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FIRST-PERSON: Signs of heathenism

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–We’re now heathens.

We may protest and say we aren’t. But we are.

The pictures prove it — the photos showing American soldiers lording it over naked Iraqi prisoners.

You can say those actions don’t represent America. You can argue that they don’t represent you as an American.

It doesn’t matter. In the court of world opinion — a crucially important court, even if it has no legal sanction — you’re a heathen. What’s so important, you ask, about world opinion? Have you lost sight of the reality we now live in — a world at war over terror?

If you travel overseas, pause at a newsstand, look at the pictures on the covers of newsmagazines and someone asks you if you’re an American, you are a heathen.

No amount of denying it will suffice. Few on the street corner of Nairobi, Cape Town, Moscow or countless other cities across the world will say, “Oh, I understand, you’re different. You’re a moral person.” They likely will wonder, if silently, what makes you so different from the rest of America.

Everyone who perpetrated the unspeakable abuses of Iraqi prisoners reflects an American family. Decision-makers and prison guards, they all come from our neighborhoods and attended our schools. Some of them attended our churches or at least knew where they’re located.

The roots of our heathenism are many. Fifty years ago, for example, a man started a magazine featuring women who were willing to take off their clothes. This man, so he said, celebrated the human body and human freedom.

This man, in his moral blindness, also made the human body a commodity. Countless others followed his lead.

Too many Americans over the years devalued the human body and, not surprisingly, the soul within the body. They stirred the soul to be ruled by lust and shamelessness. They made the soul more vulnerable to every other form of heathenism.

Now we see the abhorrent fruits of this man’s philosophy. Some of our fellow citizens treated the human bodies and souls of Iraqi prisoners as commodities.

Too many Americans didn’t grasp the looming tragedy of heathenism 50 years ago and we don’t grasp it now. Either we choose heathenism — in essence, more degradation of the human body and soul — or we choose something else.

We can choose, for example, to rethink our societal views of God. We can ponder anew the existence of the God who made man in His image and gave us the Ten Commandments — the One who gave us mankind’s highest moral ground in a sweeping love for mankind evidenced by His crucifixion and resurrection.

Granted, this is a simple analysis.

But truth, at its core, often is easy to grasp. Simple truth can change lives. It can begin helping us as a nation turn back from our growing heathenism. It can redeem lives in Iraq and throughout the world. It can change the course of human history.
To read more about life-changing truth, go to Art Toalston’s column, titled “New birth,” at http://www.bpnews.net/bpnews.asp?ID=17467. Toalston is editor of Baptist Press.