In the first century before Christ, a slave named Spartacus led an unsuccessful revolt against Rome. As a warning to other would-be rebels, Roman soldiers crucified 6,000 slaves along the road to Rome. Their bodies were left hanging on crosses for all to see. The Romans are remembered for their cruelty. But at least they weren't guilty of the kind of hypocrisy CNN is now engaging in...
One of the principle aspects of Jesus' teachings is his poignant understanding of human nature. In fact, Christ's appraisal of humanity is undoubtedly one of the distinguishing features between Christianity and other worldviews, evident even in our political and cultural theories. Consider the two perspectives of Jean Jacques Rousseau and Blaise Pascal on human nature.
Rousseau opened his book The Social Contract with these well known words: "Man was born free; and everywhere is in chains." Rousseau believed that humans are inherently good; yet he saw that goodness did not prevail. His political theory described social contracts that would capitalize on this innate goodness. But such notions were soon overturned in the flames of the French Revolution. Any philosophy that assumes that man is innately good finds its optimism ever disappointed. History continues to show us this.
In distinction to Rousseau's estimation of human nature, listen to what Blaise Pascal said:
"It is in vain, oh men, that you seek within yourselves the cure for all your miseries. All your insight has led to the knowledge that it is not in yourselves that you discover the true and the good. The philosophers promised them to you, but they were not able to keep that promise...Your principal maladies are pride, which cuts you off from God, and sensuality, which binds you to the earth...Those who have grasped the vanity of such a pretension have cast you down in the other abyss by making you believe that your nature is like that of the beast and have led you to seek your good in lust, which is the lot of animals." (Footnote 1: Blaise Pascal, The Mind on Fire, ed. James M. Houston (Portland Oreg.: Multnomah, 1989), 115)
Is Pascal right? What he is saying here is that we tend either toward thinking that we are like God, or that we are beast-like. So then who are we?
Jesus taught that we are essentially superior to animals, but immeasurably less than God. The contrast in both comparisons is one of kind, not just degree. Jesus clearly taught that our wills are bent in rebellion against God, the only source of goodness, but that we can know the working of God's goodness in our lives when we acknowledge our rebellion and seek Him. Rousseau said, "Man was born free; and everywhere is in chains." Jesus teaches us that man is born in chains, but everywhere can be free.
Some people REALLY love Christmas. Me, I love Thanksgiving. Last year I had my chance to do the traditional thing of shooting my own turkey. Man, you should have seen the people scatter in the meat department!