Each new day brings with it blood curdling stories of Man’s inhumanity to Man. Violence has become a way of life, wiping out millions of helpless and innocent people in all parts of the world. Terrorism in the name of God and religion is strangling the voices of sanity with its vicious tentacles. The animal in Man has surfaced like never before, effectively suppressing the image of God and supplanting it with the human self image.
Whether it is Osama bin Laden fighting to save Islam from western values, or the Lashkar e Toiba bent on expelling Hindu India from Kashmir, or Naxalites taking up arms against the government and law enforcing agencies, the single common factor is violence – the shedding of innocent blood. Even in civil society, honour killings, killing for money or revenge or disappointment in love, taking another’s life has become so commonplace that we are gradually becoming immune to violence and bloodshed.
As St. Augustine said, “Adam (made in the image of God) now lies scattered on the whole surface of the earth…….He has fallen, having been broken to pieces as it were; he has filled the universe with his debris.”
The animal in man is just skin deep. It is kept in check by the logical part of the brain, in deference to social laws governing human behaviour. Humans have a conscience that can differentiate between what is right or wrong. We are aware of the consequences of wrong behaviour, and so we try to refrain from doing evil. This power of deductive reasoning is peculiar to human beings. Our ability to reason, introspect, form relationships and love each other sets us apart from animals. The highly developed brain in man is capable of compassion, morality, ethical behaviour and communication skills.
Unfortunately, godlessness along with stress of modern-day living, has made a large section of humanity relinquish control of these qualities to the mid-brain, which is incapable of logical or rational thought and is instinctive in its response to situations. Freud describes the mechanism of personality as the id, ego and super ego.
Id is the basic instinct which wants instant gratification. It thrives on the ‘pleasure principle.’ It must have immediate satisfaction of its innate needs.
Ego becomes progressively refined through reasoning and social requirements and preserves the moral and behavioural status of the individual.
But if the Id overrules the Ego, imbalance in behaviour patterns surface.
What we recognize as the Conscience or the Inner voice of authority is the Super ego, which monitors behaviour and is like the disciplining voice of the parent.
Joseph Butler in the 18th century was keen to emphasize that obeying conscience is part of what it means to be human. It prohibits and controls instinctual behaviour.
The voice of Conscience is intimately bound up with our relationship with God. When it is stifled, then we are reduced to the level of animals. This is a problem of our times and we need to turn track and retrieve our humanity, and both individually and collectively restore the broken image of God in human lives.
We recall the first act of violence in the Bible when Cain succumbed to his animal instinct and butchered his brother Abel in a fit of jealousy. “Sin is crouching at your door,” said the Lord, “It desires to have you. But you must master it.”
But we take comfort that the divine image is not wholly lost and can be revived. Grossman calls the midbrain the ‘puppy brain’ and is optimistic that social consciousness in man will not immediately respond in violence even under duress. He feels that man’s natural instinct is ‘flight’ rather than ‘fight.’
Violence today has taken many forms – rich nations against poor neighbours, extortion, domestic violence, homicide, genocide, racism, caste wars, sexual exploitation – a veritable Pandora’s Box of iniquity. The ‘secret power of lawlessness’ is in the world. We have become anaesthetized to the pain of others.
The Nuclear threat hovers like the proverbial Damocles sword over all nations. No one knows when some heartless megalomaniac will press the button to eliminate his fellow creatures.
Strange as it may sound, Science and Technology is another form of subtle violence against humanity, which is threatening to usurp the powers of God. Man wants to control every aspect of his life. He wants to be the centre of the world.
Many scientists have devoted their lives to understanding the Mysteries of Nature. The lone voice of Lord Rees, Professor of Cosmology at Cambridge University, who believes that the great mysteries of the cosmos are beyond human comprehension, is drowned out. He says it is impossible to reconcile the forces that govern the cosmos including planets and stars with those that rule the so called micro world of atoms and particles. However, this has not deterred other scientists from claiming that the ‘God particle’ has been discovered and is the leading discovery of the 21st Century.
“If society goes on living on Science while rejecting the moral code on which it is based, that society is bound to collapse,” says Professor Jacques Monad. He believes that the pursuit of knowledge must be an ethical activity and there must be an ‘ethics of knowledge.’
Technology has also depleted the very creation over which man was given dominion, leading to alarming effects of global warming, depletion of ground water, earthquakes, floods, and extinction of several species of animals and birds. The highest heavens belong to God, but the earth He has given to man to care for. We are not the owners but merely custodians. Dominion does not give us the power to destroy God’s territory or mutilate His creatures through the wrong use of the gift of knowledge.
Man now claims to have cloned life in a laboratory. Being ‘fearfully and wonderfully made’ in the image of God, one wonders whether a cloned human being can replicate this miracle. “What a piece of work is man!” says Shakespeare, “How noble in reason! How infinite in faculties! In form and moving how express and admirable in action! How like an angel, in apprehension how like a god!”
The manipulation of the reproductive process is mind boggling. Tests that were invented for the diagnosis of pre-implantation genetic disease are now misused to create designer babies with the right colour of eyes, skin, hair and gender. One can even facilitate conception in a laboratory and the embryo placed in an artificial womb, eliminating the need of a female uterus. Eugenics or the policy of selective breeding whether for physical appearance, intelligence or absence of disease, revives horrific memories of the Nazi era.
Gabor Vatja an Australian scientist working with the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology says, “Natural human reproduction is at best a fairly inefficient process. In vitro fertilization (IVF) offers a higher success rate with 100% success” Experts predict that within the next 30 years, Infertility will come to an end, and even women a hundred years old can have a baby.
The expertise to genetically modify life in the embryonic stage is frightening. But the recent experiments by British scientists to create embryos from the genetic material of three different people with the intention of eliminating disease and prolonging life, is reminiscent of the Frankenstein’s monster.
Other scientists are working on the secrets of Immortality.(Buck Institute of California for Age research.) If they can discover the genetic process that leads to ageing, it can be switched off, keeping human beings young forever.
The revolutionary promises of neuroscience, like erasure of bed memories, emotional and behavioural control through magnetic energy, are not limited to the realm of science fiction anymore. We must stop to ask ‘Is Technology rewiring our brains?’
Gary Small of UCLA sounds a warning note that daily exposure of digital technologies can alter how the brain works. Spending time in technology related tasks and less time interacting with people, can reduce our fundamental social skills by altering brain circuits.
Are Christians then against advances in Science and Technology? Certainly not. We believe that man’s knowledge is a gift from God for his function of having dominion over the earth. But Science too must be subjected to moral and ethical boundaries.
“You should have no other gods before me,” said the Lord, “I the Lord your God am a jealous God.” (Ex 20:3,5)
“I am the Lord who has made all things…… who overthrows the learning of the wise and turns it into nonsense” Isa 44: 24, 26.
“Man …….is not the master of nature. He must conform his actions to certain laws if he is to maintain dominion over the earth,” say Tom Dale and Vernon Carter.
Sexual Behaviour patterns have changed so drastically due to crumbling of the image of God in man. Premarital sex, adultery, multiple liaisons, rape, incest, fetishes are on the rise. Sexual immorality violates the commandments of God. Our bodies are supposed to be ‘temples of the living God.’ We are admonished to flee from sexual immorality and honour god with our bodies.(1Cor6:13-20.) “Control your bodies in a way that is holy and honourable.” (I Thess 4:1)
Sex which has a spiritual dimension within the marital relationship has been reduced to a lustful physiological exercise, to be indulged in indiscriminately either as a release of animal passion or a weapon of power and intimidation. Like drug abuse, sexual addiction can eventually destroy mental, physical, emotional and spiritual health, leading to broken homes, depression, inability to form meaningful relationships and even suicide.
Can we as Christians renege on our responsibilities of being the ‘salt’ and ‘light’ of the world? Can we shrug our shoulders and look the other way when our humanness is being destroyed by crass individualism and godlessness? We cannot be slaves to our basic instincts.
There is therefore an urgent need to introspect. Man was made in the image of God. He was fashioned by God’s own hands, from dust.(Gen 2:7) Other creatures were formed by His spoken word. God vitalized man by breathing into his nostrils His very own breath of life, so that man could become a living soul. He has made man a moral and responsible being.
“Know thy self since thou art my image, So shalt thou know me whose image thou art. And so shalt thou find me in thy self,” was written by William of Thiery, in his meditations.
The invisible spirit within us gives us the ability to relate to God like no other creature. We cannot therefore dissociate from God without severe consequences. It will make us godless creatures. Individualism (belief in the primary importance of the individual) is an aberration. Ayn Rand the author, considers man “an individual entity who possesses an inalienable right to his own life – a right derived from his nature as a rational human being.”
Herein lies the fallacy that is responsible for godless behaviour in the world today.
As Christians, our responsibilities are cut and dried. Paul Brand in his book “In His Image” says, “The community of Christ differs from every other human group. Unlike a social or political body, membership entails something as radical as a new coded imprint inside each cell. In reality, I become genetically like Christ himself because I belong to His body.”
It means that man must reflect the character of God in himself. A person’s worth is not measured by his power, education, IQ or prosperity, but the fact that God has given him infinite value. So as a community of believers we need to act collectively to restore the suppressed image of God in humanity, by our own behaviour and by our intimate walk with God. Loving God and loving our neighbour is our mandate.
We are the ‘aroma of Christ’ among those who are saved and those who are perishing; (2 Cor 2.15) We are to be the ‘letter of Christ written with the spirit of the living God’ to our fellowmen. As conscience keepers, we are to speak out against what is wrong and to ‘stand firm in one spirit, contending as one man for the faith of the gospel, without being frightened by those who oppose us’ (Phil1:27,28) We are to be blameless and pure in a crooked and depraved world. (Phil 2:15) We also need to control our bodies in a way that is holy and honourable. (I Thess 4:4)
The re-kindling of Agape love must be given high priority. Just as we have experienced the love of God in Christ, we must reciprocate with love for God and for our fellowmen. Agape is unconditional, self sacrificing and volitional. Paul Coelho the author calls it ‘the love that consumes.’ And C. S. Lewis regards it as ‘a selfless love that is passionately committed to the good of another.’
How do those who have lost the image of God look at their Christian neighbours? Tertullian described it in simple words. “What marks us in the eyes of our enemies is our loving kindness. ‘Only look,’ they say, ‘look how they love one another.’
Satan is on the rampage waiting to destroy the image of god in man and supplant it with his own. He sets himself up in God’s temple, proclaiming himself to be God. But “the
lamp of the Lord searches out man. It searches his inmost being,” and longs for the restoration of the broken image and a total transfiguration from man’s animal nature, so that He can have an uninterrupted and intimate relationship with the best of His creation.
We cannot let the ‘unique dignity’ of God’s image be sullied by the ‘unique depravity’ of our sinfulness. We must uphold God’s truth in a world that is trying to proclaim the absence of God.
(Published in Contemporary Christian – November 2010)