Recognizing The Dark Side
I am told often these days the Islamic religion is an evil
or bad religion because some of its members are resorting to
violence. What nonsense! Let us be fair and just and also
examine the times other religions and denominations have resorted
to violence under pressure. The Roman Catholic inquisitions,
the Protestant witch hangings in colonial Massachusetts,
the medieval Crusades, all were by Christians. The support of
the caste system in India by the Hindus was not good at all.
In every war both sides claim the blessing of God. So we
Christians in glass houses should not throw rocks.
The theological truth is the dark side of humanity surfaces at times in every nation, race, creed and social institutions. That includes churches and religious faiths over the world. Particularly is this so when the faithful feel they are under pressure as many Moslems feel now. The outrage builds to violence. This is only human nature, the dark side.
There are illogical puerile people who say since religion sometimes has a dark side that surfaces, we should abolish religion. What nonsense! Religion is a deep instinct, a universal and elemental rhythm in man’s nature. It couldn’t be banished if the wish were there.
What of love? Should we abolish gratifying that instinct since people “in love” sometimes shoot each other? Some misguided parents ruin their children because of love. Should we then outlaw parenthood and love? Neither, but we should try to school ourselves to a balanced righteousness.
One of the things Jesus dealt with was the dark side of religion that surfaced among the scribes, pharisees and hypocrites. Jesus compared them to whitened tombs: false hearted people using religion for a selfish, haughty purpose. (See Matthew 6:16,) They made religion unhealthy and immoral. So what, you can do that to almost anything. But Jesus did not advocate the abolition of religion but the elimination as much as possible of false types of religion. Jesus advocated the purification of religion, the reformation of religion, the reattainment of balanced usage.
Let us face the truth! Our country has churches in it, but many of the churches have not Christ. The country has churches but clearly not Christ or it would not be in the state it is. These spiritually empty churches are in our time the whitened tombs of an unheeded and spiritually absent God. There is a dark side.
Mankind has an evil side that sometimes comes out in religion. The cat inside of us sometimes gets out of the bag. We see that all social institutions as well as individuals and nations have the tendency under pressure to let their dark side come out. Evil can pop out at unexpected times. Evil is a jack in the box.
So let us face the partially fallen nature of mankind as well as the weakness of human nature. Let us try to be sane about it and not give an eye for an eye so the entire world goes blind or is bombed. There are in life dark spots, the works of mans unredeemed nature, and bright spots which are the reflections of God’s grace softening the dark spots. So let us not be hysterical ABOUT THE DARK SPOTS AND SAY THAT DARK SPOTS ONLY EXIST. Come now, grace exists.
I believe in what is called the “total depravity” of human nature and the world. That is not to say everything is totally ruined but that all parts of the totality have dark spots, Chances are every lily will have a brown spot but that does not mean the lily will not be beautiful. Everything in life will sometimes fail except Christ.
Every time has moments of disharmony, ugliness or misery. Recognizing this is only common sense. The world is undergoing a redemptive process that we do not fully understand.
But we as Christians must be aware, (and if we are aware, it is grace) when the dark spots pop out. Then we must heal, help, ameliorate, mellow, or aid as best we can. God is then our ally. We must not pretend there is no dark side, but we must look for it and at it realistically and sanely. Then try to redeem the situation as best we can. We are then ministers of Christ.
We must always be on guard to notice when the dark side surfaces. This is not always easy to do. It calls for Christians to analyze and think in Christ. We must appreciate the bright side but be aware there is a dark side, look for it, and try to soften mellow, eliminate or lessen it. We are here as Christians to redeem bad times and awful circumstances.
I believe in our taking part in the elemental universal rhythms of life and the universe. Taking part in the harmonies of life improves us hopefully so that excellence and healthy living full of grace is achieved. It is through taking part in the grace filled rhythms of the universe and life that we do what God has created us to do. We achieve through taking part in the universal rhythm, the elementals of life. In taking part in universal life filled rhythms we fulfill ourselves as human beings. Religion is one of the universal rhythms.
It is through taking part in life as it was created to be that we achieve excellence in living. We should involve ourselves in the elemental rhythms so we attain what we we are meant to be. This includes a spiritual as well as physical side to be developed.
People may say “I do not understand God,” but what does that matter? When I was small I did not understand my father and mother, but I trusted them. What held us together was love. We are very small as human beings. God is very large. What holds us together must be love, not understanding. Without love for my parents (whom I did not understand), I could not have grown up. It is the love of God we need that cures and helps us grow.) We can see that from a family. We need to fulfill the God and universal instinct in our lives, a universal elemental in life.
Yet in taking part in the eternal themes of mankind and nature, we must realize there may be dark and unharmonious things in life that surface. There will always be sad, inappropriate and out-of-tune times. But the symphony is still worth playing. Life is still worth living, Play life as nature wrote it, including God. You may refine the score but you need to keep the basic beat of faith and love.
Sad notes and times are reasons to be discouraged. No one should be ashamed of being discouraged or confused. The Christian condition is well expressed by the Apostle as he writes: “We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed, we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken, cast down but not destroyed; Always carrying in our bodies the body of the dying Lord Jesus.” (II Corinthians 4: 8-10)
In order to understand fully God and what He is about, we would have to have minds as big as God’s. Naturally we do not and our minds beside His are as gnats. In this situation we are are called upon to have faith through the hints of God such as Jesus Christ and the predisposition of nature towards healing and life.
One should fairly recognize the dark side of religion and life, but to be fair, just and honest we should also recognize the enjoyment of life God meant for us to have.
We should recognize the dark side to be fair. But to be just and honest, let us also recognize the good. It is only reasonable we should not give up to the dark sides in our minds or in our emotions. Why? Because there is good, there is decency, there is Christ. How do we keep our balance when dark times come as they will? Faith is the victory.
Dr. James MacLeod may be contacted through the Neill Macaulay Foundation.