End of the Matter
Pope Francis was quoted on Sunday, April 12, 2015 as saying, “It seems that humamity is incapable of putting a halt to the shedding of innocent blood.” This statement was made as he condemned the “first genocide of the 20th Century” in which the over 1.5 million Armenians were “senselessly slaughtered by the Ottoman Turks from 1915 to 1923.” The Pope went on to cite other 20 Century genocides “orchestrated by the Nazis and the Soviets under Stalin, while also condemning other mass killings, like those in Cambodia, Rwanda, Burundi, and Bosnia.” (Democrat-Gazette, April 13, 2015.)
The Pope needn’t have cited only the atrocities of the 20th Century, but, in fact, he could have gone all the way back to Adam and Eve, cataloguing the unending litany of violence that has been mankind’s unhappy history. It is the why – “that humanity is incapable of putting a halt to the shedding of innocent blood” – that J. Huntington Smedley answers here, building on last week’s discourse of man’s innate nature of selfishness.
Smedley proposed that when a corrupt set of beliefs is blended with the selfish nature of the individual, conflict, violence, and chaos arise. It is obvious that the flawed nature of man is the problem, not only on an individual basis but also on a corporate level. On an individual basis, he quarrels, he takes from others, he hurts with words and fists – all driven by his selfish nature; on a corporate level, they war, they terrorize, they commit genocide, they enslave.
Can this never-ending destruction ever be halted, Smedley asks. Yes, possibly he says, but probably not, as it will take a miraculous transformation of a vast number of human beings. To end the plague of violence that is generated by our selfish nature, the first step toward resolution is to recognize what is the basic underlying problem: Man must admit he is flawed and in desperate need of transformation. Most people do recognize the divide of their thoughts and behavior from their consciences and those precepts they have learned from their parents and communities. (“I know that this is wrong, but I am going to do it anyway!”) Many also sense that their actions offend “God” and that approval, forgiveness, and/or acceptance from this being needs to be addressed.
Over the centuries, Man has taken many different avenues towards rectifying this perceived disconnection. Unfortunately, most all of these approaches – if not all – have proven to be dead-ends, or worse, paths leading to more misery. Smedley lists some of humanity’s skewed precepts which have not only not resolved the underlying problem, but have actually served to exacerbate it:
1. Humanism/Atheism which denies the existence of God, while elevating Man as the master, the ultimate source of good. Clearly, this approach completely fails as it ignores the basic cause of the humanity’s problem – the innate selfishness of man.
2. Very close to the above are belief systems and religions that declare that Man is basically “good”. Because he sees himself as innately righteous, he doesn’t need transformation but only needs to do more “good” things to balance out his occasional “misdeeds.”
3. Revenge is an honorable behavior. No “Love your enemy” here, only payback.
4. Any means justifies a “good” end.
5. That one person or race is superior and has more value than another. (Pure egotism.)
6. God grades on the curve! “I’m not a s bad as that guy!”
7. Doing the prescribed things of “religion.” Alms, legalism, self-righteousness, praying a certain number of time in a correct positions, waving incense, chanting, et al ad nauseam.
8. That truth is relative. Absolutes are archaic. New rules for new times.
Smedley concludes that the only path that will provide the necessary transformation to save the individual and mankind is to recognize that you are flawed and the you need the transforming power of the Creator to make you whole, to make you to be a blessing and not a curse!