Driving back from a recent consultation I was listening to the daily BBC report on NPR. (yes they have some worthy programming) The date was the 20 anniversary of the start of the Rwanda genocide during which some 800,000 people lost their lives to a savagery that shocked the world. One hundred days of unspeakable cruelty in a country that I believe at the time was considered around 90% “Christian.” 

Jackie Northam, the Canadian reporter involved, tells the story of interviewing a Hutu man some months later who was involved in the killings. “He told me they were people he’d been friends with and regularly shared dinner with. He was a godfather to one of the children he killed. He couldn’t explain why; he said he didn’t know what came over him.” This is likely what a lot of prosecutors heard from the testimonies of those accused of similar atrocities during the reign of terror in Hitler’s Nazi Germany. But the real telling part of the Northam piece is what she says at the end. 

For me, this sums up the Rwanda genocide. It’s like a madness took over the country, turning otherwise normal, reasonable, loving people into monsters. It took me a long time afterward to try to make sense of what I had witnessed.

But I finally concluded there was no use trying. I believe mankind, at its base, is good. What happened in Rwanda 20 years ago was an aberration. (you can read the article and listen to her story here)

Here in a nutshell is one of the essentials that distinguishes those who function from a biblically informed view vs those who still, in spite of all that history has shown us, hold to the secular/humanist faith system. We recognize that the bible is true in what it teaches about our basic nature. That we are sinful and when left to our own devices we will choose evil. (think Lord of the Flies) Yes we are made in the image of God and have great capacity for good works. But as illustrated during this terrible chapter in human existence when all restraint is thrown off we all have the capacity to butcher our neighbors just as happened in Rwanda and we all have the capacity to act just like the Nazi’s in Germany in the 1930’s and ’40’s. If we don’t understand this then we don’t truly grasp the depth of God’s grace on the cross. Without a true understanding of our own capacity for evil we cannot know the full grace of Christ.

The question of how this could have happened in a country considered mostly “Christian” is a post for a later time. Also for a later time is the discussion surrounding the term “faith based organization.” I would argue there isn’t a person on earth working for an NGO or other charitable organization that isn’t doing it based on a faith system of some sort.  

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