Humans are capable of unpredictable things. It’s evidenced by the rise of Nazi Germany, by Rwanda, by mass shootings, and by the cross. We are surprisingly capable of falling into sin, not just as individuals, but as a mass of people—and America is not “too-civilized” to fall into the trap.
Martin Luther’s reformed Germany became Hitler’s Hell. The kingdom of darkness was ousting the kingdom of light. The land known for theologians was becoming a land known for satanic ideologies. This happened some 1900 years after the atrocities of the cross. You’d think we would have known better.
It was only a little over two decades ago that strange things began to happen amongst the Hutus and the Tutsis. Over the course of three months, somewhere between eight hundred thousand to a million Rwandans were murdered and three quarters of the Tutsi population were exterminated.
The genocide made no sense. Hutus murdered their friends and neighbors on command. One Hutu said, “The worst thing about the massacre was killing my neighbor; we used to drink together. His cattle would graze on my land. He was like a relative” (1). A Hutu mother talked about killing the children next door who had been her neighbors and friends. Apparently, someone from the government had told her that the Tutsis were her enemies and they gave her a club to kill them with and she did it.
What kind of madness is this? We hear the stories and we know. It’s demonic fallen power kind of madness. It’s beyond human. It’s not that we’re therefore not responsible for committing such atrocities, but at the same time we can’t help but note that there’s a corrupt force behind it. The corrupt gods have taken us into some dark places.
We celebrate violence. We watch TV shows about real life criminals and celebrate what they got away with. The darker a TV show can be, the more we think it’s the best thing on TV. We make movies about atrocities that happened within the last decade, communicating to past real-life-villains and real-life-villains-in-the-making that we just might make them a Hollywood star if they can be evil enough.
We act as though we could never be so depraved, but then neo-nazis display the principalities and powers before America’s news outlets and suddenly everyone can’t agree that neo-nazis are a bad thing.
We are all capable of being the mob that killed Jesus, no matter how civilized we are. We are capable of falling prey to psychology, sociology and spirituality. And sometimes it only takes a short amount of time.
And so in the darkness of great evil, we turn to the light of the world, hanging on the black hole that is the cross. And there, with arms wide open He beckons us, saying, “You and the powers and principalities are capable of this, but I’m capable of something greater.” Though we’re capable of the senseless murder of an innocent man, He is capable of saying, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Lk 23:34). They have been blinded by the powers. Satan has entered into Judas (Lk 22:3) and set the crucifixion in play and the rulers of the age have gone through with crucifying Him through us (1 Cor 2:8). And in doing so, the powers have signed their death warrant for they have killed a sinless man. They may still be here and may still afflict us, but they are now “doomed to pass away” (1 Cor 2:6).
This is an adapted excerpt from my book, The Rush and the Rest.
(1) Zimbardo, Philip G., The Lucifer Effect: Understanding How Good People Turn Evil. New York, Random House Trade Paperbacks, 2008, p. 12-13.