faith, life, depression, struggle

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Endless, endless conflict

I am grieved this morning as I look at a photo essay on ForeignPolicy.com, titled (appropriately enough) Planet War. There are currently at least 33 conflicts still ongoing in our world, keeping the brutality machine operating at a steady clip. Of course, it's the personal stories of the innocent civilian victims that break the heart. As Stalin is misattributed with saying, "One death is a tragedy. A million deaths is a statistic."

I'm not picking on Africa here. Endless war is in the nature of that hideous, corrupt manifestation, the human soul. Also on ForeignPolicy.com, the New York Times' East African bureau chief, Jeffrey Gettleman, has an insightful article on why efforts to quell these wars on the African continent never amounts to much. He writes:

I've witnessed up close -- often way too close -- how combat has morphed from soldier vs. soldier (now a rarity in Africa) to soldier vs. civilian. Most of today's African fighters are not rebels with a cause; they're predators. That's why we see stunning atrocities like eastern Congo's rape epidemic, where armed groups in recent years have sexually assaulted hundreds of thousands of women, often so sadistically that the victims are left incontinent for life. What is the military or political objective of ramming an assault rifle inside a woman and pulling the trigger? Terror has become an end, not just a means.

Why do we endlessly destroy each other? All the old reasons, of course. Nationalism. Tribalism. Greed. Fear. Hatred. Sadism. Faith, even! James put it so perfectly in his epistle to the Jerusalem church:

What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions. You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.
—James 4:1-4 (ESV)
Here's another thing: The "them" of child soldiers and rapacious militia leaders who terrorize their fellow humans ... is me. There is nothing in them that is not also in me. If the Milgram experiment at Yale and the Stanford prison experiment taught us anything (actually, confirmed what the Bible teaches about our very nature), it's that every one of us is capable of being the Nazi, of causing grave suffering to our fellow human beings under the right circumstances.

There is no hope in this world. Hope lives in Christ, and I live in Christ by the grace and mercy of my Lord alone. Aside from whatever change He has wrought within my heart, I fear and hate the motivations that move within me. May God forgive me for my wicked heart.

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