Almost everyday, we are beset with news of daily atrocities, murders, and tragedies that continue to shake us. I sit in a somewhat curious state as I hear certain phrases so often repeated. “They seemed like such a normal person.” “My kids played at his/her house regularly.” Then the reporter chimes in, “How could such a normal person do such a thing?”
I guess what intrigues me in this constant replay from daily and weekly life is the surprise. The reporters genuinely seem surprised (by the actions committed) and in joining in with the social narrative’s rules, so do we! Many centuries ago, the ancient writer Herodotus wrote, “The most hateful torment for men is to have knowledge of everything but power over nothing.” This is perceptive.
The modern era was birthed in the consciousness of rational men and women in control of their own destinies. It was the age of reason; we can and would figure everything out. It was the age of man; no need for god, the gods, or superstitions of any kind. It was the age of science; the new insights, techniques, and technologies would allow us to build our brave new world. It was the age of progress, as many believed we would grow from good to great, and perhaps end up in (something like) Gene Roddenberry’s Star Trek future, where all need has been eradicated and all live for justice and the good of all.
The problem with this, and with all utopian dreams, is that they are illusions or delusions. They are fantasy constructs of the very sort Schopenhauer and Freud attacked in terms of religion. Despite promethean promises, guru advice, or our deepest sincere desires, wanting it badly enough does not make it so. What kind of a world do we live in? Who and what are we? What is wrong in life and with me? How can anything be improved? These are world and life view questions.
Back in the 90s, I was involved in several high level consultations on the condition of Europe. We heard many informed and insightful people speak to Europe’s spiritual condition, her drift, and many of the contributors to her current malaise. After some time, one veteran Christian leader said, “The problem at the heart of Europe is the problem of the European heart.” He was citing the words of Christ. “It is what comes out of a person that defiles. For it is from within, from the human heart, that evil intentions come” (Mark 7:20). Jesus pinpoints the human dilemma. The issue is not merely heritage, biology, sociology, politics, or economics; it has a fundamental root. As we learn from medicine, the wrong diagnosis leads to the wrong prognosis. This brings me back to the news, to the surprise at the latest outrages, endlessly paraded on our ubiquitous media. Are we misdiagnosing normal?
We all need heart surgery! We all know (in our deepest thoughts), that there are things in life and within us, over which we have little or no power, and for which we have little or no comprehension. The great physician, as our Creator and redeemer, specializes in the heart business. Broken hearts, angry hearts, selfish hearts, greedy hearts, and all kinds of hearts, can find an answer in Christ. All he asks is that we come to him and turn from our self-defined ways. Thankfully, the power to change rests in the hands of one whose power and goal it is to change us.
Stuart McAllister is vice president of training and special projects at Ravi Zacharias International Ministries in Atlanta, Georgia.