Maybe it’s my age, or maybe it’s my dual clergyman-journalist career and my front-row seat to humanity’s seamier side. Whatever the reason, I skim the newspaper with flip-to-the-next-page eyes. It’s all so much evidence for the Christian doctrine of Original Sin, whether or not Adam and Eve were literal figures.
But then come those stories from Hell — stories so evil that not even I can sit still. Exhibit A: The Congregation of the People of Tradition for Proselytism and Jihad, a jihadist organization in northern Nigeria better known as Boko Haram, kidnapped about 300 girls three weeks ago from a school and threatens to sell them into slavery. News of a second kidnapping is now hitting the airwaves and the Internet.
I could chalk this up to another day. Boko Haram massacred 59 school boys, many of whom were burned alive in a bus. I could even drift into an etymological debate. Some translate the group’s name as, “Western education is sinful,” but more educated linguists advocate nuance. “Western culture is Islamically forbidden,” is one possible rendering; “the Westernized elites and their way of doing things contradict Islam” is another. Paul Newman discusses the complexities here.
A worthy debate, to be sure — for which I am supremely unqualified. But I can decide whether I will allow events to hollow me of my humanity, and I hereby decide to cling to my right to be horrified. Slaughtering and kidnapping kids in the name of religion erodes our human core — and casual indifference makes me resemble a gnu watching a lion haul down a calf. CS Lewis was right: We are a “spoiled species,” but not so spoiled that we cannot feel revulsion. We hope.
I join with many others who are refusing to be drained of all their humanity. They are clinging to their right to be shocked. Witness the world-wide campaign, tagged #bringbackourgirls (my little addition: #andrememberthemurderedboys). One features Malala Yousafzai, the brave Pakistani teen whom the Taliban shot and wounded because she wanted an education: