While the waters on the political front concerning the war on terror are murky at best, the Church’s role in the war on terror is even less clear, and Her response has been ashamedly less decisive. I remember thinking in the days and months following September 11 how little the Church really said in response to the problem of evil in the world, and what really would be the most God-glorifying, Christ-exalting response, not only to Muslim nations, but to all people’s of the world as we tried to make sense of the murderous madness that propelled the actions of the 19 hijackers who mercilessly ended the lives of thousands of people, all for the promise of a false paradise. Essentially, what we heard, from the culture and, surprisingly, even from evangelicals, is that: 1) Islam is a religion of peace; 2) The God of Protestants, Catholics and Jews is essentially the same as Islam’s Allah; 3) Islamic extremists hatred of the West is not representative of how most Muslims in the world feel about Western culture; 4) Islamic extremists are evil. Finally, the Church’s response to where God was on September 11 (or the tsunami of ’04, the AIDS epidemic in Africa, etc) has been tragically insufficient.

This begs the question: Why has the Church’s response to the problem of evil in the world been so surprisingly shallow? Why is our theology of evil and suffering so anemic? The problem lies, in part, on the abdication of social responsibility in many mainline( both evangelical and non-evangelical) churches in the West, a failure which exposes at its root an unwillingness to deal with the evil of our own heart that keeps us from pursuing justice the way Jesus’ Kingdom requires. Western culture has become increasingly dependant upon the support and intervention of government to solve the world’s problems. In essence, government has become a Deity in the eyes of many, a captivating dispenser of goods, services and rescue missions to the fallen masses of Western culture. Years ago the Church bore the responsibility of caring for widows, orphans and homeless individuals and families. It wasn’t so long ago that the Church bore the burden of caring for the sick and dying in society.

But why is this a problem and what does this have to do with evil and terrorism? Government does not have the capacity to sufficiently analyze the problem of evil because government lacks, in most cases, the spiritual compass to point them to the root of many social evils today – which is fundamentally an issue of the heart. This is not to say that widows, orphans and people who fall on hard times and lose everything do so because of their sinful depravity. Jesus made it clear in the Gospels that suffering isn’t always tied to sin. We have an abundance of social ills and evils in society, ranging from homelessness to hunger to health care, primarily because we are culture that lives selfishly with no regard for the needs of others, particularly if it requires personal investment. The heart problem is not primarily within the suffering who need help, though this may be the case at times, but essentially is an issue of the self-focused unwillingness of humanity to look beyond our own lives and desires to see the needs of others in our world. Therefore, our response to evil and suffering is grossly insufficient, primarily because we are not so different, in light of the Kingdom of God, from those we label “evil” in this world. We are as selfish in our unwillingness to give to save lives as terrorists are in their willingness to take life.

Our pride cries out in denial of this accusation, but to think differently is naïve. The solution to evil is not more education or dropping bombs on terrorists in far away lands. The solution to evil in the world is not bipartisan cooperation between Republicans, Democrats and Independents. The solution to evil is not a focused spirit of cooperation or a more tolerant climate of the views, opinions and beliefs of others in the world. All of these “solutions” make up the fabric of our government’s propoganda. These aren’t solutions because the problem is much more radical and powerful than this. Anglican Bishop N.T. Wright said, “…the line between good and evil doesn’t lie between ‘us’ [Westerners] and ‘them’ [terrorists], but runs as a jagged line through each human being and each human society.”[1]

And so, one reason the Church’s response to evil and suffering has been insufficient is because of our ambivalence to the problem of evil within our own hearts. We do not know how to confront the face of evil when it forces itself upon us in the form of terrorism because we also don’t have a sufficient response to the evil that lurks within us all.
[1] http://ntwrightpage.com/Wright_War_on_Terror.html, 3.

Advertisements