Do Millennials Fear Death?

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Saturday, April 7, 2018 0 comments

by Nathan Buck

I had a chat recently with a registered nurse from a prestigious hospital. We were talking about the shifts in our culture and how it is affecting the social dynamics of almost every situation. She shared with me that there are nurses in her group that are brilliant and gifted people, but when it comes to the basic tasks of their job they are paralyzed or terrified to engage. The simple tasks of caring for a patient, like bathing or giving meds, are irritations or interruptions for them. They want to be leaders, but cannot bring themselves to do the most basic chores of the job they were hired for. When it comes to caring for terminal patients, she said they are truly paralyzed emotionally and unable to deal with it. Some even become physically ill when they face a patient dying.

I asked her if they are primarily millennials, and she said yes. Not all of them are, but most of them are. I asked why she was surprised by that. She said, "It’s just odd. They went through school, they are really smart and know so much, but they just seem unable to handle the human factor." 

I asked her to consider the messages in our culture right now and what we all are being indoctrinated with. I connected the dots between the "have it your way right away" and "speak your power" messages with the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche and his work "Beyond Good and Evil" (see my previous posts here and here). If we are constantly being told "you be you" and that our highest motivation is to use our "will to power" to influence our world, then is it any wonder that we see an entire generation being self-focused? The sad reality is that this "will to power" way of living comes directly from a nihilist philosophy that believes there is nothing after death, just an end of existence. This means there is no hope, no higher motivation, and no moral bearing than what our own desires, goals, and influence can accomplish. If we believe that this material life is all there is and death is the end of our adventure, is it any wonder that we fear death?

And let's be honest, this is not just a millennial problem; it is increasingly a Western cultural problem. The moral standards that transcend our existence have been rejected. We are encouraged to "change the world" in whatever way we see fit. Without those standards, all we have is "feel" and "felt" as our guides. The experiences of our flesh that we like to "feel" and the ones we "felt" that we don't like become the guides to moral certainty. And when feeling and experience is our guide, everything becomes more base, more crass. We develop a tunnel vision around our flesh.

Death and suffering become things we never want to feel, because they end or diminish our influence. The idea that what we are living for could suddenly blink into non-existence is terrifying and paralyzing because it contradicts the real reason we use our influence in the first place: to make a name for ourselves, be remembered, leave our mark, and transcend our time. But if there are things that matter, that transcend, then there has to be a reason why they transcend, which is beyond our influence.

In 1 Corinthians 15:19-25, Paul addresses this issue head on. He says, "If our hope in Jesus is only for this life, we are to be pitied above all others." Why? Because he is making the point that if there is no life after death and Jesus was not resurrected, then all we are left with is a handful of teachings that have no power to make any lasting difference. If all there is is this "will to power" and nothing transcends this life, then there is no point in believing Jesus (or anyone). If Jesus didn't have the power to overcome death, then His claims could not be trusted, and His teachings were the ramblings of a delusional person.

But since Jesus DID rise from the dead, and over 500 eyewitness accounts established the truth of it, then two things are irrefutably true: 1. There is life after death, which means there is purpose beyond this life (and the "will to power" isn't it). 2. Jesus is verified as God, and everything He taught is both the standard and the purpose for us to live by.

In the same passage of 1 Corinthians, Paul makes it clear that the "will to power" will be undone. Jesus is going to undo every dominion, every power, and then hand the Kingdom over to God the Father. That means every human effort, every influence we establish, will be undone. On top of that, only the accomplishments and standards that are aligned with God's way of living will remain.

So, it makes sense that anyone who is living to make a name for themselves, to influence their world, or be the best "them" possible (by their own standards), would struggle with caring for others or grieving with others. When we realize there is life after death and there is one who was resurrected - meaning brought back to life forever, not just temporarily - we gain hope that allows us to experience life WITH other people. We stop being the purpose of our own story, and we start seeing our purpose in and through the stories of others. We start to see a greater story, where death and suffering are experiences along the way to a more meaningful existence. And we realize that what we do FOR God and TO others has transcendent value, for them and for us. Through hope, we gain compassion. Through compassion, we gain empathy. In empathy, we are compelled to serve the needs of others, not to embellish or advance our story, to accomplish God's purpose in His-story.

Listen to the messages in our culture and recognize how many times you are encouraged to seek your own advantage and advance your own story. To live by those messages is to live by the "will to power" and to reject Jesus' resurrection as well as His teachings. To live by those messages is to sacrifice the real power for world change, for illusions we manage to conjure up in our own strength. How will you respond to the next opportunity you have to assert your influence? Will it be like the world expects you to, with self-advantage or self-protection first? Or will it be like Jesus, dying to self and being made alive to greater purpose for the sake of others? 

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