Guantanamo and Communism; hearts and minds

26 Feb
How do you change the world?
If God exists, why doesn’t he come in all guns blazing and sort everything out? We’re obviously in a mess. A tiny proportion of the world owns a huge proportion of its stuff, and they die of obesity while the rest die of starvation. What we ought to do is make it the law to share with your neighbours. We should strip the rich of their riches and give them to the poor. We’re all born equal; we should all live equal. The Bible cries out against the injustice caused by greed.
So, if we reorganised the system that way, wouldn’t we save the world, make it a better, fairer place for all? Well yes, we would, if there were no such thing as sin. Some people have tried this, and called it Communism.
I’ve realised that Communism is an amazing piece of evidence for the existence of sin. By sin I don’t mean chocolate – I mean the pride, independence and lust for power of the human heart. Communism, in essence, is a very good idea. It’s a very Biblical idea. I like it. We’ll all share and all be equal, and nobody will be poor.
But it doesn’t work, does it. Why not? Because people are selfish, and greedy. Suddenly everybody is equal, yeah… apart from me.
So how do you change the world? We’re obviously in a mess. Bad people lurk in the dark, stabbing, raping and murdering women and children. Evil people train in evil terror camps to strap bombs to themselves and blow up thousands of innocents, with no regard for the sanctity of human life or human dignity. We should get rid of these psychos, set free those they have imprisoned, erase the evil ones from our beautiful planet.
If we could just do that, wouldn’t we save the world, make it a better place? Well yes, we would, if there were no such thing as sin. Sin is not confined to the "axis of evil", whatever on earth that is supposed to mean. It’s not them and us. It’s not "those evil sinners" versus us lot with our "I’m a good person" mantra. We are all infected with that disease of the heart that makes well-meaning communists corrupt, and well-meaning Americans torture torturers. 
I’m not sure anything has made me more incensed in recent years than Guantanamo Bay. Does the end justify the means? Is it fighting evil to imprison, humiliate and hideously torture people that you suspect might be "evil"? Is it upholding law and order to sneak around Federal law to detain people illegally? Is it upholding American ideals of freedom if your methods require you to go outside of the reach of the constitution? The signs at Guantanamo on the chain link fences read "honor bound to defend freedom". Has it ever been possible to be so blind to irony, to staggering hypocrisy? We believe in freedom, yes! Apart from theirs
We are all like this. Hypocrisy is our default, because we make lovely speeches about our morals and don’t even notice that we aren’t keeping them ourselves. "Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?" said Jesus. "How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when you yourself fail to see the plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye."
So how do you change the world, if it’s not by enforcing fairer laws, or stricter punishments, or smiting the evildoers? God’s answer is this: hearts and minds. If you force someone to give what they own to somebody else, they’ll do it grudgingly, and still harbour greed. If you put to death somebody’s teacher for being a terrorist, their students will only work more zealously. But… if you change somebody’s entire heart, deal with the sin, and then send them back into the world, they can begin to act with integrity. They become people who want to share, people who want to be peaceful and people who want to give their lives for others rather than taking life.
It strikes me that the only way to change anything at all is to change hearts and minds. We can try to tackle knife crime in schools by frisking the pupils on their way in; or they could feel secure and loved enough not to engage in violence. We can try to help struggling countries by deposing their corrupt leaders; or those leaders could change their ways and govern justly. It strikes me that this is exactly what Christianity is all about. The change that happens when you become a Christian is called, in the Bible, "repentance". The Greek word for repentance means a "change of mind". But you can’t possibly change your mind that drastically and fundamentally by yourself. It requires death and then rebirth. Jesus said, "I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again." It’s the only way to change the world, and it’s exactly the way God is saving the world. One by one by one…

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