A little baby cries angrily.
“Look”, says the grown man, holding the phone the baby wants, “just look at this baby’s anger. So young and the baby is already sinning by his anger and his covetousness. This is proof that mankind are all born with a sin nature.”
The man tells the baby to stop crying. When he doesn’t stop, he gets a spanking for his rebelliousness.
Surely evil is bound up in the heart of a child.
As a conservative Christian, I was taught that the hearts of men were basically ‘all evil all the time’ and that no one could be loving without God – this was said to mean ‘without being a born again Christian’.
Anything that seemed good from the worldly was discounted as being ultimately selfish or self centered. Only someone with the Holy Spirit could have truly good and loving motives. And even then, someone could be acting against the Holy Spirit and only think they had good motives. My parents were certain this was true of us children quite often.
I just wanted to wear my new shoes with an outfit I liked, but secretly – so secretly even I didn’t know but my parents did – I really was expression rebellion through my conservative clothing choices. It didn’t matter how good or neutral I thought I was being, I could be accidentally sinning the sins of rebelliousness or selfishness. And that was with me having the Holy Spirit. Those without were sinning all the time.
If a boy was being friendly, he probably just wanted to steal my virginity from my future husband. If a non christian were nice, they probably just were assuaging guilt feelings, or worse were trying to lead me to their beliefs – like the Mormons on mission trips. Christians were the only ones who could have pure hearted mission trips.
That makes for a frightening, depressing world. I couldn’t trust anyone who wasn’t a ‘True Christian’. And I knew enough True Christians to know they aren’t all safe people, either.
I don’t think it’s fair to assume you can know someone’s motives based on what you think they believe. All I know is that many who aren’t Christians have been kind to me. And many Christians have been kind, but many others have been very unkind
I have come to the conclusion that the world is just a mixed up place with people of all sorts, all acting kind and unkind. Loving and hateful. Wonderful and terrible.
I hear stories like Trayvon Martin getting killed and the man who did it getting away with no guilty charge, and black women worry about their sons, and it feels like the world is a terrible place, and maybe I was too optimistic to think otherwise.
I read about texas striking down an addition to a law that would allow minors who are victims of rape to get an abortion – and hundreds of blue-shirted people applaud that raucously – and I lose a little bit of faith in humanity’s ability to care about the downtrodden.
But then a struggling friend asks for financial help on twitter and people step up and help pay her rent, and a little bit of my faith in humanity is restored. I remember bigger stories, like a school principal running to take down a gunman for her students.
I remember little stories – friends send nice notes, just because they can. Someone drops everything in her agenda for the day just to give me a hand, and I remember what’s been said: “look for the helpers”.
And I think the world is a mixed up place full of people waiting to be heroes, even just in small ways.
It’s such a painful world to live in, sometimes; but I don’t think people are depraved. I think people are just human. Good and bad, but most of us doing the very best we know how. Even the blue shirts.
If I expect only unkindness and selfishness in people, if I believe that’s all they are capable of, then that’s probably all I will see.
But if I look for the beautiful in people, I think I’ll find it.