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Yesterday I was asked, "What makes you sad?"

And I couldn't really answer without being trite. But today I can.

What makes me sad?

Heath Ledger dead. Possibly of an overdose.
Amy Winhouse filmed smoking crack.
Britney Spears looking to get pregnant.

But it's not just a problem "out there" that makes me sad.

Someone answered, in the 'what-makes-you-sad' conversation, that they're saddened by the atrocities people commit against each other in situations like the Holocaust and genocides in Rwanda and other places. The way it was said, I thought it sounded like 'I can't believe people can do that to each other!' And it reminded me of two things.

I recently listened to Tim Keller talk (not in person) about our difficulty forgiving certain actions or sins of others. And the reason we can't forgive, he said, is that we imagine ourselves to be above that sort of sin. There is an Other - the sinful person - and there is Us - the person who would never do "that."

Donald Miller tells this story:
"It's terrible," I told him. "Two and a half million people dead. In one village they interviewed about fifty or so women. All of them had been raped, most of them numerous times."

Tony shook his head. "That is amazing. It is so difficult to even process how things like that can happen."

"I know. I can't get my mind around it. I keep wondering how people could do things like that."

"Do you think you could do something like that, Don?" Tony looked at me pretty seriously. I honestly couldn't believe he was asking the question.

"What are you talking about?" I asked.

"Are you capable of murder or rape or any of the stuff that is taking place over there?"


"So you're not capable of any of those things?" he asked again. He packed his pipe and looked at me to confirm my answer.

"No, I couldn't," I told him. "What are you getting at?"

"I just want to know what makes those guys over there any different from you and me. They are human. We are human. Why are we any better than them, you know?"

Tony had me on this one. If I answered his question by saying yes, I could commit those atrocities, that would make me evil, but if I answered no, it would suggest I believed I am better evolved than some of the men in the Congo. And then I would have some explaining to do.

"You believe we are capable of those things, don't you, Tony?"

He lit his pipe and breathed in until the tobacco glowed orange and let out a cloud of smoke. "I think so, Don. I don't know how else to answer the question."
I hate this more than anything. This is the hardest principle within Christian spirituality for me to deal with. The problem is not out there; the problem is the needy beast of a thing that lives in my chest.
To which I say, Amen.


Silas said…
huh, neat thoughts. makes me re-examine my own heart
Anonymous said…
Have you ever thought about how you would have behaved if you had lived in one of the occupied countries in Europe during WWII? Would you have helped a Jewish neighbour or stranger? I love to jump on the answer, "Yes, of course?" But then I think...would I really have? Especially if I had been raised with certain beliefs, with the messages I had heard in school, at home, and in my town? When it meant disobeying laws and risking my own life? Would I have questioned those beliefs that had been drilled into me? Would I have gone against the rules?

Do I question government and society's messages now? Do I stand up for those who are being exploited and denied basic rights in our own society (even in Canada) today?

I don't like the answer I come up with.
Terra said…
its just like chesterton said in response to 'whats wrong with the world?' - Me.
Laura J said…
it IS all about the "needy beast" that lives within us. It's what makes us hurt one another and withhold from one another. That's what makes our spirits so poor and needy.

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