All These People Agree With The Bible?

It isn’t often that a Christian finds their world view supported by an indie rock band, a winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, and a New York Times columnist. And yet it is difficult for anyone to deny the universal sinfulness of human beings.

In 1986, Elie Wiesel won the Nobel Peace Prize for his work on behalf of the persecuted around the world. His most well known book is Night which the The New York Times calls “A slim volume of terrifying power.” The book is Wiesel’s personal account of the evil that he encountered in Germany’s concentration camps during the Holocaust.

Being subjected to the horrors of human cruelty, it is in the camps that he lost his faith in God.

Never shall I forget that night, the first night in camp, that turned my life into one long night seven times sealed. Never shall I forget that smoke. Never shall I forget the small faces of the children whose bodies I saw transformed into smoke under a silent sky. Never shall I forget those flames that consumed my faith forever. Never shall I forget the nocturnal silence that deprived me for all eternity of the desire to live. Never shall I forget those moments that murdered my God and my soul and turned my dreams to ashes. Never shall I forget those things, even were I condemned to live as long as God Himself. Never. (Night, 34)

Although there are plenty of reminders of the evil that human beings are capable of, even the most hardened can still be surprised. On April 19, 2006, Thomas Friedman, the Foreign Affairs Columnist for the New York Times, was interviewed by James Fallows of the Atlantic Monthly on the Charlie Rose Show. Friedman, a supporter of the Iraq war and a critic of its execution, was asked what mistakes he made, if any, when he offered his support to the plan to oust Sadaam Hussein. His answer was startling. Friedman, a well traveled, historically aware man if there ever was one, replied that he wrongly underestimated the depravity of those who would send suicide bombers into funerals and cut off the heads of innocent civilians.

It seems that Friedman is not alone. Many people get lulled into believing the 21st century dogma that we are all essentially good people and that our sinfulness is more of a product of our environment than our nature. Sure, we affirm that evil is real and dangerous but it remains distant and far off – something other people do. Simply put: there is a severe disconnect between the way we see the world and the way we see ourselves.

Enter the Flaming Lips, the indie rock band whose latest full CD release is At War With the Mystics. Known for their outrageous lyrics, startling videos, and circus like concerts, one of the Lips most downloaded songs off the new album is The Yeah Yeah Yeah Song. The lyrics make the universal personal.

The Yeah Yeah Yeah Song

If you could blow up the world with the flick of a switch
Would you do it?
If you could make everybody poor just so you could be rich
Would you do it?
If you could watch everybody work while you just lay on your back
Would you do it?
If you could take all the love without giving any back
Would you do it?
And so we cannot know ourselves or what we’d really do…

With all your power
With all your power
With all your power
What would you do?

If you could make your own money and then give it to everybody
Would you do it?
If you knew all the answers and could give it to the masses
Would you do it?
No no no no no no are you crazy?
It’s a very dangerous thing to do exactly what you want
Because you cannot know yourself or what you’d really do

With all your power
With all your power
With all your power

The truth is that sin isn’t someone else’s problem. It’s our problem. The same sins that we rightly find repulsive when we see them in others are in our own heart. Are we honest enough with God and ourselves to admit that?

Any explanation of human beings that doesn’t satisfactorily explain this corruption must be rejected as naïve and incomplete. Say what you might, the Bible explains the evil we see in the world as well as in ourselves.

Back to Elie Wiesel’s story. The thing that I most respect is his honesty. He confesses that he too “didn’t pass the test.” In his account we see the ways that the Jews, the victims, mistreated each other. Will we be as honest?

Where does this discussion about our own sinfulness lead us? It should lead us to the cross.

In perhaps the most well known passage in the book, Wiesel recounts how the prisoners were made to watch the hanging of a child. As each man was forced to walk by and look at him at close range he heard a man behind him ask…

“For God’s sake, where is God?”
And from within me, I heard a voice answer:
“Where He is? This is where—hanging here from this gallows…”

Now I don’t want to pretend that I know what the author meant. Perhaps, Wiesel was saying that his God was dying as a result of what he was seeing. If so, he isn’t alone. Many people leave their faith because they are unable to reconcile their view of God with their experience in the world.

But I can’t read those words without thinking of Jesus who “became obedient to death, even death on a cross.” The Christian answer isn’t to deny evil or to minimize its brutal effects. The Bible simply points to Jesus and says that on the cross he bore our sins, he became sin for us, he took the wrath of God that we deserved upon himself, he paid the penalty for sin. And not just the sins of others. He died for my sin. My pride, my gossip, my anger, my selfishness, my greed—the wrath I deserved for these sins and countless more was poured out on Jesus.

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