It Has Always Been So: sin & guilt in light of cosmic conflict

Some people seem incapable of guilt; others of us are saturated with it. I stumble, fall, and repent pretty regularly. Sometimes it’s relatively minor. Decades ago, it was major. My pillow has often been wet with tears of regret. 

But perhaps this whole thing is less about me than I thought. Perhaps I’ve been a pawn in a cosmic conflict. Perhaps we all have.

Pawns are sacrificed. The nobles – knights, bishops, queens, and especially kings – must be protected no matter the cost. Kings are worth more than pawns. Generals are worth more than foot soldiers. It has always been so.

Granted, some generals may feel consternation as they gather safely in faraway war-rooms. Meanwhile, infantry soldiers, grunts, and common seamen of all genders storm beaches, burn villages, and die young. Whole battalions shed their life blood to take or lose a hill, a fort, a foot of land. They imagine themselves heroic. Empires see them as martyrs. It has always been so. 

Lee sends Pickett with 12,000 poor southern boys charging across a field of slaughter. Eisenhower and his allied counterparts send 160,000 poor boys charging onto bloody beaches. 1.3 million poor Vietnamese and Americans died in Vietnam for what? – sacrificed by Johnson and Nixon et al for the sake of politics, saving face, ideology, and imperialism. With his captain’s bars, patent leather shoes, and dress blues, a thirty-year-old operates drones from a bunker near Las Vegas and kills sixteen poor Afghani civilians before lunchtime. Pawns, one and all. 

Mars demands human sacrifice. It has always been so.

Ah, but the politicians, billionaires, tycoons, barons, generals, presidents, prime ministers, and princes who are responsible for the slaughter of the poor and ordinary are themselves pawns. The high and mighty are pawns, played and used, just like the “nobodies” dying in the streets.

Behind all the wars and deaths, behind all the slaughter, behind all the betrayals, lies, greed and malignant narcissism, are unseen principalities, powers, spiritual wickedness, satanic forces of evil. Rich and poor alike, we allow them to use us as pawns. We are being played by the devil. It has always been so.

The red dragon does not operate alone. Monsters from both land and sea are willing assistants. Empowered by the slanderer who seeks only to destroy and kill, Empires and Religions join forces to pollute the earth, stir up the wars, stoke the fires of prejudice and hatred, spread the lies, and deny facts. 

I too have been a pawn. Duped into transgression and sin, I felt guilty for decades. Ignored, condemned and rejected by the religious, I lay bloodied and bruised by the roadside. I would be dead if not for several Samaritans. I blame myself. I am guilty. I take responsibility.  But I failed to see the demonic forces that played me. 

The Mỹ Lai massacre was the mass murder of unarmed South Vietnamese civilians by U.S. Army soldiers on March 16, 1968. Victims included men, women, children, and infants. Some of the women were gang-raped and their bodies mutilated, as were children as young as 12.  The military personnel who carried out the atrocity were responsible and culpable even if all but one was never brought to justice. But they were not acting in a vacuum. 

A nation trained them to kill. A nation taught them to fear and hate. A nation sent them to war – the same nation that denuded forests with agent orange, burnt humans with napalm, and previously obliterated Hiroshima. 

William Calley, Jr. was responsible for his actions. So were presidents, members of congress, drill sergeants, the military industrial complex, and the nationalism and xenophobia championed by “Christian” evangelists. Assisted by empire and religion, the satan was behind the monsters that were behind the persons of power who were behind the killers. There is blame all down the line. It has always been so.

As Denzel Washington’s character in the film Glory says, “Yeah, it stinks bad. And we all covered up in it too. Ain’t nobody clean.”

So perhaps, rather than condemning one another or condemning ourselves and wallowing in guilt and shame, aghast over our human capacity for betrayal, violence, and sin, we should – after individually repenting and making amends as best we can – recognize and fight the real enemy. Perhaps we should prayerfully come against the spiritual wickedness in high places. 

Perhaps we should take stands against the systemic evils embedded in nationalism, populism, white supremacy, growing fascism, militarism, historical revisionism, manifest destiny, and capitalism. 

Perhaps we need to pray for the insight and strength to resist being duped by empires and religious sounding propaganda. Perhaps we should stop waving flags.

Instead, let us love – 

love God, 

love others, 

love ourselves, 

love creation.

May it henceforth always be so.

About Dr. Larry Taylor

Radical Anabaptist, Jesus Freak, Red Letter Christian, sailor, thinker, spiritual director, life coach, pastor, teacher, chaplain, counselor, writer, husband, father, grandfather, dog-sitter

Posted on February 3, 2022, in anabaptist, Christianity, creation, Jesus, Justice, Kingdom Life, kingdom of God, Life Coaching, Peace Shalom Hesed, social justice, Spiritual Direction. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. Very good, my friend!


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