Thursday, February 26, 2015

Os Guinness and the American Sniper...The Reality of Evil

"The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick;who can understand it? I the LORD search the heart and test the mind, to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his deeds." 
(Jeremiah 17:9-10)

By Reverend Mark Hunnemann

Os Guinness, arguably the world's most gifted Christian cultural analyst, was supposed to speak in Manhattan on 9/11 at a dinner meeting  on the topic of evil.He later wrote a book which I recently read entitled "Unspeakable"(facing up to evil in an age of genocide and terror) It is rich with insights as he himself experienced horrible suffering/evil as a boy in China. After reading his profoundly insightful and intellectual analysis of evil, I then read "American Sniper", which is an existential/visceral expose' on the reality of evil ensconced in Iraq. Today I saw the movie version, and was unnerved, as I was when I finished the book. I see these two books as the flip side of the same coin of evil. Guinness intellectually analyzes it and Kyle reveals evil and attacks it. Both are needed, depending on the circumstances and our calling. The bible speaks with such profound insights into human nature...what it says corresponds to reality on an existential and intellectual level.

Guinness states, "The events of September 11 hit America and the West at large at a time when intellectual and moral responses to evil are weaker, more controversial, and more confused than they have been for centuries. Put simply, we no longer have a shared understanding about whether there is any such thing as evil. Some question whether it is proper to speak of anyone as our ENEMY....the force of the hijacked planes  hit the Western intellectual world as damagingly as it did the World Trade Center." (pg 3)  "Many an evil would have done none of its terrible damage downstream if it had been challenged upstream at its source." (pg 14)

"Understanding, identifying, and resisting evil should be central to the examined life."(pg 14) Or the biblical life as he states later.

According to my concordance there about 450 references to evil in the bible and about 350 references to wicked/ness. There are numerous synonyms and images for evil in the bible, so it is literally riddled with evil. Recognizing the reality of evil and suffering is a crucial component of a biblical worldview. Other worldviews have a supernatural aspect (albeit tainted) but the neo-gnostic worldview which is taking the world by storm is severely deficient when it comes to identifying/dealing with evil. In Eastern thought evil/suffering is merely an illusion, which explains why countries like India have little interest in human rights. In paranormal circles, even the most diabolical displays of demonic activity are often referred to as "negative" or the like. We must challenge this sentimentalizing trend. NOW..before it is too late.

We must realize that the categories of good/bad, right/wrong, wicked/righteous are disappearing from our culturally shared vocabulary, with horrendous and practical effects.
In a section subtitled 'A cause for pause' Guinness raises four troubling facts, which I will only mention, without his brilliant elucidation.

1. The scale and scope of evil has increased in the modern world
2. Modern people have demonstrated a consistently poor response to modern evil
3. Modern people have shown a chronic inability to name and judge evil and to respond effectively ( he notes psychologism, Pollyannaism, postmodernism, and philosophy has recognized its inability to deal effectively with major issues,like distinguishing right from wrong)
4.the worst modern atrocities were perpetrated by secularist regimes, led by secularist intellectuals and in the name of secularist beliefs.

In the book/movie, it was the bombing of the Word Trade Centers that gripped Chris Kyle, a SEAL warrior, and thrust him headlong to fight the "savages" and evil in Iraq, and to protect us.I found it providential that Guinness (who experienced profound evil as a child in China) was equally moved by the horrors of 9/11 that thrust him into a 'fight' to expose the reality of evil, in an evil denying culture.While evil lies serpentine-like in all of our hearts, it becomes ensconced in certain cultures...including our own. A child being taught by his mother that it is right (as civilians) to throw a grenade at those who have come to help them, is an example of evil that has become entrenched in a society. It is still evil...even if mother/son have embraced what they have been taught.The Lord is good and will infallibly deal with mitigating factors..

Let me back up. A few weeks ago I was waiting in line at the Dollar Store and a cashier moaned out loud that some guy had threatened to kill him a few minutes earlier because he was displeased with something or another. Knowing this man from numerous other encounters, I was about to respond when the lady in front of me said, " Well, he must be psychologically imbalanced to say something like that." She repeated her comment 2 more times, as I was turning red. In a muffled voice, I simply said, why do you automatically think he is psychologically imbalanced, when he might just be evil or mean?"

Quick caveat...all of us have cracks in our psyches due to the Fall. Some of my family members have significant emotional issues..some quite serious and debilitating.Many people suffer terribly. However, when this poor man's life was threatened, and this woman's instinctive, persistent analysis was that he "must be psychologically off.." it showed how much we have lost the categories of "right and wrong"..."good and evil" and have replaced them (dismissed) with psychological dislocation. I don't have the time to deal with psychological problems as I would like.

Os Guinness wrote a book which is deeply touching and intellectually compelling. One thing he shows is how different cultures views of evil effect how they treat people. Chris Kyle noticed the same in his own warrior mentality--Christians are taught to love their enemies but many Muslims are taught to kill them. Kyle's first 2 kills were of a child and a mother who were both trying to slaughter 20 Marines with a big, yellow Chinese grenade.Our veterans face especially virulent evil and have to respond with force....often suffering the rest of their lives for protecting us.

Guinness offers three key features to a biblical response to evil and suffering.

1. Acknowledge that evil resides in each of our hearts--this includes both realism and a sense of personal responsibility....which is contrary to mistaken notions today.
2. Forgive evil-doers appropriately, without condoning evil deed. This is not weakness/sentimentalism. Rather it shows that the past is not irreversible. "This is the only hope for breaking the cycle of violence and opening the door to a very practical politics of the second chance."
3. Take a practical stand against evil and injustice, whatever the cost. There are no cookie cutter solutions here."...but the same two maxims shine through all the stories of human goodness in the face of evil:however large or small our influence, however horrendous or ordinary the evil we face, we can at least all answer for ourselves as individual forces of good 'always ready to help' and one-person dissident movements drawing our lines in the sand and announcing resolutely, "But not through me." (evil, that is) (pg 155)

Evil abounds in our daily circumstances but may the Lord shine His goodness through us, and may we (in the face of the ubiquity of evil) say, "But not through me." The gospel is the only hope for mankind, and the civility it should produce in how we differ with others.Nevertheless, overwhelming evil will not respond to appeasement...sometimes it must be met with a sniper rifle. R.I.P. Chris Kyle and God bless the many other veterans who have/are served.

"Seeing Ghosts through God's Eyes" (also in a Kindle edition)...please consider purchasing my book which uses science, logic, and the bible to analyze the true source of power behind paranormal activity.