But I do not despair

Close your eyes and imagine this...

Imagine if our culture was taken to the -nth degree, to its logical end.

Maybe Lady Gaga is president. Maybe digital devices hang in front of our faces, precluding any unmediated communication. Maybe our nations war over water. Maybe norms about intimacy and privacy have melted. And maybe our speech has deteriorated into grunts, slang, and chuckles.

If North American culture keeps it up, we could be in big trouble.

Our culture is infatuated with stars like Justin Bieber, and our top TV show is even called "American Idol." We revel in Charlie Sheen “winning.” Our king is LeBron. Chatroulette and PostSecret spotlight our basest tendencies and hidden shames. College grades are inflated. Polar ice caps are melting. Our states are broke, and our nation is $14,421,378,214,947 in the red.

As consumers, we spend more than we make. Kids kill other kids. Yesterday, I heard the phrase “economic collapse” on the radio a few times. A friend of mine jokes that she’ll put her tent in our yard when it really hits the fan.

And that just may be in the United States. Think of international conflicts, malnutrition, malaria, HIV and AIDS, human trafficking, simple grinding poverty, and the vulnerable people (especially children) who take the brunt of it.

Holy smokes. I’m only 33, and I sound like a crotchety old man. My years overseas have held a lot of pain for me and for those near me. But I’m not a Chicken Little kind of guy -- I do not despair.

Jesus came to this screwed up world. He died and rose to break the brokenness -- of me, of you, of LeBron, of Gaga, and of the systems in which we swim. So I work to tell that Good News and to train up leaders for God, for good.

I work for InterVarsity Christian Fellowship.

We’ve served God for 70 years, now at 550 colleges and universities across the country. And God works through InterVarsity: By His grace, students and faculty members start following Jesus, the culture of institutions is shifted, and graduates head out to lead in every sector for Jesus, from education to business to medicine to technology to politics to families to nonprofits, and of course the Church.

InterVarsity students at the University of Washington raise awareness about AIDS on their campus. ©2007 Andrea Dearborn/World Vision

InterVarsity alumni are leading all around the planet, along with our sister movements in the International Fellowship of Evangelical Students.

Jesus has saved and redeemed us. And now we serve so that others have that same opportunity, and so that we give God the maximum glory in every sphere we touch.

The work of InterVarsity’s campus ministry doesn’t result in bunch of ignorant, pie-in-the-sky Pollyannas. Rather, we have trained and sent hundreds of thousands of thoughtful, talented leaders into society (and around the world), with God and His priorities in the Bible guiding them.

This week, I’m talking with colleagues from InterVarsity and World Vision Act:s about ways we can work together to encourage and equip the next generation of leaders who will follow Jesus, share Him with others, and seek His righteousness and justice.

And that is even better than President Gaga.


Adam Jeske has served in Nicaragua, China, and South Africa, in roles ranging from manual laborer to microfinance project director to seminary professor to motorcycle travel journalist. He is working on a book about lessons for North American Christians from the global Church with his wife. He is now the associate director of communications for InterVarsity Christian Fellowship/USA, blogs at InterVarsity.org, and tweets @adamjeske.

Read more on the World Vision Blog about: Faith World Vision ACT:S

Comments

I can't stress enough how clear it is that the world is out of control. I agree fully that America needs to wake up from this electronic daze they are in. It has become a modern day Babylon, full of false idols,adultery,and hardened hearts.

Sometimes I pray.
Sometimes I seek distraction.
Sometimes I turn to community.
Sometimes I do all three at once.

Any other recommendations

I also think it's something of a discipline to enumerate the good, the things that are going well to innoculate against despair...

Adam, I can understand your frustration with all the negatives of our American culture but I think you would be pleased with what you found if you investigated all of our culture's positives. I am sure you know that many of us Americans are loving and caring people who want to do good and care for others. In fact, Lady Gaga can be considered one of those people for her own involvement with charities. In the past she has offered VIP tickets to fans who volunteered time with homeless youth programs (http://www.looktothestars.org/celebrity/1944-lady-gaga). One might say that her charity work is just a means to boost her own publicity, but only God can know with certainty all the intentions behind someone's actions. Besides, even if Lady Gaga's charity work was a means to her own ends, I think it is admirable that the American public responds to public service on the part of popular figures and buys their concert tickets and products.

In order to positively impact our American culture it is important for us to point out its flaws, of course, but it is equally if not more important to praise all its good parts as well. That way we will reinforce the good habits that we already have and build on them. Don't you agree?

Thanks for taking the time to point out Lady Gaga's good work. I wasn't aware of that. You're right that we need to think of the positives, too, which I did in a piece that Relevant magazine published in their Mar/Apr issue on print page 42, digital page 46 (http://www.relevantmagazine.com/digital-issue/50). In years of working on different continents, and now returning to serve in the US, I am very aware of the good stuff about my homeland.

I don't like your vision of the future (nor the facts you state about our present) and that would make me want to despair. Instead I want to envision a future were "little people" like me can make a difference. A place where what seems impossible is possible because organizations like InterVarsity and World Vision are working (and working together) to make it a different future for my grandkids.

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