Why the shoulder shrug shouldn’t win

Why the shoulder shrug shouldn’t win July 1, 2022

Image: Crossway

I admit that I picked up Uche Anizor’s new book Overcoming Apathy: Gospel Hope for Those Who Struggle to Care with a bit of a sigh. We live in a world where we’re all supposed to care about everything 100% all the time, until the next thing comes along on social media and then we’re supposed to care about that instead (while pretending that we still care about the thing from last week that we’ve not given another thought to). We’re supposed to feel deeply about January 6, but also the refugee crisis (both the Ukrainian version and the Afghani version), the Me Too movement (especially meaningful in the Southern Baptist world this past week), the war in Ukraine, the price of gas, the general inflation, the feds hiking interest rates, midterm election, the 2024 Presidential election, and President Biden’s bike. No doubt these are all important (maybe excluding the last one), and we can engage passionately with any of them. But do we really have to fully care about them all the time? Is there no place for contentment, even if some want to call that contentment apathy?

With that in mind I opened up Overcoming Apathy and read this:

“This book is an exploration of apathy. [Which, hey, reasonable enough, given the title] My main concern is spiritual apathy, or indifference toward the core things that Christians should care about.” (11)

Oh snap. Instead of a book where I keep saying ‘yeah, that’s important but so is feeding my kids and helping my elderly neighbor and volunteering in my community, and those things often have a greater claim on my attention’ this is a book where we are told that we don’t care enough about holiness and often turn aside from the hard pursuit of a Godly life in favor of the meaningless trifles of this world. In other words, this book is both right and convicting. I am apathetic about the life we have been called to live, and I do need to overcome that apathy. Granted, there are probably ways in which I need to overcome some of my apathy about the wider world, but those pale in comparison to the ways I am apathetic about the state of my soul. And this little book is an excellent tonic for that apathy.

Of course we need to be careful when thinking about something like apathy–is the cause spiritual or physical? Am I apathetic because I am lazy and sinful (which is where I am, for the most part) or because there are underlying causes of depression? Anizor carefully makes this distinction, drawing on both modern and ancient sources (and yes, the ancients knew there was a difference between sin, hunger, and mental illness). While each of these different causes might merit different kinds of attention, they all merit a response such that we are attempting to overcome them as part of our overcoming of apathy.

All that to say, this book is excellent and will challenge you to look your apathy in the face and overcome it by the atoning work of Christ on the cross.

Highly recommended.

Dr. Coyle Neal is co-host of the City of Man Podcast an Amazon Associate (which is linked in this blog), and an Associate Professor of Political Science at Southwest Baptist University in Bolivar, MO

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