Matters Of the Heart

Matters Of the Heart

Mike Pyatt

Anne Frank witnessed the very worst and noblest of behavior in her short, but celebrated life in Nazi Germany. She was quoted, “Despite everything, I believe that people are good at heart.” Did she mean everyone? Or the Americans and British who came to rescue the Jews? Were the Nazis merely “mislead?” Or only obeying orders? Recognition came posthumously for Frank, dying in Bergen-Belsen Nazi concentration camp at age 15, in early 1945. Her diary was published in 1947, “The Diary of A Young Girl” in 70 languages. Her family went into hiding in concealed rooms for nearly two years until their arrest in 1944, for hiding other Jews. She observed and experienced the worst of man’s inhumanity to man.

Few of us have experienced the horrors of war, concentration camps, gulags or China’s internment camps, where over one million, largely Muslims, from the Uighur and ethnic minorities are held in Western China. Beijing defends them as “re-education” camps. So, was Auschwitz a “Jewish Relocation Service?” Absent such exposure, we’ve likely interacted with “bad people” and “evil people.” Perhaps we’ve crossed paths with them unbeknownst. What about Ted Bundy. John Wayne Gacy, Jeffrey Dahmer. Were these men purely evil? Was it congenital? Were they emotionally deprived as kids? Was Hitler misguided? Joseph Stalin enrolled in the Orthodox Spiritual Seminary in 1894, preparing for the priesthood. What hardened his heart?

Jesus, after skewering the Pharisees for their hypocrisy, said, “Their heart is far from me, teaching as doctrines the precepts of men,” quoting Isaiah. Thereafter, Christ was unambiguous, “For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed the evil thoughts, fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries, deeds of coveting and wickedness, as well as deceit, sensuality, envy slander, pride and foolishness. All these things proceed from within and defile man.” Pharisees were busy ensuring the cups are clean, while they were plunging head-long toward perdition. The blind leading the blind. It was reminiscent of the masterpiece by Dutch painter, Pieter Bruegel’s 16th century depiction of the Biblical parable in Matthew 15.

Christ recognized the source of sin and woe in this world isn’t misguided or undereducated men. Evil doesn’t exist in a vacuum. It exists much the way a wound exists on one’s body, or rust on a vehicle. Neither exists on its own. There must be an agent. Jesus identified that agent. It’s us at our core. That’s our ball and chain to this day. G.K. Chesterton underscored this truth, “The doctrine of original sin is the only doctrine verified by thousands of years of human existence.” Evil isn’t just Hitler and Mussolini.

It’s unsurprising to disciples of Christ who understand it’s God who orchestrates such events as a tapestry of His stewardship. Only He can pull back the veil of mystery, gazing down the corridor of eternity, knowing the outcome, and makes sense of these events that baffle we mortals as we examine them from our puny earthly perch. After all is said and done, the fig leaf of man’s rectitude and nobility, like the Pharisee, are stripped away; as evil testifies otherwise. Camus was wrong; evil’s root isn’t ignorance- it’s sin.

For some of us, God performs miracles. Others pass through mortal hands-even cruel ones. The late Corrie ten Boom, Dutch watchmaker, spent years imprisoned in Ravensbrook concentration camp, for hiding Jews. Her book, “The Hiding Place,” recounts her saga of God’s grace that penetrated that hell-hole. As horrible as it was, she wrote later, that she was able to be thankful even for the lice that infested her body. How? Lice kept the Nazi guards at a distance, not brutally raping her, as was customary. Yet, it’s the ebb and flow of life that often dulls our senses to His prompting. It’s “hardening of the heart.”

In God’s economy, one must understand He’s always just and righteous. Stalin’s theological studies must’ve failed to prick his heart. God will not be thwarted. He interrupts our routine, quotidian existence according to His will. Open hostility or rigid apathy to Biblical truths have grave and predictable consequences. Mankind’s centuries of insisting that he’s autonomous, denying any possibility of God’s intervention, lead to a predictable decline from the apex of this world, to moral obscurity. What of the international cabal of perverted sex offenders led by Jeffery Epstein?

No nation’s exempt from upheaval, tragedy, war, racial divide, COVID, and loss of life. Yet urbane men and women shake their frail fist at God, insisting that the road back is through prosperity and humanism. Any nation paying lip service with a Holy God, yet behaves otherwise, is ripe for a slide into oblivion. America isn’t off the hook. Since 1973, over 60 million unborn have been slaughtered on our watch, codified by a rogue SCOTUS.

John Steinbeck’s 1952, “East of Eden” implies that evil is an innate and inescapable dilemma for man, left to his own devices. He’s still East of Eden, and no fig leaf. For this “heart condition” there’s an elixir. Man is, through Jesus Christ, redeemable. An invitation to all who agree with Him their heart is stained, in need of cleansing. It sounds archaic and counterintuitive in this progressive culture. Truth often does.

Do you remember the false “Moral Equivalency” myth from the 1980’s? The premise was being there’s no moral difference between the U.S. and the Soviet Union. Despite our flaws and sins, we’ve otherwise stood for truth and freedom, with the most generous heart on the planet, while the former Soviet Union was, and is, a repressive autocracy bound to subvert freedom and liberty, ruling with an iron fist.

Should two radically different leaders be judged by their claims to rectitude? For example, “Hitler was only trying to unify Germans and improve its failing economy,” at the expense of six million Jews. Will Putin send the “welcome wagon” to Ukraine in lieu of tanks? Does President Xi Jinping’s gala 2022 Winter Olympics portend a softening of Communist iron rule? We can’t see their hearts. We can see the oppression. Does everyone have a good heart, as Anne Frank wrote? Do you have a heart for God? What do you think?

Mike Pyatt’s a Natrona County resident. His email is mikepyatt44@gmail.com

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