Saturday, July 30, 2011

Trinity 6 sermon notes (abbreviated!)

[First, a link to last weeks sermon, which I only just posted, but put back "down" in the 'blog, in its proper place temporally.]

“Love your enemies”


Let us consider North Korea. Last Stalinist, atheist state.

Horrifying, if the testimony of the escaped is true. Concentration camps for political prisoners, even for their children, grandchildren and great grandchildren. Human experimentation with chemical and biological weapons. Torture and beatings for no reason. Some go in their as children with their mother.

Personality cult for Kims. Repetition of adulatory programme on TV all day. Believe USA started Korean War. The deception is accepted even if not completely believed. The whole nation is not moved only by fear, but by their own all-too-human faculty for cruelty encouraged by circumstances.

No sympathy, even for children subjected to chemical weapons tests, vomiting blood, their parents trying to breath into their mouths till the last. Why? Torturers believe they are the enemy.

But this is no new thing, is not confined to one ethnic group or culture. Hitler. Stalin. Vikings: rape, pillage and plunder. Europe once awash with such viciousness. Shaka Zulu. Genghis Khan. Common theme? Merciless, wholesale massacres or tortures. What else? Why do we not see this in “the West”? Why are we so shocked and surprised by it? The answer: we (but not just the Christians) have been trained by the Church through long centuries, by the Catholic Faith, the Gospel. The leaven in the lump, the salt of the Earth. Those other cases epitomised the cultures not yet so influenced by it or having consciously rejected it. Natural Law of Conscience has never been enough. Our Western cultures and modern “civilised” institutions with their humane “intuitions” owe more than they know to Christ. (See D. B. Hart's Atheist Delusions for the evidence.) But we must remember two things. Sola gratia. Can be, is being, lost.

General lesson of such regimes? Clearly, to dehumanise others is to dehumanise yourself. This lesson must not be forgotten by any of us.

The moment we exclude a whole group of human beings from normal human sympathy, we diminish our own human dignity and worth. When we do this, we are treading, even if only part of the way, down the path of Hitler with the Jews, Stalin with the Ukrainians and Kulaks, Bin Laden with all non-Muslims. To forget that the “other”, the outsiders also were once little children, had mothers who loved them, bear children they too love, and have similar needs for food and fun, friendship and meaning, is to lose our own souls. One cannot be a true Christian without being fully human, and so humane.

What else can we as Christians learn from this hellishness?

  1. Relationship between sin and deception. Latter does not obviate former. Strengthens it. Yes, the evil is real, not just a misunderstanding. Willingness to be deceived the result of hunger for hate, etc. Pre-existing sinfulness happy to rationalise. Some ignorance is a convenient failure to see.

  2. We must not hate our enemies. Even those whose lives are epitomes of hate, like those who work for or are in the N.K. govt. We must overcome the initial wrath and pray for the sinners and their victims all at once. Otherwise we join them, as I was tempted to do in my imagination after watching a documentary on the subject. We can still pray for justice, and deliverance for the oppressed. But we must also desire repentance more than retribution for the oppressors.

  3. What about the souls of the victims, apparently out of reach of the gospel? We do not know, except to say that God is on the side of the poor and oppressed (see the Psalms!), the innocent victims. (He was one.) Justice will be done. Even the deepest evil will be conquered. In the meantime we must hope and pray for both justice and mercy to be poured upon that nation and all places of tyranny and cruelty. +

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