Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Sermon 1/27/08 Life's Toughest Questions Part 3: Why is there War and Hatred in the World?

Life’s Toughest Questions Part Three: Why is there war and hatred in the World

This video really hit home for me the suffering a tragedy that goes on in our world. I am someone who often does not watch the news because it is so depressing. I would like to live in a world where everything is peaceful and no one has issues. I would like to pretend that everything is good and that war and hatred are no more. The problem is , as this video shows, everything is NOT alright with the world we live in. We live in a world full of violence and hate.

During the past century, more than 100 wars and revolutions have been fought . Over 100 million people were killed in these conflicts. In 2006, the FBI reported 7,722 hate crimes in our nation. Of those crimes, over 51% were racially motivated, 19% involved religious targets, 15 % based on sexual orientation, and 12% because of nationality or ethnicity. In 2005, the murder rate in Chattanooga alone ranked 51st among cities over 100,000 in population with 14.7 murders per 100,000 people.[i]

When we stop to think of all the violence in the world, we cannot help but to ask ourselves why there is so much war and hatred in the world. On the survey we sent out asking what life’s toughest questions were, 11% of those surveyed asked why there was war and hate in our world.

Some Explanations of Evil in the World

A number of explanations have been used by various people in trying to understand why there is war and hate. Some have blamed war and hate on religion. Ken Wilber begins his article on by saying,

Throughout history, religion has been the single greatest source of human-caused wars, suffering, and misery. In the name of God, more suffering has been inflicted than by any other manmade cause.[ii]

Wilber goes on to suggest that within religion, some beliefs lead to peace while others lead to war and we have to be able to see which beliefs are true based on what it leads to.

Others have suggested that the cause of war is economic. Wars are fought over resources. We come to hate people because they have what we want. Brian McLaren, in his new book Everything Must Change asserts that in our world there is a limited amount of resources. Unfortunately, a majority of the resources are held by a minority of the people. Because of the needs of the “have-nots”, they try to take away from the “haves.” Those who have all the resources then take security measures to keep their resources safe in the forms of a military and we get an endless cycle of war and hate.[iii] I would imagine that most of our wars can be traced somehow to the quest for natural resources.

People also suggest that intolerance of people who are different causes hate and war. Going back as far recorded human history people persecuted and fought other people because they were different from them. It is so easy to lump people into categories and hate people based on the category we have put them in.

I believe these other issues do play a tremendous part in why there is evil and war in the world, but I believe there is still a more basic reason for war and hate. Religion, economics, and intolerance play a major role in causing the violence, but they are symptoms of a root cause.

The Beginning of the Problem

The Bible is an amazing book and it often answers questions that we do not expect it to. Many times it answers them in places that we least expect to find answers. Take the present question, “Why is there war and hate in the world?” If you begin to read in the Bible about the creation story, you will notice the first chapter of Genesis God creates the world and then the text says, “God saw that it was good.”[iv] Then, God creates human beings and says, “He saw all that he had made and it was very good.”[v]

The next logical question that could pop into one’s mind is this: “If God created everything good, then why do we find a world that has gone so wrong?” Why is there hate and war in the world if God created the world and it was very good?

Genesis 3 begins the Biblical explanation of what has gone wrong. It says,

Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, "Did God really say, 'You must not eat from any tree in the garden'?" The woman said to the serpent, "We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, 'You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.' " "You will not certainly die," the serpent said to the woman. "For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil." When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.[vi]
The story suggests the destruction of innocence occurred when Adam and Eve made a choice to eat fruit that God had forbidden them not to eat. On the outset, this seems like a very trivial thing to be the cause of such hatred and war, but I believe the writer is trying to use this story to explain a deeper truth about human nature. Notice the reasoning for which Adam and Eve ate the fruit. The consequence of eating the fruit, according to the wise serpent was that they would be like God, knowing good and evil. God had told them that they could eat any of the fruit from any of the trees. God would provide for their every desire if they would only trust him. BUT NO!!!

Genesis says that Eve ate the fruit for three reasons. (1) It was pleasing to the eyes, (2) it was desirable for gaining wisdom (3) and it was good food. In other words, she did not trust God to give her these things, so she went outside of good for them. Apparently Adam agreed with her and did the same thing.

The interesting thing about this event was that it set off a chain reaction of events that followed. The consequences of this action meant that humanity would struggle against each other, against creation itself, and against God. In the next chapter we see Cain kill his brother Able. In chapter six the sin of humanity has completely corrupted the world. In chapter eleven the people all want to be like God so they build a tower to the heavens.

For the biblical writers the real issue and the cause of sin such as violence and hatred spring forth from our desire to find happiness outside of God. This means that we become selfish and in so doing, we love ourselves while we hate others. James wrote to a Jewish congregation about their fighting one another and pointed out the root cause of the fighting was their desires.[vii] CS Lewis argues that Pride leads to every other vice. He explains why by saying,

Pride gets no pleasure out of having something, only out of having more of it than the next man. We say that people are proud of being rich, or clever, or good-looking, but they really are not. They are proud of being richer, or cleverer, or better looking than others. If everyone else became equally rich, or clever, or good-looking there would ne nothing to be proud about. It is the comparison that makes you proud: the pleasure of being above the rest.[viii]

Our desire to be better than others, our pride, our selfishness, if you will, is the root cause of all the hate and war in the world.

What about Religion

On the one hand, I do think religion is at fault for war and hate in the war. I do not think it is a direct cause, but an indirect one. I think religion is often used as a motivation for hate and war because we are selfish. As selfish people we have used religion to justify the awful things we have done.
Brian McLaren talks about religions as being a “framing story.” What he means by this is that religion offers us a context in which we live our life. It gives is reasons foe behaving the way in which we do. The reason religions are seen as a cause for war and hatred is because we have used religion as a way to justify our selfishness.[ix]

I know this is hard to hear, but think about “popular Christianity.” We generally believe that God came down in Jesus to die for my (personal) sins so that I can go to heaven when I die. I will escape God’s punishment and all of those people who do not believe will die and go to hell. As a result, we have concluded that we can hate people who are not Christians because God hates them. We believe we are the only people who have it right and we have to protect our beliefs at all costs, even if that means hating and killing people.

The Message of Jesus
I agree with Brian McLaren that this is not the gospel that Jesus taught us to live out. Think about the Sermon on the Mount for instance. Jesus seems to be correcting a problem in the way Jews lived out their beliefs. They used the law to benefit their purposes. They thought as long as they did not physically kill someone they would be fine, but they could mistreat people all they wanted. They thought as long as they did not commit adultery, they were obeying the law, but they could divorce their wives and leave them devastated in they wanted to. Jesus taught that if we lived out the principles of the Kingdom of Heaven, we could radically change the world. Instead of living out of selfishness, we could live out of love.

Jesus said that we should not even be angry and we should reconcile with those who we had wronged. We should not lust and we should keep our promises to others and our spouse. We should do more than love those people who like us, but we should love out enemies. Jesus was turning religion as selfishness over on its head.

I do believe that Jesus came to die for my sins and that one day I will be able to spend eternity in the presence of God. But I also believe that Jesus wants us to live radically different lives here on earth. Jesus wants us to make earth like it is in heaven. Jesus wants us to get rid on the hatred and the war, not by using our military, but by using acts of love. I know some people think this is naïve, but I also think Jesus believed this would work.

In the words of Martin Luther King Jr,

I have a dream that one day every valley shall be engulfed,every hill shall be exalted and every mountain shall be made low,the rough places will be made plains and the crooked places willbe made straight and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed andall flesh shall see it together.[x]

[i] Thanks to Dwight Kilbourne for the statistics. He used the following websites:
[iii] Brian McLaren, Everything Must Change: Jesus, Global Crises, and a Revolution of Hope (Thomas Nelson: Nashville, 2007) 52-64. READ THE WHOLE BOOK! It is good stuff.
[iv] NIV Genesis 1:25
[v] NIV Genesis 1:31
[vi] TNIV Genesis 3:1-7
[vii] James 4:1
[viii] CS Lewis, Mere Christianity(Harper San Francisco: New York 1952) Chapter “The Greatest Sin”.
[ix] Brian McLaren, Everything Must Change 52-64.

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