History Always Repeats Itself
It's hard to believe it's been several years already since the Heaven's Gate mass suicide. It brought to mind the Branch Davidians and horrible tragedy that occurred in Waco. We all pray it will never happen again. Just like we did after Jonestown. Or the Holocaust before that. Unfortunately, it's simply a matter of time before history repeats itself again. We all ask, "What is it about [insert cult leader's name here] that enabled him to lead so many people to a senseless, fiery death?" Perhaps we should be asking "What is it that compels people to follow someone like [insert cult leader's name here]?"
American religious culture, for the majority of people, is Christian. The very foundation of Christianity is the belief in the Messiah. A Savior who's going to come to earth to take those who believe in Him away from the pains and sorrows of physical existence to a paradise where there's never any grief or agony, need or lack. Where they'll be reunited with the loved ones they've lost, never to be parted again. That's an offer not many of us would willingly pass up and many anticipate with great joy. We fear missing the opportunity to enter this kingdom through not being ready when the Messiah arrives. But how will we know this Messiah when he comes back? For that, we're told to read the Bible.
When Jesus was on earth almost two thousand years ago, he performed miracles: turning water into wine, feeding multitudes with scant supplies, raising the dead, healing the lame, blind and mentally challenged. Today, we're able to synthesize food and drink, bring people back from the dead and keep them alive after they've died, surgically and mechanically allow the lame to walk, let the blind "see" using Braille and guide dogs (not to mention corneal implants that allow the blind to actually see) and provide drug treatments and therapy that allow many who are mentally challenged to lead a relatively normal life. Man is now able to perform most of the miracles Jesus performed, although the latter definitely had more flair. With the current and anticipated advances in science, technology and medicine, miracles aren't going to cut it anymore. Even the Bible warns us not to trust just any miracle-worker since there will be many who will try to lead us astray and deceive us with similar works.
This threat of the anti-Christ, which many people perceive the likes of David Koresh or Jim Jones or Adolf Hitler to be, is constantly weighing on the minds of good Christians. Threats generate fear and fear needs to be quieted or it can become a phobia, taking away our ability to function in society on all levels. It's this fear and the fear of "missing the boat" that allows someone like David Koresh to manipulate others' minds by manipulating the words of the Bible. The Bible has been used by many to prove the correctness and morality of their position. Hitler used it to justify slaughtering Jews. American settlers used it to justify slaughtering Native Americans. It's been used in Bosnia and Croatia to justify ethnic cleansing. The point here is that if one is possessed of charisma and a glib tongue (and a well-hidden desire for personal power), one can use the Bible to prove or disprove any point. So what's the solution? How can we calm our fears yet still fulfill our hopes of eternity in paradise?
We must all stop looking to others for our salvation. As long as each of us continues to look outside ourselves for redemption, people like David Koresh, Jim Jones and Adolf Hitler are going to have an audience who is willing to listen and follow. And die needlessly. Salvation must come from within. God gave us free will and we must use that free will wisely. God doesn't need others to save your soul, but He does need you. Others can't show you where God is to be found. You are the only one who can save you because you are the only one who can choose to believe. No one can give you faith. So when you look for your Messiah, look first within yourself. If unsure of what to believe, pray, meditate, contemplate, study or simply ask. A prayer is always heard and, like the widow in the temple, it's the prayer offered in sincerity and humility that God will always answer.
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