The Blindness of Seeing Only What we Want to See

Jer 6:14 They have healed the wound of my people lightly, saying, ‘Peace, peace,’ when there is no peace.

The Jews knew full well what the Law of God said. They also knew the promised blessings for obeying that Law and the certain curses for disobeying it. In addition, they knew that they had been doing anything but living in obedience to the Lord. Jeremiah’s preaching exposed their sin and announced coming judgment.

But they did not want judgment. They didn’t want to see it. So they didn’t. They embraced the message of “peace, peace.” Until the hammer fell.

So it was in France and England in May of 1940. The allies were “at war” and yet they did not believe there would be a Nazi invasion. Here is an example of this willful blindness taken from William Manchester’s biography of Winston Churchill (Volume 2, The Last Lion) –

One French pilot did see the [Nazi] buildup on the evening of the eighth of May. He was over the Ruhr, returning from a propaganda mission, dropping leaflets urging the German people to overthrow Hitler and thus bring peace. Above Dusseldorf he looked down and saw a 60 mile line of tanks and trucks headed for the Ardennes [where the Germans were going to pull off a surprise attack]. They were driving with their lights on. He reported his discovery. It was dismissed as not credible.

And again:

Five months earlier, as Europe slept away the winter, a German airplane carrying two staff officers was blown off course and forced to land in Belgium. The officers tried and failed to burn the papers they carried, which happened to contain the OKW’s [German High Command] revised operation orders for the invasion of the Low Countries (Belgium, Holland, etc) including a thrust through the Ardennes. British intelligence perused the captured papers. The high arts of deception and double cross being well practiced by both the Germans and the British, it was concluded that the papers were a plant, a ruse, and therefore, unbelievable.

But they weren’t. The Ardennes was precisely the point the Nazis would invade through, and the very point that the French military leaders insisted was an impenetrable maze that no army could ever come through.

The French and the British, in these cases, had hard facts and proof thrown right into their faces. Yet they disregarded those facts. Why? Because they did not want to believe what the facts proved. There would be no war. Or if it came, it would come at points that were well fortified and defended. The allies would soon pay a high, high price for their refusal to see what they did not want to see.

And so it is when the facts tell us that evil has come in among us. A mother and wife goes to her pastor and tells him about the horrific treatment she has been suffering at the hands of her upstanding, well-respected, “christian” husband. Church leaders and members see a man, a member of their church, energetically pursuing “ministry” with troubled young people or maintaining age-inappropriate relationships. They receive reports that this man is taking a few young people “camping.” But he is such a fine “servant of the Lord.” The most likable fellow you could ever meet. The facts point to the need for great caution and the establishment of firm boundaries. But no action is taken. Why? Because the church leaders and members do not want to see what the facts are pointing to. They do not want to consider that evil is sitting right there in the pew with them Sunday after Sunday, year after year.

Willful blindness is a sin. It enables evil. It oppresses the victims. It ignores the warnings and instructions of the Word of God. It is selfish. Rather than face up to the truth that the Nazis are coming, willful blindness chooses to embrace the fantasy even though millions are going to die as a result.

We Cannot be Careless About Who we Allow Our Children to be With

Mat 19:14 but Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.”

When I was a youngster I was put in many situations that could easily have resulted in me being victimized by a pedophile or some other abuser. I remember once when there was a record-breaking flood in Southern Oregon. We lived along the river and the water got into our house, so we had to stay with the neighbors. The mother was a very kind woman – she may even have been a Christian. Her husband was a foul-mouthed man and so were her two sons who were in their early 20’s.

One evening when the flood waters were receding a bit, just enough to permit driving on the highway into town, my parents let me accompany one of the sons to the grocery store with a list of things to pick up. He had a car and off we went. On the way, right out of the blue, he asks (I was only 12), “so Jeff, are you masturbating yet?” Needless to say I was taken aback because we didn’t talk about such subjects in our family. But he kept pressing for an answer. I don’t know what I said, I must have mumbled something. But then he proceeded to tell me how his first ______ was one of his high school teachers.

Now, here is my point. Even though nothing else happened, the fact is that my parents, in their naivete, allowed me to be placed in a dangerous and harmful situation. They did not know this young man really. Yet they carelessly assumed. And then they sent me off with him.

I could tell you many similar stories. I had an older relative who kept pornography in his room and my parents often left me there while they were on vacation. Oh, and this was a “Christian” family you know. His parents were very active in their church. He went on in life to embrace homosexuality. Then there was the female relative, a few years older than me, who as I look back on it now was certainly being sexually molested by her much older brother. Yet, again, my parents very often just turned me loose with these people, unsupervised.

Almost all of you, I suspect, could tell very similar stories of your childhood. Some if not many of you probably never told your parents about some molestation episode because, well, you never talked about such things in your family. Besides, would they believe you? Would they think it was really all that serious? Maybe they would be angry with you and tell you it was your fault. And, in your childhood thinking, maybe it was your fault?

Moms, dads, you cannot assume. You must not allow your children to be turned loosed to run unsupervised with the neighbor kids, with some classmate who wants them to spend the night, with those children of your  own siblings (ie, your children’s cousins), with coaches or teammates, school teachers – ANYONE! If you think that I am exaggerating the case, then I would tell you that you are naive and careless.

Evil lurks. Evil dwells in the heart of man. It is all around us.

And woe, woe, woe to the evil ones who cause the little ones to stumble.

 

The Evil Man Consistently Works to Make the Righteous Look Bad

Then the Rabshakeh stood and called out in a loud voice in the language of Judah: “Hear the word of the great king, the king of Assyria! Thus says the king: ‘Do not let Hezekiah deceive you, for he will not be able to deliver you out of my hand. Do not let Hezekiah make you trust in the LORD by saying, The LORD will surely deliver us, and this city will not be given into the hand of the king of Assyria.’ Do not listen to Hezekiah, for thus says the king of Assyria: ‘Make your peace with me and come out to me. Then each one of you will eat of his own vine, and each one of his own fig tree, and each one of you will drink the water of his own cistern, until I come and take you away to a land like your own land, a land of grain and wine, a land of bread and vineyards, a land of olive trees and honey, that you may live, and not die. And do not listen to Hezekiah when he misleads you by saying, “The LORD will deliver us.” (2Ki 18:28-32)

Hezekiah was a righteous, godly king whose faith and trust were in the Lord. This righteousness was the very point at which the enemy attacked him by calling the King’s faith foolishness. The Assyrians were trying to alienate the people from their king by deceptively accusing him in their presence.

We must be wise to this tactic. I have written about it before but we really cannot be reminded often enough. Satan, by nature, is an accuser. He accused God in Eden and successfully turned Adam and Eve into rebels.

I have found that while abusers and other evil people frequently if not typically appear to be quite inconsistent, they are really very constant. You get the feeling that you never know what direction they are going to go, or which side of an issue they are going to come down on. They appear to be very unpredictable, and this unpredictability on their part is quite intentional. They want to keep us guessing so we don’t know what they are up to. The evil man wants his targets to be off guard.

But what clears the fog of this seeming multi-directional “going off” is to realize that by his nature, the wicked man who craves power and control, turns every situation that he can to his own advantage. Consistently and quite naturally he sees opportunity in a given situation that comes along to use it to make the righteous look stupid or mean or guilty. Satan’s agents are really quite skilled at this, able to pull it off without really having to even think about it but for a split second. You see this very think in Diotrephes:

For they have gone out for the sake of the name, accepting nothing from the Gentiles. Therefore we ought to support people like these, that we may be fellow workers for the truth. I have written something to the church, but Diotrephes, who likes to put himself first, does not acknowledge our authority. So if I come, I will bring up what he is doing, talking wicked nonsense against us. And not content with that, he refuses to welcome the brothers, and also stops those who want to and puts them out of the church. (3Jn 1:7-10)

This evil must be exposed. We must be able to recognize it, shine light on it, and not be duped. “Stop that! We know what you just did. Repent of your wickedness, or leave our midst.” Put Diotrephes’ name in lights and most always he will hit the road, bound for greener pastures where he can practice his dark trade.

 

When We Believe the Wicked and Dismiss the Oppressed, We are Guilty of Cowardice

Forcing the weak to submit [to an evil oppressor] is clearly easier than confronting the strong, particularly if you have persuaded yourself that the weak deserve what is coming to them. (William Manchester)

This quote is taken from Manchester’s observations on how the English government (Chamberlain, Halifax, and crowd) put the pressure on victimized countries like Poland to submit to Hitler’s demands rather than confronting the real culprit – Hitler.

And so it is whenever wickedness is at work victimizing, using power to control and punish. It takes courage and a willingness to pay a price in order to stand with the weak and most people simply are not willing to carry the heavy weight of truth and stand for it no matter the cost. This is a huge part of the reason victims of all kinds of abuse are dismissed and minimized when they go to their churches for help. Their abusers almost always have far more resources – finances, allies, etc – than do the victims. Therefore many professing Christians treat victims as if they were lepers. It is why the normal wicked scenario in churches is that the victim is ultimately cast out while the perpetrator of the abuse is allowed to remain, the recipient of much empathy. “Poor fellow, he tried so hard, you know.”

I charge the majority of pastors and local churches with cowardice. They have convinced themselves, for their own gain and comfort, that the victims among them have whatever they get coming to them. “She wasn’t forgiving. She wasn’t merciful. She didn’t…..” – you fill in the blanks.

Many German people knew full well that the Nazis were persecuting and murdering Jews. Very few tried to do anything about it. I guess they convinced themselves that the millions of Jewish men, women, and little kids had the gas chambers coming to them. What goes around comes around, you know. Those Jews were an odd bunch anyway.

The Mortal Danger of Living as if Evil is Non-Existent

As a contributor to the Yale Review has pointed out, [Winston Churchill’s appeal for a recovery of moral health] was his way of saying that the English after Munich had to learn all over again to recognize evil. They had lost the sense of villainy; they had no solid principles, unshakable convictions.” [William Manchester]

But [Neville] Chamberlain still did not believe in standing up to Hitler. All evidence to the contrary, Chamberlain remained convinced that if the Fuhrer were treated with generosity, he could become Britain’s best friend. [Ibid]

In politics the squeaky wheel gets little grease. This is particularly true when a public figure challenging the leader carries a controversial reputation in train. The mass distrusts controversy. Reluctant to reconsider its convictions, superstitions, and prejudices, it rarely withdraws support from those who are guiding its destinies. Thus inertia becomes an incumbents’ accomplice. So does human reluctance to admit error. Those who backed the top man insist, against all evidence, that they made the right choice.” [Ibid]

As is evident in just these three quotes from Manchester’s wonderful book on the life of Winston Churchill (these taken from the second volume covering the decade before World War 2 when Churchill as a lone voice was trying to warn of the growing Nazi menace] naivete and ignorance regarding evil can be catastrophic. In this case, it led to some 60 million people dying. SIXTY MILLION! In some ways I regard Chamberlain as guilty as Hitler.

If you really want to gain wisdom regarding evil, read at least this second volume of the series (The Last Lion, William Manchester). If you are at all aware of the nature and tactics of domestic, spiritual, and sexual abusers who hide in sheep’s clothing in churches, I assure you that as you read you will find yourself very often exclaiming, “that is exactly what we are up against in the church when we try to point out evil!”

You have three perfect examples of this in the quote above:

  1. When Christians live in an isolated Christian “bubble,” when children grow up all their lives in such a place, they lose all sense of, as Churchill would put it, “villainy.” “Goodness gracious!” is about as strong of language as they hear. Bad guys are always dressed in black and in the end the good guys in white always win. And all this leads such people to this….
  2. If we just treat even the most nasty people with generosity, if we appease them and give them their way whenever we can, then surely eventually they will be truly thankful to us and become our bestest friends.
  3. When evil is uncovered in, for example, a local church, institutional inertia demands that it be discounted and ignored. Everyone is quite reluctant to admit that they have been duped by saintly old deacon Smith who, it turns out, has been sexually molesting children or abusing his wife all these years.

As for those who report these evils, such as the victims of it all, well, as Manchester put it, “the squeaky wheel gets little grease.” In other words, victims are ignored or told to stop squeaking! Why? Because they are upsetting the momentum of the institution that has been running oh so smoothly for a long, long time. To receive and believe the victim’s report of evil in the pews would demand a total reboot of, well, of just about everything that is held dear.

Willful ignorance of evil on the part of pastors and church members, counselors and popular Christian writers, has been enabling evil and oppressing its victims for far too long. Just as Neville Chamberlain and his “peace in our time” crowd had been provided with mountains of evidence that Hitler was arming Germany at an astounding rate, so Christians have been given God’s own Word that clearly exposes wickedness. How it hides among us. What its schemes are. What our weapons are. Paul reminds us-

2Co 2:11 so that we would not be outwitted by Satan; for we are not ignorant of his designs.

Eph 4:14 so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.

But we are children. We are ignorant of his designs. There is a multitude of reasons for this. Sometimes we are taught by leaders who do not belong to Christ at all. Sometimes professing Christians plug their ears to the truth when it is preached and cry “no more!” like the Israelites at Mount Sinai. And often we have carelessly embraced the traditions of men as the Word of God because we have not searched the Scriptures carefully ourselves. But whatever the cause, the widespread willful ignorance to the nature and tactics of the evil that has crept in among us in the church is permitting and even empowering wicked, ungodly men to parade as eminent holy men while all the while they feed on the flock.

Wake up, Christian. Listen to the victims. Believe them. Admit your ignorance about the devil and his methods and start taking serious steps to correct that ignorance. World War II never needed to have happened! There were scores of opportunities and years of time to stop the enemy without a shot being fired or a life being lost. So it is in your church and your family when it comes to protecting Christ’s people from the wicked.

1Th 5:4-8 But you are not in darkness, brothers, for that day to surprise you like a thief. (5) For you are all children of light, children of the day. We are not of the night or of the darkness. (6) So then let us not sleep, as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober. (7) For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, are drunk at night. (8) But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation.