7

The Black Heart of Man

“When God put man in a garden
He girt him with a sword,
And sent him forth a free knight
That might betray his lord;

“He brake Him and betrayed Him,
And fast and far he fell,
Till you and I may stretch our necks
And burn our beards in hell.

GK Chesterton, The Ballad of the White Horse

 

The Vegas Massacre reminds me of the basic fact of the human condition:  free will.  We are made in the image of God in that, like God, we have freedom of will.  Unlike God, we sometimes choose evil.  Looking at what I have just written, that is incorrect.  Sometimes we revel in it.  Absent mental illness, that is precisely what the Vegas shooter was doing as he gunned down hundreds, slaying 59 innocents and counting.

We live in a time of pernicious make-believe when all too many assume that Man is essentially good and that if only we have enough laws and social programs, utopia awaits.  Our ancestors were usually wiser.  They understood that evil is part and parcel of the human condition, which is why Man needs a Savior.  Too many of us today have forgotten that all-important element in understanding Man.  Thus crime is not to be punished, but rather criminals are to be rehabilitated.  Men are not responsible for their actions and thus we focus on inanimate objects that are somehow held to be responsible for the evil that Men do.  Mercy is emphasized rather than justice.  Man is taken to be infinitely malleable and if only we could find the right social formula, ghastly events like the Vegas massacre would be just bad memories.

In our folly we trust in Man to cure his sickness of soul, a hope that is to be ever disappointed.  Our only hope is in God, and a turning to Him to save us from the evil within us that ever threatens to engulf ourselves and others.  One hundred and twenty years ago Rudyard Kipling, who described himself as a devout Christian atheist, understood Man so much better than we do today:

 

God of our fathers, known of old,
   Lord of our far-flung battle-line,
Beneath whose awful Hand we hold
   Dominion over palm and pine—
Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet,
Lest we forget—lest we forget!
The tumult and the shouting dies;
   The Captains and the Kings depart:
Still stands Thine ancient sacrifice,
   An humble and a contrite heart.
Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet,
Lest we forget—lest we forget!
Far-called, our navies melt away;
   On dune and headland sinks the fire:
Lo, all our pomp of yesterday
   Is one with Nineveh and Tyre!
Judge of the Nations, spare us yet,
Lest we forget—lest we forget!
If, drunk with sight of power, we loose
   Wild tongues that have not Thee in awe,
Such boastings as the Gentiles use,
   Or lesser breeds without the Law—
Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet,
Lest we forget—lest we forget!
For heathen heart that puts her trust
   In reeking tube and iron shard,
All valiant dust that builds on dust,
   And guarding, calls not Thee to guard,
For frantic boast and foolish word—
Thy mercy on Thy People, Lord!

The black heart of Man can only be conquered by the white heart of God our savior.  Thy mercy on Thy People Lord!