October 16, 2017

Mark Galli Uncovers Our Mixed Motives

Foot Washing, Culham Institute

By Chaplain Mike

Mark Galli is one of those writers that seems to have insight into my soul. Almost every article or book of his that I read resonates deeply within me.

Case in point, his current article in CT, “Insignificant Is Beautiful,” in which Galli asks the question, “Why exactly do we want to make a difference in the world?”

First, he notes the common observation that “Generation Y”—today’s younger generation—has a stated passion for social justice, and that many contrast this with other generations like the Baby Boomers, who are supposedly into success. Galli rightly exposes this for the myth it is. Every generation shows idealism in its youth. Did not the Baby Boomers sing the Beatles’ “Revolution” as a theme song, march for civil rights, protest the war in Viet Nam?

Second, he analyzes our idealistic tendencies, our desire to “change the world.” It has a darker side. It may have more to do with my own personal search for significance; it may be, in fact, a more altruistically-shaped form of narcissism. To illustrate, he tells of a friend who cares for his elderly mother. His ministry to her is hidden, rote, ordinary, and something that doesn’t fit into our idea of “making an impact.” By most standards, his quiet caring is not “significant” in the sense of changing the world.

When we think of making a difference, we think about making the world a better place for the next generation, not taking care of people who have no future. This is one reason we are quick to push the incontinent into “managed care” staffed with “skilled nurses.” No question that this is indeed a necessary move for many families—I had to do it with my own father, sad to say. But let’s face it. A fair amount of our motive is mixed. How much skill does it take to clean up excrement from an elderly body? Mostly it takes forbearance—and a willingness to give oneself night and day to something that, according to our usual reckoning, is not all that significant.

Jesus Washing Peter's Feet, Sylvain

This is a Jesus-shaped viewpoint. While we celebrate the energy of youth and the impetus that drives them to mount campaigns for social justice, we must remember the One who brought the most change into the world by “going small.” Jesus intentionally sought obscurity and focused his attention on touching and healing individuals in desperate need. He blessed the poor, the meek, and those hungry for justice by spending time with them, speaking God’s Word to them, forgiving their sins, healing their infirmities, and sending them, made new again, back to their families and communities to live daily lives of faith, hope, and love.

We should honor any generation that strives for significance, especially if it is a longing to make a difference in the world. Better this than striving to make money and live a comfortable life! But the human heart is desperately wicked and the human soul subject to self-deception, and this colors even our highest aspirations. Even the best of intentions mask the mysterious darkness within, which is why we need to be healed also of our best intentions.

Thank you, Mark Galli, for pointing me to Jesus and clarifying my vocation today.

Comments

  1. All too many American Christians talk a good game about serving others, until they have to do it. This is why so many mercy ministries are so short of volunteers. We also talk a good game about giving to “those less fortunate,” until we have to do it. That is why so many mercy ministries are also always begging for money.

    Add to that a current political climate in which all too many Christians seem to argue that if someone is down and out that they just need to find a job somewhere and get to it, and that there are too many people unfairly receiving money and help, and you build up to a perfect storm in which mercy ministries are quickly forgotten.

    But, what I find hard to understand is those who forget their own relatives and quickly warehouse them, even when there is no need to do so. I am not talking about those who need skilled care or who cannot be left alone. I am talking about those whom it is inconvenient to care for and so they are quickly relegated to an assisted living center, even when that is not their own choice. [Note: there are people who choose and wish to be in an assisted living center; I am not speaking of them.]

    • One of the downsides to the increasing marriage age is that it used to be that you raised your kids, then helped your parents. No it is much more commonplace to have young kids and aging parents at the same time which greatly complicates life.

  2. “Even the best of intentions mask the mysterious darkness within, which is why we need to be healed also of our best intentions.”

    Amen!

    It’s not our worst that we need to worry about, but rather our best.

    For it is not goo enough, either.

    That is (was) the messge of the Reformation.

    “God justifies the ungodly”

    Are you ungodly?

    Then I guess you qualify.

    There are way too many people out there ‘doing good’, that their bodily waste now smells like lavender to them.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      There are way too many people out there ‘doing good’, that their bodily waste now smells like lavender to them.

      This was shown (almost) literally in the South Park episode “Smug Alert”, where the Do Gooders (TM) literally fell in love with the smell of their own farts (POOT! SNIFF! AHHHHHHH…)

      Naturally, Kyle’s Mom, the show’s Concerned & Compassionate (TM) Do-Gooder (TM) had a major role.

  3. Humbling. I’m speaking to members of a potential church plant this week about taking on service projects; namely, either choosing to tutor someone working toward their GED in a residential alcohol treatment program, or mentoring a child at a local school. Neither of these will ever make headline news, because the roles aren’t controversial or sexy enough (sexy in terms of mass appeal). I’m praying our folks will grab hold of these missions and make them their own, and this gives me the perfect context for presenting the plan. We do all want to change the world, but this is great reminder that change begins on a small scale, within ourselves.

    By the way, “Beyond Smells and Bells” is one of my favorites by Galli….

  4. I am not familiar with Mark Galli’s work, so thanks for the recommendation.

    Many Christians (myself included) are good about talking the talk and (maybe) doing just enough for the poor and needy that we can look and/or feel good about our “sacrifice”–but not have to *really* outdo ourselves in any way. Lucky for us Jesus did not have that same attitude.

    I have been really convicted about this–about my supposed desire to follow Christ, and how that totally does not gel with my own narcissistic “me” attitude. Your post here is just another sign of God telling me to WAKE UP. I am hearing it loud and clear. So I thank you for posting this.

  5. “Jesus intentionally sought obscurity…”

    Hey Chaplain Mike, you reading a different set of gospels? 🙂

    Jesus may have sought for times of seclusion, to rest and recharge, but I do not see him in any way seeking obscurity.

    • Michael, I’ll let Chaplain Mike speak for himself, but certainly Jesus could have chosen a different time and a different place to come to if he wanted to make a splash. As Judas in “JC Superstar” points out, “Israel in 6BC had no mass communication.” The God of the universe came to a tiny backwater as a humble man and did not even show up on the radar of most of the people around him. A few healings, a few lessons, and then he’s gone. I see why CM speaks of obscurity.

    • How about when he told the disciples not to reveal who he was or when he said similar things about keeping quiet to certain people he healed? I know what you’re saying, but I think these cases where He deliberately tried to keep things quiet and personal are the cases in mind…

      • I thought of that Jeff B, but the way I saw that was a matter of timing, not of seeking obscurity. When he was ready, he started with a splash by overthrowing the tables of the money changers at the temple. Not exactly an obscure gesture.

        • I think some of the confusion about this disappears when you see Jesus as vigilant about staying on message and on course with the will of the Father. For example, he commended Peter for the revelation from his Father about who he was, but then rebuked him for having in mind “the things of men.” It seems that Peter was just expressing popular ideas about the kingdom, but Jesus squelched that because it was clearly contrary to the Father’s will and plan. (Mt. 16:13-28)

          He told a cleansed leper just to go to the priest and not broadcast his healing, which then made it difficult for Jesus and his disciples to move about (Mk 1:40-45). Obscurity of a sort would have better served his ministry better at that point, but he did and said provocative things all the time, and did not hide his ministry. At one point he said, “Every day I sat in the temple courts teaching, and you did not arrest me.” (Mt. 26:55)

          He didn’t try to fly under the radar, but he was prudent about what he said and what others said about him if he felt it might jeopardize his ability to complete his mission.

          But Jesus also said flatly, “I do not accept praise from men.” (Jn. 5:41) He didn’t seek the praise of men for the rush he got from it or to validate or promote his ministry. So in this sense, as Chaplain Mike mentioned, obscurity was all right with him and makes his approach to ministry so radically different from a lot of contemporary approaches.

  6. The main focus of the church should NOT be ‘doing’.

    The main focus ought be to hold up the mirror in front of people to show them that they are NOT serious about loving God, or their neighbor…and then to announce to them that because of Christ Jesus they are forgiven for their dereliction, and rebellion. That Christ died for and loves the ungodly.

    When that message grabs a hold of someone, the “good works” will be a natural outcome to whatever greater or lesser extent they manifest themselves.

  7. “I’m just sick of ego, ego, ego. My own and everybody else’s. I’m sick of everybody that wants to get somewhere, do something distinguished and all, be somebody interesting. It’s disgusting – it is, it is. I don’t care what anybody says.”

    Lane raised his eyebrows at that, and sat back, the better to make his point. “You sure you’re just not afraid of competing?” he asked with studied quietness. “I don’t know too much about it, but I’d lay odds a good psychoanalyst – I mean a really competent one – would probably take that statement -”

    “I’m not afraid to compete. It’s just the opposite. Don’t you see that? I’m afraid I will compete – that’s what scares me. That’s why I quit the Theatre Department. Just because I’m so horribly conditioned to accept everybody else’s values, and just because I like applause and people to rave about me, doesn’t make it right. I’m ashamed of it. I’m sick of it. I’m sick of not having the courage to be an absolute nobody. I’m sick of myself and everybody else that wants to make some kind of a splash.”

    Maybe Franny wasn’t crazy.

  8. “Even the best of intentions mask the mysterious darkness within, which is why we need to be healed also of our best intentions.”

    Thanks Chaplain Mike for this gentle kick in the britches! Just what I needed today. I brought my mother home to live with me a few weeks ago…. Against my siblings desire to have her in asst. living. Can you hear the smug undertone in my statement? I am caring for Mom, I am honoring her wishes not to be placed where she doesn’t want to be…. I wish with all my heart that I could crucify that inner-pharisee inside of me that pops up from time to time. Christ have mercy is my prayer when I catch this attitude snaking around inside of me. My mom tells me how humilating it is to have me taking care of her body functions, dressing, bathing, daily enemas…Yesterday, I had to fight the thought that I am not doing much for Christ, so this post is appreciated. May I ask for your prayers?
    I thought you would appreciate this quote: We must be willing to accept the bitter truth that, in the end, we may have to become a burden to those who love us. But it is necessary that we face this also. The full acceptance of our abjection and uselessness is the virtue that can make us and others rich in the grace of God. It takes heroic charity and humility to let others sustain us when we are absolutely incapable of sustaining ourselves. We cannot suffer well unless we see Christ everywhere–both in suffering and in the charity of those who come to the aid of our affliction.- Thomas Merton, “No Man is an Island”

  9. This is why I like imonk.com so much….people like Galli saying what I’m thinking. If the church would stop trying to be about ‘doing’ and more about the gospel, the natural output would be ‘good works’ (according to James 2).
    Aren’t we, by taking care of those with no future, actually changing the world? We are setting a standard, an example of how it’s supposed to be–loving those who no one else loves. That is, to me, changing the world and certainly making it a better place; offering hope to those who will perhaps, one day (and it could be me) be in that situation.
    I know that I am most filled up when I take care of the mundane (Practice of the Presence of God) and daily tasks, knitting a baby blanket, mentoring someone–rather than lead a Bible Study, etc.
    Thank you, Galli!

  10. In total agreement and is a timely article. I think that “pure motives” is as illusive as the unicorn even for us Christians.

    I’ve been involved in several international medical relief trips, both with Christian and non-Christian groups. Honestly, I don’t think there is a lot of light between the motives of the two groups, just that the Christians use different language and are not so blatant about seeking glory (they disguise it).

    I’m not any better. I have a strong mix of motives at best. Adventure, self-significance (as the article suggest), respect from fellow Christians and friends.

    I went on a disaster relief trip a few years ago with a young (most in their 20s) secular group. I was a little shocked that along with our team was a reporter from People Magazine, a film maker from Discovery Channel and (on their previous trip) they had a reporter from 60 minutes. Once in country, we were constantly posing with both international and national (their country) news media and politicians (who also wanted to be seen helping those harmed by the disaster).

    I am glad that out of that trip, a few of the poor and suffering were helped in the midst of our exercise in personal glory seeking.

  11. Great post.

    We are never without mixed motives. This is at the heart of Luther’s statement, “Sin Boldly” – not commiting willful, deliberate sin and expecting forgiveness but serving and working in faith that only Christ makes our works acceptable and fruitful. Someone once defined sin as the self turned in upon itself; sounds like pietism to me. Endless self-examination is not healthy.

    We should not seek to change the world, but to faithfully live out our vocation, day-to-day being salt and light right where we are: in our labor, our homes, our communities, and in our daily interactions with people (try not cutting people off in traffic – especially if your car is adorned with a fishy sticker!).

    Changing the world ultimately becomes a greedy grasp for power: it takes friends in high places to change the world, which ultimately involves making deals with the rich and powerful that compromise ones world-changing ideals. There probably was some sincere motives behind religious conservatism, but it ended up in a morass of entanglements with seedy political characters.

  12. This is a very hard topic. And it can get worse when there are multiple offspring. (Better word for adult children?)

    I’m dealing with this on both my mother and my wife’s. My mother has totally rejected her children being involved in her life in a meaningful way. In her mind the children obey your parents commandment applies till the death of the parent. Her son’s are in their fifties and she will not let us know her financial state or anything else. And with her mindset on “obedience” the last 30 years have been a hard time for all involved. And any disagreement with her opinions is is disobedience. So we’re all fairly distant.

    With my wife’s mom we’ve moved her to an apartment recently and my wife lives there during the week. It just happened that an emergency came up and we moved her from city A to city B as her 3 story townhouse in city A was no longer an option. My wife and I “live” in city C but a year ago she had a chance to work in city B where she had a sister and fly home on the weekends. Our kids are 18 and over so we decided to go for it. So mom in now in city B with two of her 3 daughters and my wife is there during the week to go shopping for her at night and help her out with things in the apartment while the other daughter in city B takes care of errands during the day and doctor visits.

    She is no where near the diaper changing state. But she has trouble walking most days even with a cane. But while mentally she can still deal with things day to day, emotionally she can’t deal with any non trivial decisions and she’s totally delusional about her ability to live on her own and keeps talking about moving back to the 3 story townhouse. And she mentally beats up on my wife most nights about how we will not let her go back to her “normal” life. And with the other daughter in town wanting to still be a “daughter to mom” and not cross her it can get old. My wife has no problem with the physical side of assistant but the mental beatings are impacting her health. To the point that I’ve said that if it doesn’t get better maybe she has to bow out and move her to a facility. Basically mom is blaming daughters for taking over her life when she had everything under control. Which is a farce but it’s the story she sticks to.

    Are we wrong if we decide to put her in a facility or should I allow my wife to let the stress lead to her having a heart attack and maybe death?

    • This is tough. One of the most difficult situations that any of us could face. A friend kept his mother as long as he could. But his marriage was about to come apart at the seams. When he cracked . . . spanking his own demented mother, he knew the time had come to put her into a home.

      You have my . . . I hate to use the word “pity” . . . but you know what I mean.

    • David,

      I face a similar problem with my wife’s family. The main problem with taking care of family is not dealing with bodily issues, but with the family relationships and the stress of dealing with changes in authority. I am afraid my wife is on the edge of a complete physical and emotional breakdown.

      My name on this posting has a link where you can e-mail. Contact me if you want to talk more, I can tell you what I am facing, and maybe we can work through it together.

      Allen

      • Over the last two weeks I’ve made it clear that if we don’t change the dynamics of the situation I’ll demand she leave the situation. I’ve told her that trying to be the nice person between unreasonable people and dying of a stress induced heart attack isn’t biblical in any way I can figure it out. She now agrees and instead of hopelessly trying to make everyone happy and nothing getting done we’re going to just get things done and let the feathers fly. And if they fly too much we’ll offer to turn the situation over to the other sisters with no animosity. At that point we both expect others to back off and just let us proceed. But I can tell in my wife’s voice on the phone this morning that she’s already taking the situation better.

        Back to the original post. Related to the “me” culture I also see the avoidance of conflict for too long a period as causing many problems as things boil over eventually. And to me this is related to the “me” issues in that people today do not want to step up and deal with conflict. For too long we were raised to think we could all hold hands singing “CuByYa” and all would eventually work out. It’s a farce. Sometime you really do have to break some eggs if you want to eat. I keep seeing this in churches where people act like and a** and not one deals with it. And even trying to talk about it makes folks run for cover.

  13. David L…I think you will not be wrong if you decide your mom needs a facility. I think that there will likely be someone else involved anyway, if she is opposed to it. So it will be you and your wife and your mother’s doctor or lawyer or whomever deciding that she cannot live on her own and that she needs the assistance of people in addition to her family.

    Personally, if I was to the point that I needed someone to help me with incontinence as mentioned in posts before yours, I actually would not WANT my loved ones doing that. I would want strangers to help me with that.

    • It’s my wife’s mom. Sister on other coast is a parole officer and has no problems calling in a judge. Other sister is stuck in mode of “daughter wanting to please mom”. Her husband is not there at all but likely doesn’t want to bring the war into their relationship. This sister keeps stopping us getting things taken care of by wanting to consult with mom and mom reacting in ways that aren’t helpful and so another month goes by with some decision not being made. My wife for a long while has not wanted to have a fight with her sisters. She’s now realizing that may not be possible. We’ve made some decision about how to proceed with issues not even mentioned here and feathers will be ruffled. But at least decisions will be made.

      But the biggest issue that depresses my wife is she really wants to make her mom happy and is slowing decided that may not be possible.

  14. I was reading this earlier. Nail on the head stuff here.

    The culture appears even more “me” centered than the infamous “Me” Decade of the 80s (although the 70s and 90s didn’t seem to be lacking in this aspect, either). It’s good to remember Jesus’s exalting of those who made sure their good works happened in private. It’s much too easy to be self-congratulatory in the era of endless PR.

    My parents both work in the social service world, one with disabilities, the other with lower-income people. Real-life ministry is so much less romantic and Facebook status-worthy. Yet even the most minor moment doing the Lord’s work will reveal Him.

    There is a beauty in the mundane, and at there’s a reason Jesus said that you’d find Him in the “least of these.”

  15. “First, the yearning for significance can be nothing more than ego masked as altruism.”

    Ayn Rand taught that “do-gooders” were an afront to the ego. On the Ayn Rand Facebook page, there is a post which describes the actions of the fire fighters on 9/11 as immoral, because they sacrificed themselves (ego) in a hopeless effort to save victims of the attack. Being able to reach out to serve another person or the dreaded “collective” may have selfish motives, but it is a transcendence, a moving beyond, ego – in Christian terms, a death to self. There is something juvenile about many of the followers of Ayn Rand, including many of the popular conservative talkshow hosts. I think it is the fact that they can’t make that step beyond promotion of ego. They can’t find a way to decrease – as John the Baptist stated. Instead, it’s always about someone or something trying to rob the ego of its full potential – be it government regulations or religious institutions.

    • Sounds like Ayn takes this to its logical (thus illogical) conclusion.

      We have to deal with the natures which we have. If we waited on having the right or pure motive about things, then we would sit on the couch and stuff Twinkies in our pie-hole until we die.

      But, in the spirit of Phil 1:18, we get up, we go out, we do for others . . . but with the brazen humility to know that most of what we do is for our own egos . . . but the crumbs still fall for the poor . . . and that’s a good thing. The sad thing is the Christian who is out of touch with their true motives and live within the delusion that they are fine people.

      • The biggest problem with AR objectivist followers as there are few if any that I’ve ever seen who have ordinary lives. They are either rich and successful (and say everyone would be if they just tried) or tend to be scifi geeks who think it’s a great way to run a universe but never get up from their keyboard to try and implement it.

        Alan Greenspan is the most famous objectivist of late and now that he’s watched the meltdown that he helped cause with his philosophy he’s admitted that maybe there are a few cracks in the philosophy.

        • A lot of people out there are now waving their copies of “Atlas Shrugged”. Many are running for congress and the senate tomorrow. They call themselves “conservative”, so evangelicals think they’re on our team. But Rand called the church the kindergarten of communism. The rhetoric in Randian economics against do-gooders is far beyond opposing federally-mandated “social justice”. It is a promotion of self above collective society. It’s “live and let die” to the extreme. The teaching of Jesus that we find ourselves by losing ourselves is incompatible with Rand. I don’t know how to say more without sounding alarmist or pushing the relevance of this post further than I already have.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

          After the 2008 elections there were a LOT of John Galt Celebrity Impersonators quoting Atlas Shrugged chapter-and-verse all over the Web and Blogosphere. So many of them came out of the woodwork that my response to the ubiquitous “Who Is John Galt?” became “Who the F cares?”

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      There is something juvenile about many of the followers of Ayn Rand, including many of the popular conservative talkshow hosts. I think it is the fact that they can’t make that step beyond promotion of ego.

      A Russian expat, Rand fled Lenin & Stalin both physically and mentally/philosophically. In the process, she rebelled one-eighty from Communism’s forced Utter Selflessness Unto Death (like an insect in a “collective” hive) into an equally extreme One True Way of Utter Selfishness. From total denial of ego in the name of the Collective to total promotion of ego. And cinched it by turning her resulting philosophy (Objectivism) into as thorough a Personality Cult as Comrade Stalin’s.

      I have no doubt Rand and Objectivism would have racked up as bloody a body count as Stalin and Communism if Rand had been given the same absolute power as Stalin; Rand and Stalin were funhouse mirror reflections of each other.

      • “I have no doubt Rand and Objectivism would have racked up as bloody a body count as Stalin and Communism if Rand had been given the same absolute power as Stalin; Rand and Stalin were funhouse mirror reflections of each other.”

        Very well put.

  16. Humility founded on a justified sense of one’s own insignificance is better than “narcissism shaped like altruism.” But I would hope that the option would stay open for people to do all they are required to do, and then still say, “We are worthless servants. We have only done our duty.”

    When I think of what I accomplished (rather, what was accomplished through me) during seven years in Central Asia, and what was left unfinished, if never fails to sicken me.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      Humility founded on a justified sense of one’s own insignificance is better than “narcissism shaped like altruism.”

      For a pop culture example of “narcissism shaped like altruism”, all I can say is “South Park, Kyle’s Mom.”

  17. Thanks for reminding us, again, that Jesus comes to us in is most “distressing disguise” in the physically, mentally, emotionally, and economically poor. And as the late Keith Green reminded us, the only difference between the Sheep and the Goats was what they DID and did NOT do for the poor…

    I have been blessed to have spent most of my adult life working with those at the margins, and edge: the addicted, the homeless, people living with HIV/AIDS, and the intellectually disabled. And there is no glory in it, save the fact that I get to wash the feet of Christ on a daily basis.

    We the over educated and materially well off believers in the West are sometimes slow to fight against the zeitgeist of this modern age – the spirit that says the wee young and the way old and the “retarded”, the sick, the lame, the addicts and the poor because they hold no economic viability (and in truth are mos of the times an economic liability) we relegate them to the fringe of society.

    Praise be to God that I am reminded that the fringe is exactly where Jesus hangs out…

  18. I didn’t go to an outreach committee meeting at my church upon invite after a friend on the committee told me to be serious about outreach, it might cost you to give up your friends and SS class. Yes, loving unlikely neighbors is not glamorous. After 2 months of a new Haitian fellowship within our church, my husband and I are still alone in it. But I am aware how pitiful I am and how cracked is this jar of clay. I pray I will never forget my place. Since through God’s mercy, we have this ministry (Cor. 4:1), I try not to lose heart. Just thoughts.

  19. donalbaib says:

    Reason that I am glad I am not a Christian number 15728 in a continuing series: “The human heart is desperately wicked”

    • Then I know you are going to love it when I quote another Scripture to you: He who trusts in his own heart is a fool.

      Fortunately, we don’t even need divine revelation to confirm the truth of that.

      • donalbaib says:

        If when you look around at your friends, family, community and the world at large and see nothing but people with “desperately wicked” hearts then I am truly glad I am not in your shoes. The world I see is filled with everyday acts of kindness to strangers, it is filled with people who help each other every single day. Yes, there are acts of vile natures, and those attract our attention but they do so because they are rare and unusual. If the human heart were as vile as you think then the world be constantly getting worse, but is there any period in history you would prefer live than now?

        • I also acknowledge human dignity, the image of God in humans, and common grace by which humans practice personal and civic virtue. Having a sinful heart does not mean we live out all forms of evil at all times. It means we have the capacity to do so.

          • A desperately wicked heart does not hold open the door for others. It does not spend time working as a reader in a library. It does not work in a hospice. The vast majority of people, the vast majority of the time are wonderful, loving, kind human beings. To refer to those people as having “desperately wicked” hearts is a tragic, sad view of life, and one I am truly glad I do not share.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

            Problem is, “desperately wicked heart” can all too easily turn into a Worm Theology beatdown. Or justification for same. Or justification for yet another form of Christian one-upmanship.

          • Donalbain, thanks for a challenging and thoughtful perspective. I wonder if living in a relatively peaceful and prosperous place and time might be skewing your view. What if you had been in one of Bonhoeffer’s classes in Germany before WWII and then seen fellow seminarians join the Nazis and found yourself persuaded to do the same? Or living in Rwanda, with your neighbor holding the door for you one day and swinging a machete at your head the next?

            It’s hard to be realistic about human nature and not acknowledge that multitudes of seemingly normal, virtuous people have somehow done the most monstrous things. And still do. I know also that the opposite is true as well–the most unlikely have shown themselves capable of great acts of sacrifice and kindness. That is why I think we must hold both (Biblical) perspectives simultaneously.