2008) Without God, Without Sin? (part one of four)


From a sermon

           Douglas Coupland is a Canadian writer who has been called the spokesman for Generation X, those born in the years from the mid-1960’s to the mid-80s.  Some even say Coupland was the one who popularized the whole concept of ‘Generation X’ when he made it the title of one of his first books back in the 1990’s.  Coupland’s early works were edgy, cynical, and not at all spiritual.  His most recent book is different.  It is more introspective and contains a good bit of soul-searching and spiritual openness.  The title of this book is “Life After God.”  On the book cover description of what is inside, Coupland says this to those of Generation X:  “You are the first generation to be raised without religion.”

            Many of the ‘Baby Boomers,’ filled with the spirit of rebellion against all authority in the 1960’s, were very intentional about abandoning whatever faith they had been brought up to believe.  Coupland’s own parents were both raised in Christian homes, but then they made sure no religious faith of any kind would be a part of their home life or child-raising.  So God was not a part of Coupland’s childhood, or, adult life—until recently.  And now, this spokesman for Generation X is seeing a bit of searching for something many of them never had, but are beginning to feel a need for in their heart.  The book “Life After God” contains several short stories.  Coupland is still edgy, and I don’t think any of his stories will be made into Hallmark movies.  But God, or at least the absence of God, is what drives the characters in this book.  They know that their lives are lacking something, even if they don’t yet know what it is or where to find it. 

            Scout, the young man in the last short story of the book, is the most open about what he thinks has gone wrong in his life.  Scout is remorseful over his many mistakes.  His marriage has stagnated.  He is trapped in a job he hates.  He has no deep friendships.  Life just isn’t what it used to be, or what he expected it would be, and he looks into his future with anxiety.  Finally, Scout comes to this conclusion.  He seems almost embarrassed to admit it, even calling it his ‘secret.’  He says, “My secret is that I need God—that I am sick and can no longer make it alone.  I need God to help me give, because I no longer seem to be capable of giving; I need God to help me to be kind, as I no longer seem capable of kindness; and I need God to help me love, as I seem beyond being able to love.”  One reviewer noted that Scout, and his friends who are also troubled and confused and empty, hold a resentment against their parents for neglecting to instill in them any measure of solid faith or lasting hope.  The story is a fictional one, but from what I’ve read about Coupland, I would guess he is expressing some of his own feelings in these words.  He is certainly trying to describe what is going on in the hearts of many of that generation.

            Now, you know I am always up here telling you that you need Jesus.  That’s what I do here.  You expect me to do that.  You even pay me to do that; and so that could lead to bit of skepticism about what I say.  Some might say, “Pastors are supposed to talk that way, but the real world has moved beyond all that old stuff in the Bible.”  In previous sermons, I have told you about my own struggles with doubt and how I became convinced of the truth and hope to be found in Jesus Christ.  But Coupland tells a different kind of story, has had a very different journey, and his words have a different kind of credibility.  I went through a period of questioning everything I had ever been taught—that’s what many Baby Boomers did.  But Coupland says that many in Generation X, broken by life, are searching for something they have never known.  (continued…)


Deuteronomy 4:29  —  If … you seek the Lord your God, you will find him, if you seek him with all your heart and with all your soul.

I Chronicles 28:9b  —  …The Lord searches every heart and understands every desire and every thought.  If you seek him, he will be found by you; but if you forsake him, he will reject you forever.

Psalm 63:1  —  You, God, are my God, earnestly I seek you; thirst for you, my whole being longs for you, in a dry and parched land where there is no water.


Lead, Kindly Light, amidst the encircling gloom
Lead Thou me on!
The night is dark, and I am far from home —
Lead Thou me on!
Keep Thou my feet; I do not ask to see
The distant scene—one step enough for me.

–John Henry Newman (1801-1890) Catholic cardinal, convert from Anglicanism