When it comes to those in Apologetics we wrongfully assume who are our greatest opponents are. We think often that where there is smoke there is fire, but the greatest need is not against those who thunder but against those who are quiet. There are more of them and it is the quiet ones who really change the world. The loud ones just take the credit.
So it all comes down to this choice as written by Pascal: Either we worship God, hate him, or live in indifference. We often focus our energy on those who yell form the mountain tops that God does not exist and that they hate him. Those people we can have dialog with. We admire their bravery to live that way and even through they cannot live consistently in their view they at least have a basis for that belief.
It is the people who do not care that are the ones that form the majority of society. They are the ones who shape the culture. They are the ones who live in indifference but are the ones who live in a true contradiction.
Thus the fact that there exist men who are indifferent to the loss of their being and the peril of an eternity of wretchedness is against nature. With everything else they are quite different; they fear the most trifling things, foresee and feel them; and the same man who spends so many days and nights in fury and despair at losing some office or at some imaginary affront to his honour is the very one who knows that he is going to lose everything through death but feels neither anxiety nor emotion. It is a monstrous thing to see one and the same heart at once so sensitive to minor things and so strangely insensitive to the greatest. (427)
The contradiction is that there is a clinging to the things that do not matter to try to satisfy the retreat from thinking about the things that do. There are so many of these idols today: Movies, politics, personal rights, video games, books, smart phones, red cups from Starbucks, race politics, or anything that if threatened the person will erupt like a bear charging out of a cave.
G.K. Chesterton wrote “There is no bitterness in the heart of man like the bitterness that follows the denial of a right.” Today these rights pertain to things that would make us happy. This happiness is not that of the ancients where wisdom, virtue, and character but just of pleasure instead. When this false pursuit of pleasure becomes a right (as I would say our culture has made them – see Oberefell v. Hodges as a recent example) then those who awaken the sleeping bears risk a greater threat from them than debating those those who are just angry at God. If we take away their please it is seen as taking away the thing that makes them human – but in reality pleasure and distraction have never made us human.
There is a time coming soon, when those who do not care will tire of those who do care about meaningful things. They will care about not caring and silence those who care about real things. When that happens it will be the final triumph of the apathetic when the forced equality of disinterest in all people happens. That will be the true Fall of the West…but not of Christendom. In fact the church may be the only thing that will survive such an event.
G.K Chesterton also writes at the end of his book ‘Heretics’:
It was not the people who cared who ever persecuted; the people who cared were not sufficiently numerous. It was the people who did not care who filled the world with fire and oppression. It was the hands of the indifferent that lit the faggots; it was the hands of the indifferent that turned the rack. There have come some persecutions out of the pain of a passionate certainty; but these produced, not bigotry, but fanaticism–a very different and a somewhat admirable thing. Bigotry in the main has always been the pervading omnipotence of those who do not care crushing out those who care in darkness and blood.
The great march of mental destruction will go on. Everything will be denied. Everything will become a creed. It is a reasonable position to deny the stones in the street; it will be a religious dogma to assert them. It is a rational thesis that we are all in a dream; it will be a mystical sanity to say that we are all awake. Fires will be kindled to testify that two and two make four. Swords will be drawn to prove that leaves are green in summer. We shall be left defending, not only the incredible virtues and sanities of human life, but something more incredible still, this huge impossible universe which stares us in the face. We shall fight for visible prodigies as if they were invisible. We shall look on the impossible grass and the skies with a strange courage. We shall be of those who have seen and yet have believed.
But for now, before the people who care become a target the world currently blinds themselves and escapes into pleasure because it does not know what life is really about. Paul Nowak writes in ‘The Eternal Revolution’:
Our world is not tired for want of an ideal for which to fight, we are uncertain of what we are supposed to do. Early Christian teachers recognized this restless, uneasy, and constant distraction as acedia. It was the poisonous attitude that your own efforts were not worthwhile, that if circumstances were to change in this way or that, then things would change, but until then such change was beyond our reach. Acedia was recognized as making one apathetic, busy about less important things, overly concerned with the affairs of others, and sluggish. Over time, acedia was referred to as sloth or laziness and we forgot its meaning.
This attitude is contagious and can even impact those who call themselves Christian take up the “cup” of pleasure rather than the cross so that they can fit into the culture. The good news is that this is happening less as the people who just call themselves Christians are no longer calling themselves that.
The bad news is that now we are the heretics of our time if we care for eternal things. In the future we will be the martyrs because we care.
So what should we do:
- Not despair. God cares for those who do not care, and we should too.
- Be a beacon of hope so that people ask why we care we can say it is because Jesus did the same. When people awake from their distractions and ask how we can live in a hostile, evil, and meaningless world we can give a defense on why we do care.
- Stop preaching at people and instead put stones in their shoes. The fire and brimstone street-corner preacher only worked when people cared about their souls (or cared that they had souls), but now we need to just wake people up.
- Remember we are not given hope by just our intellect (Plato died in despair) or by our emotions (those can change), or by what we do (then we are not different from the world caring about small things). We are given hope by Jesus.
- Be ready to be persecuted by those who do not care and pursue pleasure because we serve a King better than ourselves and He was killed for the Kingdom. A servant cannot be greater than their master.
- If the apathetic ever fully take over then only God can bring us back from the edge like He did before or He will return to make things perfect. We need not fear, but we should always care.