Saturday, January 08, 2005

Things that make you sick

From Slacktivist:

Most people in Rwanda in 1994 were Christians. Most of the victims, as well as most of the killers. Those of us who also call ourselves Christian must somehow account for this.

I can't help but notice that Ntakirumana's Adventist church is the same branch of Christianity that gave us the modern heresy of Darbyism and the premillennial dispensationalism and prophecy mania of Darby's heirs. I have argued previously, many times, that this religious perspective is dangerous and insidious, inspiring a perverse and self-fulfilling hope for cataclysm.

Yet for all that, there is little in Gourevitch's account that suggests that Pastor Ntakirumana and his countrymen were acting from a particularly religious mania. Despite their nominal Christianity, the driving force behind their participation in Rwanda's genocide seems rather to have been their embrace of the Hutu Power ideology that seems to have supplanted their faith.

Ntakirumana's dispensational views may not have caused him to embrace a murderous ideology, but neither did it prevent him from doing so. Like the "two kingdoms" Lutheran theology of early 20th-century Germany, Adventist dispensationalism may have left its adherents ill-equipped to oppose the rise of such evil.

And what of the other Christians of other denominations who participated in and carried out Rwanda's genocide?

One explanation, of course, is that these people weren't really Christians at all. This sounds like a cop out, an easy escape, but it's also exactly what John writes, repeatedly, in his first epistle:

We know that we have passed from death to life because we love our brothers. Anyone who does not love remains in death. Anyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life in him. ...

And yet.

And yet they called themselves Christians. They went to church. They prayed the "Our Father" to our Father. And then they picked up guns, machetes and clubs and killed hundreds of thousands of their brothers and sisters.

Gourevitch writes with a bewildered horror and unblinking honesty because this happened. This happened and yet the world has never really looked at it, has never really accounted for it.

Nor has the church.