Thursday, April 28, 2011

I hate to say it, but the Gerbil Boy got it right

Just got back from the Genocide Museum in Kigali, Rwanda. History and human nature is a bitch!

One of the greatest challenges I have is learning the deeper lessons from rancid atrocities. I've been to The two genocide memorials/museums in Phnom Penh, Cambodia; the Apartheid museum in Johannesburg, South Africa; WWII graves and memorials throughout Europe; seen enough Holocaust histories and survivor accounts to justify never seeing another; and learned enough about the Atlantic slave trade and the treatment of First Nations people to ever glorify America (we own our own shame). The deepest lesson is not found in learning how not to repeat the actions of these "monsters", but in learning how not to hate them.

Hate is natural for humans, it can grow in any soil and brings fruit without water. I feel justified in hating Nazis, Pol Pot, the Janjaweed, etc. but in doing so I become like them. Each of these groups, and countless others, were motivated by a justified hate. On the surface there is a clear difference between my hatred and theirs, but can the same be said below the surface? To think you or your people are incapable of creating and participating in a holocaust is to ignore the lessons of the past. We are all capable of anything and to ignore this is to lower the defenses against it. Even as I see the consequences of hate, hate rises up in me for those who act in it. To see the 1994 genocide in Rwanda is to believe in the Devil. It was his work, but he used our hands. This holds true for so many other moments in history, big and small.

I've been reading some arguments for and against the existence of God, they fall on the foundation of countless conversations and arguments from the past. Unspoken so far is the evidence of forgiveness. It is slowly building in my mind as the strongest evidence for the existence of the Divine. Hate and forgiveness are uniquely human (I think), and while one comes naturally to us the other is super-humanly unnatural. There is nothing natural about forgiveness, it is difficult under the best of circumstances; under the worst it is humanly impossible. At the same time, forgiveness is essential to health and life while hate destroys and rots.

The physical and psychological impact of these two behaviors, from a purely evolutionary and cultural conditioning perspective, would seem to make forgiveness the natural response and hate the unnatural (much like the arguments for love and a natural predisposition to religion). This obviously isn't the case. Richard "Gerbil Boy" Gere, soon after 9/11 boldly stated we needed to forgive the people responsible for the murder of so many Americans - the national response was NOT positive. I don't imagen many pastors risked this same statement in the supposed safety of their own churches, churches ideally built on a foundation of forgiveness. Even for those who claim its virtues, forgiveness is unnatural and threatening.

I'm left believing few things point to the probability of a superhuman standard, system, or influence with the same authority as the unnaturalness, essentialness, and power of forgiveness. If there wasn't something more than us, and we are the product of evolution, I can't imagine forgiveness would exist or that hate would be so natural and destructive, both to ourselves and others. Yet, they do and are.

One of the reasons I'm a Christian, and not just a Deist, is because of the way Jesus engaged our suffering and his last words on the cross were those of forgiveness. This is not behavior a human would have considered in the creation of their own religion, or god. It goes against our nature, yet reveals or deepest need and desire. Until we can forgive Hitler, Pol Pot, Stalin, other genocide-ists, and the asshole who just cut you off, we will dangerously resemble them and they will continue to inflict their influence on us. Jesus is the only one who taught, modeled, and, through the power of the Holy Spirit, provided another way.

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