I submit this post with a view toward the future but also utilizing humanity’s history and habits in the attempt to paint a social picture of the days ahead and a snapshot of America’s future. This is a somewhat mature read and my hope is that you will give it a few times over to clearly see the underlying strokes and shades of relevance at this hour.
I will start by stating that ideologies can easily tempt those who reject them! Ideology, when stripped by time or partisanship of its political and economic connections, becomes a moralizing form of explanation for such horrors as mass control and mass killing – one that comfortably separates the people who attempt to explain them from the people who control and kill.
It’s convenient to see the perpetrator just as someone who holds the wrong idea and is therefore different or even indifferent for that reason. It’s easy and even reassuring to ignore the importance of economics and the complications of politics – factors that might in fact be common to historical perpetrators and those who later contemplate their actions. However, it’s far more inviting, at least today in America to identify with victims than to understand the historical setting that they shared with perpetrators and bystanders in the fields of natural and spiritual battles. The identification with the victim affirms a radical separation from the perpetrator. The Holocaust guard who starts the engine or the SS officer who pulls the trigger is not ‘me‘ – he is the person who kills someone like myself. Yet, it is unclear whether this kind of alienation from the killer is an ethical or correct stance. It is not all obvious that reducing history to morality ‘stage plays’ makes anyone more ‘moral’.
Unfortunately, claiming victim status does not in and of itself bring sound ethical choices. Stalin and Hitler both claimed throughout their political careers to be ‘victims’. They persuaded millions of other people that they too were victims of an international capitalist or Jewish conspiracy. During the German invasion of Poland, a German soldier believed that the death grimace of a Pole proved that Poles irrationally hated Germans. I once read a story of a Ukrainian communist during one of the famines in the Soviet bloc that found himself beleaguered by the corpses of the starved at his doorstep. The catch is that both portrayed themselves as victims. No major war or act of mass killing in the twentieth century began without the aggressors or perpetrators first claiming innocence and victimhood. In the twenty-first century, we see a second wave of aggressive wars with victim claims in which leaders not only present their peoples as victims but make explicit reference back to the mass murders of the twentieth century…Ironic? Certainly not, and should be expected by those who have ears to hear and eyes that survey historical and spiritual landscapes. Victimhood will manifest as a powerful dynamic for both forces of light and darkness as the days unfold. Understanding the motive of the victims, perpetrators, and bystanders will be paramount in choosing the right social path and personal destiny. Prophetic opportunities to build spiritual muscle abounds!
The human capacity for subjective victimhood is limitless, and people who believe that they are victims can be motivated to perform acts of great violence. In other words, history has shown us that the Austrian policeman shooting babies in Belarus imagined what the Soviets would do to his own children. Victims are people; a true identification with them would involve grasping their lives rather than grasping at their deaths which seems to be our human nature when swaddled in fleshly reactions, media bias and topped with ignorance. Although, by definition, victims are either dead or unable to defend themselves from the use that others make of their deaths or loss. It is easy to sanctify policies and even identities by the deaths of the victims. It is less appealing, but morally more urgent to understand the actions of the perpetrator. The moral danger after all, is never that one might become a victim but that one might be a perpetrator or a bystander. It is tempting to say that a ISIS murderer is beyond the pale of understanding. Outstanding politicians and intellectuals for example, have justified revenge and people who have called others subhuman were subhuman themselves. Yet to deny a human being his human character is to render ethics and morality impossible. To yield to this temptation, to find other people to be inhuman, is to take a step toward and not away from past positions that have been embraced by the Babylonians to the Grecian Spartans to the Nazi Germans and permeating the present day. To simply find people incomprehensible is to abandon the search for understanding and thus, abandon history which will surely repeat itself on a much grander scale.
To dismiss some of the worlds most tragic regimes of the past as beyond human concern or historical understanding is to fall into their moral trap and temptation. The safer route is to realize that their motives for mass control or even killing, however revolting to us, made sense to them. Heinrich Himmler said that it was good to see a hundred, or five hundred, or a thousand corpses lying side by side. What he meant was that to kill another person is a sacrifice of the purity of one’s own soul, and that making this sacrifice, elevated the killer to a higher moral level. (This is critical to the church’s understanding in discerning the mindset of the antichrist deception…for even the elect will be tempted by its lure of misguided righteousness when the times will get even tougher). The truth is that this behavior was an expression of a certain kind of devotion. It was an instance, albeit an extreme and evil one, of a Nazi value that is not entirely alien to most of mankind – the sacrifice of the individual in the name of the community. Herman Goring said that his conscience was named Adolf Hitler. For Germans who accepted Hitler as their leader, faith was very important. The object of their faith could hardly have been more poorly chosen, but their capacity for faith is nonetheless undeniable. The truth is that evil depends upon good in the sense that those who come together to commit evil deeds must be devoted one to the other and believe in their cause. Devotion and faith did not make the Nazi Germans good, but they do make them human. Like everyone else, they had access to ethical thinking, even if their own was dreadfully misguided.
The conclusion is that only those who are redeemed and exercise their prophetic muscles will be able to comprehend the truth and rightly discern whose social and cultural ideology we choose to follow. God is deeply involved in government, economics, and yes, even politics. If He wasn’t – He wouldn’t have us pray for these institutions nor honor the men and women who are called and commissioned to them. The persona of ‘victim’, ‘perpetrator’ and ‘bystander’ possesses the power to implement tremendous change – both tremendously good and horribly bad.