Religion in Society

Looking to God in the Face of Brutal Gang Rapes

| by Baptist Press

By Erich Bridges

A 15-year-old girl steps outside of a school
homecoming dance and guzzles alcohol in a hangout spot on campus.

She
collapses. She is robbed, beaten, stripped. She is raped -- not once,
but again and again, allegedly for at least two hours. More than 20
people reportedly participate or watch. Nobody tries to stop the
attacks. Nobody calls the police.

You've probably heard about
the incident, which occurred Oct. 24 outside Richmond (Calif.) High
School. It made national headlines because of the sheer cruelty of the
assault -- and the fact that so many bystanders did nothing, or joined
in.

"There's something about the coldness of it ... the attitude
of both the people involved and the people who saw or knew about it,"
said Dara Cashman, of the Contra Costa District Attorney's Office,
after the Oct. 29 arraignment of three young suspects in the attack.

"It's just very cold."

When
a crime this chilling captures the attention of a society already
saturated with violence, explainers get into the act. Why didn't a
bystander or witness call the police? Communities ruled by crime and
fear don't tolerate "snitches," law enforcement officials say. Liberals
often point to the brutalization caused by generations of poverty and
racism. Conservatives tend to talk about the breakdown of law and
order, families and traditional values.

Such explanations
often "presuppose that humans are basically good before society messes
them up," observes Collin Hansen in Christianity Today. "So we need to
identify and fix those dimensions in our society that lead people
astray. Surely factors such as the bystander effect, poor schools and
broken families testify to what happens when cultures forsake common
goods that restrain sin. But the Bible depicts a more realistic view of
human nature."

The Old Testament, in fact, frankly recounts
several gang rapes (read Judges, chapter 19, for one heartbreaking
instance). "The biblical writers do not seem surprised" by such abuses,
Hansen notes. "Rather, they identify the crimes with rebellion against
the Lord...."

Sin, in other words.

Willful rejection of
God's commands leads to worship of self above all else and evil against
others. It's an old, old story. It was the main problem then. It's the
main problem now.

The vicious abuse of a 15-year-old girl for
group entertainment is cold, to be sure. But it's no colder than
trafficking a child into the sex industry for profit, or ignoring the
cries of the poor, or systematically destroying someone's life with
whispers and lies.

If all the bloodbaths of the last century
have taught us anything, it's that the more things change (technology,
social mores), the more human nature stays the same. We are sinners --
individually and collectively -- and the only solution to sin is Jesus
Christ.

Simple? You bet. Simple truth. You don't need an
advanced degree to understand the Gospel. Here it is: The world is lost
in sin. We need to repent and return to God. He offers mercy and
redemption, through Christ alone, to all who worship and follow Him as
Savior and Lord.

Charles Mwangi is staking his life on that
truth. A Christian in Nairobi, Kenya, he believes God has called him to
reach hurting people in the tough slums of the city.

"Charles
has remained faithful in the face of intense persecution from a local
gang," reports a Southern Baptist missionary in Nairobi. "His house has
been vandalized and one of his Bible 'storying' groups was recently
attacked, resulting in the robbery of the attendees' cell phones."

Charles
prayed he would have a chance to share the Gospel with those who
mistreated him. The opportunity came, Charles shared -- and two of the
gang members repented and accepted Christ as Lord and Savior. They now
attend the same Bible group they robbed.

Law enforcement didn't
change the gang members' hearts. Nor did community programs (although
local believers and missionaries participate in social ministries in
Nairobi). Jesus changed their hearts.

When enough hearts change, communities change. Whole societies and cultures change.

We
need to remember that in a hyper-political age. I occasionally tune in
to certain Christian radio programs that used to offer inspiration,
teaching and global missions information along with a biblical
perspective on social issues. Now it's all politics, all the time, with
barely a nod toward missions and evangelism. Even if I agree with the
politics, the single-minded emphasis bothers me.

Don't get me
wrong: Christians have a sacred responsibility to speak out for what
they know is right in an increasingly hostile public square. But we
need to keep our priorities straight. We are citizens, first and
foremost, of the Kingdom of God.

His priorities are as simple
as the Gospel: Love the Lord with all your heart, mind and strength.
Love your neighbor as yourself. Glorify Him in your community and among
the nations by proclaiming His salvation. Make disciples among all
peoples.

I sat recently in a church association meeting and
heard a shocking statistic. In a representative survey of the almost
500,000 people who live in the region where my church is located, a
grand total of 14 percent affirmed this statement: "My faith is
important to me." That's right, 14 percent -- in central Virginia, home
of Lottie Moon, guiding star of Southern Baptist missions.

I'm a lot more concerned about that statistic than who's voting for whom.

Erich Bridges is global correspondent for the International Mission Board.

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