Signs of the times

Hope, Hate & Human Nature

Berit Kjos - January 2007

At age 22 Amy Carmichael heard God's call and gave Him her life. He led her from the comforts of northern Ireland to the poverty of southern India, where neither scarcity, sickness, nor hostility could dim her God-given love for abused and abandoned orphans.

While Amy was rescuing little girls sacrificed to Hindu gods as temple prostitutes, her Irish countrymen were fighting and killing each other. But their local battles were minuscule compared to World War 1, which drew dozens of "civilized" nations into a deadly 4-year struggle that claimed more than a million lives.

Are humans naturally good -- or evil?  In today's postmodern, post-Christian era, senseless violence is rising along with immorality, insolence and intolerance. Thanks to high tech media, those signs of the times reach around the world.[1] While gang warfare erodes personal security in America, an article in the British Financial Times describes the chaos in Palestine:  

"Gangland slayings in the Palestinian territories this week have pitted the Islamist gunmen of Hamas against the secular forces of Fatah. The killings defy civilized norms: In December even children were targeted for murder.

"But the killings also defy political common sense. Ariel Sharon's wall cuts terrorists off from Israeli targets and what happens? The violence - previously justified with the cause of a Palestinian homeland - continues as if nothing had changed, merely finding its outlet in a new set of targets. This makes it appear that Palestinian violence has never really been about a 'cause' at all. The violence is, in a strange way, about itself."[2]

According to that article, today's terrorizing assaults are unrelated to Islamic Jihad or religious zeal. Instead, it suggests that people are naturally driven by rage and thirst for violence. At least, that's what Gunnar Heinsohn, a German social scientist and genocide researcher seems to suggest. He goes on to say:

"...when 15 to 29-year-olds make up more than 30 per cent of the population, violence tends to happen; when large percentages are under 15, violence is often imminent. The 'causes' in the name of which that violence is committed can be immaterial. There are 67 countries in the world with such 'youth bulges' now and 60 of them are undergoing some kind of civil war or mass killing."[2]

Some argue that money is the answer. Others disagree. "In El Salvador, for instance, the explosion of political killing in the 1970s and 1980s was preceded by a 27 per cent rise in per capita income."[3] Instead, the author blames envy and low self-esteem fueled by natural quest for success and prestige. But a decade of educational efforts to inflate self-esteem has done little to tame the raging fires of the heart.

In spite of the loving witness of missionaries like Amy Carmichael, a growing number of angry atheists blame Biblical Christianity for the ills of the world. A Wall Street Journal article
(1-5-07) shows the kind of passion that drives the changing tides of rage:

"To a lot of atheists, the fate of civilization and of mankind depends on their ability to cool -- or better, simply to ban -- the fevered fancies of the God-intoxicated among us. Naturally, the atheists focus their peevishness not on Muslim extremists... but on the old-time Christian religion.....In any case, they conclude: God is not necessary, God is impossible and God is not permissible if our society -- or even our species -- is to survive.

"What is new about the new atheists? ... It's their tone that is novel. Belief, in their eyes, is not just misguided but contemptible.... For them, belief in God is beyond childish, it is unsuitable for children. Today's atheists are particularly disgusted by the religious training of young people -- which Dr. Dawkins calls 'a form of child abuse.' He even floats the idea that the state should intervene to protect children from their parents' religious beliefs.....

"The new atheists fail too often simply for want of charm or skill.... Here is Sam Harris, for instance, addressing those who wonder if destroying human embryos in the process of stem cell research might be morally dicey: "Your qualms... are obscene."[3]

The arrogance of this new breed of atheists may lessen its influence. More persuasive are media leaders and educators who vilify genuine Christian by blaming them for historical atrocities. They point to the Spanish Inquisition that tortured and killed Protestant believers across Europe, forgetting that the powerful religious/political rulers of the times bore little resemblance to Jesus' humble followers. (Genuine Christians would give their lives to demonstrate God's love, not take lives in order to gain power.) And they point to the Crusades, oblivious to their actual history.

Yes, Rome dispatched thousands of mercenary warriors to reclaim Jerusalem and protect the endangered lives of pilgrims who longed to visit the beloved capital's sacred sites. But historical revisions have hidden the fact that Jerusalem had been conquered in the 7th century by vast Muslim armies that slaughtered Jews and Christians and destroyed their communities around the Mediterranean. A century later, the rising Islamic empire reached from Spain to Western China.[4]

Of course, revenge and retribution can't fix human hearts. Nor can psychology, philosophy, atheism or global governance. The real answers to questions dealing with hate, hope and human hearts are only found in the Bible. And long ago, God warned His wayward people that "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked." Jeremiah 17:9 Then He showed them His way to peace:

"I will give you a new heart.... I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them. Then... you shall be My people, and I will be your God. I will deliver you from all your uncleannesses...." Ezekiel 36:26-28

Such a new heart was given to a radical Muslim activist involved in Iran's militant Free Islamic Revolutionary Movement. A teacher in Islamic fundamentalism, Daniel Shayesteh was determined to exterminate Jews and Christians. But God had another plan.

Dr. Shayesteh had supported the Ayatollah Khomeini, but he was imprisoned when Khomeini began his reign of terror. Three friends incarcerated with him were hanged, but he was miraculously freed and escaped to Turkey. He was given a Bible, began to study it, and found in it the reality of a loving, personal God."[5]

Dr. Shayesteh knows the cost of discipleship, for Jesus made it clear: "If they persecuted me, they will persecute you."  But, like Amy Carmichael, he has discovered something far greater. As a citizen of God's eternal kingdom and a pilgrim here on earth, his eyes are set on the King. No matter what challenges he might face, God's life in him spreads the sweet fragrance of His peace and hope among those who hear and follow.

Hast thou no scar? by Amy Carmichael

No wound? No scar?
Yet, as the Master shall the servant be....
Can he have followed far
Who has nor wound nor scar?

              See also Signs of the times and The fall and rise of human violence


1. www.crossroad.to/HisWord/verses/topics/signs.htm

2. Christopher Caldwell, "Youth and war, a deadly duo," Financial Times, 1-6-07. www.ft.com/cms/s/652fa2f6-9d2a-11db-8ec6-0000779e2340.html

3. Sam Schulman, "Without God, Gall Is Permitted," Wall Street Journal, 1-5-07 at http://online.wsj.com/article_email/SB116797141726367965-lMyQjAxMDE3NjA3NTkwNzUxWj.html

4. www.crossroad.to/Excerpts/chronologies/islam.htm

5. www.ministryblue.com/exodus-bio.html and www.answersingenesis.org/articles/am/v2/n1

Home | Articles | News | Chart | Re-Inventing the Church