The Dark Side of Man

The Dark Side of Man<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" />
The devastation of Hurricane Katrina has stripped away more than houses and land;
it has uncovered the darkness of the human soul.
            The epic tragedy of the <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags" />New Orleans disaster grows sadder every day.  We all breathed a sigh of relief when Katrina turned east just before striking the city, sparing it from the full brunt of the storm's awesome power.  But as the story continues to unfold, we have gone from hope to despair, as first the levees broke and now rescue efforts have sputtered and slogged forward due to the lawless looting, shooting and the resistance of many to leave.  There have also been reports of rape.
            Lest anyone respond that the looting is justified because the looters are simply trying to feed their families, I have two responses.  First, stealing is wrong under any circumstances.  Second, food is not the primary item being stolen.  As one newspaper from Biloxi, Mississippi reported, in a recent break at a convenience store, cigarettes, cigars and beer was taken, but the food was not touched.  One of the most often stolen items is guns.  Nursing homes are under siege.  Almost overnight, New Orleans has become a war zone.
            Watching looters fill industrial size garbage cans with jewelry and clothing, one man explained to a Fox News reporter: "To be honest with you, people who are oppressed all their lives, man, it's an opportunity to get back at society."
            An opportunity to get back at society?  What kind of excuse is that?  Is this the way Americans respond to difficulties today?  Are these looters and shooters simply out of their minds, or is there another explanation for their behavior?  And what does all of this say about the nature of man?
            In response to the crime spree, Louisiana Governor Blanco said, "What angers me the most is that disasters like this often bring out the worst in people."  With all due respect, Governor Blanco is wrong. 
            The truth is that Katrina did not make us this way.  It was not our environment.  It was not our parents, our neighbors, or even our education.  It is the way we are.  The soul of man is not basically good, as has been presumed for so long by so many.  It is, in fact, desperately wicked.  And all the excuses and explanations in the world cannot cover it up.  It is currently being broadcast daily on every major network for all the world to see, if only we have eyes.
            The heartbreaking scenes of heavily armed gangs shooting it out with law enforcement, and hospitals being evacuated because of the threat of physical attack, are almost too much to comprehend.  We want to believe it is not the fault of the hurting victims of a vicious storm.  We sympathize with them, we want to help them, and point to almost anything else to explain away their behavior.  This is normal.  But we cannot allow ourselves to be deceived.
            The souls of those who have embraced crime in New Orleans are of the same basic essence as the souls of Josef Stalin, Adolph Hitler, Jeffrey Dahmer . . . and you and me.  That's right; we are no different from the worst criminal when it comes to the capacity of our hearts to do evil. 
            The heart of man is desperately wicked, scripture informs us.  And the same verse explains simply and without fanfare why we are so quick to excuse our own behavior and think so well of ourselves -- our hearts are deceitful above all things.  Desperately wicked, and deceitful above all things.  Perhaps this is why we so readily accepted the oft-heard plea to increase funding for education in order to alleviate poverty, which in turn would make our citizenry a better, more moral people.  We lie to ourselves, and we like it.
            Perhaps that is also why we have so easily accepted the so-called separation of church and state, explicit instruction on sex education, evolution, and moral relativism, all of which are echoed on the latest sit-coms and reality t.v. shows.  We tell ourselves it is the law, or that it is only entertainment, or that we are too busy to spend hours pouring over every textbook our children bring home.  How much harm can it do, anyway?
            These developments have no doubt contributed much to the blossoming of full-blown anarchy on the streets of New Orleans.  But they did not directly cause the problem.  The problem is a lack of inner control, control over our souls.  And we must all share the guilt.
            As Robert C. Winthrop, a nineteenth century Congressman and descendant of Governor John Winthrop, first governor of Massachusetts Bay Colony, observed:
All societies of men must be governed in some way or other. The less they may have of stringent State Government, the more they must have of individual self-government. The less they rely on public law or physical force, the more they must rely on private moral restraint. Men, in a word, must necessarily be controlled, either by a power within them, or by a power without them; either by the word of God, or by the strong arm of man; either by the Bible, or by the bayonet. It may do for other countries and other governments to talk about the State supporting religion. Here, under our own free institutions, it is Religion which must support the State.
            Our society has largely disavowed moral laws.  The firestorm surrounding the posting of the Ten Commandments in public bears ample witness of this fact.  And civil laws, in the minds of most citizens today, are made to be broken.  Once the "bayonet" of state and local law enforcement was removed in New Orleans, then, the raw power of our sinful hearts was unleashed.  It is not a pretty sight.
            The inner control Mr. Winthrop spoke of cannot be attained other than by the implanting of a new heart.  No amount of external salve can instill that kind of government.  It requires spiritual surgery, as it were.
            We must be careful not to belittle the extraordinary physical suffering of so many at this dire time.  But as we strive to meet the physical needs of these hurting survivors of Katrina, let us be diligent to minister to the needs of their souls as well.  It can make a difference in eternity.
Steve Crampton serves as Chief Counsel of the American Family Association Center for Law & Policy (CLP), a public interest-type law firm. The CLP=s web site is Mr. Crampton=s daily radio show, AWe Hold These Truths,@ can be heard on almost 200 radio stations nationwide.  He can be reached at

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