gives us a cause to fight for and a place to channel our aggressive energies. Living in a shame and honor society, political parties give Lebanese youths easy access to social acceptance – and thus meaning and identity – while the Church sits back, content in becoming a social club.