People are not basically good.
It’s not enough to know that, though, based simply on the awful visuals of small children suffering from the chemical attack in Syria last weekend. While those images are horrifying, the simple fact that there is evil in the world is not by itself evidence that we are all on some level complicit in a more general fallen state.
It could be that we lost our inherent nobility through a series of sloppy choices. It could be that we were a victim of circumstances that got the better of us and forced us into decadence or malevolence. It could be that we simply chose to forsake the goodness inside of us because of a drug-like obsession with the bad.
And most of us, Christian or otherwise, usually default to these beliefs in the aftermath of children being slaughtered: This can’t be who we are, and clearly we are better than this.
That’s why we create things like the United Nations. Or mandate public education. Or pursue gun control. The problem is never really us, but instead the insufficiency of the organizational or motivational feng shui we find ourselves in.
In essence, rearranging the deck chairs really can save the Titanic from sinking when you practice this worldview. For example, former Obama State Department spokesperson Marie Harf – who was just given her own radio program on Fox for reasons surpassing all understanding – once opined that the violent urges of the Middle East could largely be solved by a quality jobs program.
And of course there is always the sacred call for dialogue. If we only talked to each other, I mean really, really, really talked to each other, we would at long last open up the gates of reason and usher in peace in our time.
But here is the truth: The more we talk to each other while believing lies about who we truly are at heart, the more we will come to hate each other. And the more we seek solutions to transcend that hate via cheap, counterfeit notions of utopia, the deeper we will dig in on our biases and our tribalisms, thinking them righteous to the point of genocide – or infanticide of our own children.
That’s how you know we aren’t basically good. Not because we kill each other, but because our responses to killing each other are just as broken and confused as what brought on the killing itself.
If we were basically good, there would be something resembling an auto-correct to navigate us back home. The mere presence of evil would shock enough of us into the proper course of action because it’s how we were designed to be.
In the case of Syria, the wrath of the world would already have been such that no nation would ever forget the price Syria paid for deviating from the good, true, and beautiful. In fact, it wouldn’t require any more than the targeted disdain of its nearest neighbors – in this case those Islamic nations that stand to be most embarrassed by the behavior of those who share many of their cultural traits.
But that won’t happen. And the rest of the world will make countless excuses for why it won’t happen.
We are broken from the start. We remain broken at the end. What happens in between will be broken despite our best intentions. But it can be redeemed by something not of this world.
That something is God. And if we don’t believe God made those children in Syria and live accordingly, our wish to prevent the murder of those children who follow in the future can’t and won’t be stopped.
Because without God, that’s just who we are.