Comings and Goings is a blog written by Theology, Worship and Education Director Charles B. "Chip" Hardwick as he travels throughout the church. God is on the move out and about in the world, working to redeem all things in Jesus Christ. As we join this mission, by the power of the Spirit we see God on the move. This blog contains glimpses of how Chip finds this to be true in his comings and goings.
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One of my colleagues in ministry told me once that total depravity (the fact that all of us are deeply stained by sin) is her favorite doctrine, because it is the only one which is empirically verifiable. That is, the only doctrine you can prove by just looking around you!
I am traveling in Rwanda and will head to the university city of Butare this evening for an academic conference at which I am making a presentation this weekend. Today in the capital city of Kigali, however, I went to the Genocide Memorial Center where I had the chance to see total depravity, up close and personal.
In 1994, radical members of the Hutu tribe (approximately 85% of Rwanda’s seven million population at the time) worked to purge the country of the Tutsis, a tribe making up almost all of the rest of the population. Over the course of 100 days, between 800,000 and 100,000 were killed—the vast majority Tutsis, although some moderate Hutus who worked to save Tutsis were also murdered. That means that up to 10,000 were killed on average every day, in a country where the landmass is equivalent to Maryland and the population is only slightly larger.
The massacre was neighbor against neighbor. The two tribes shared (and share) language, villages, professions, and meals. Both groups are Christian, with the same denominational mix (primarily Catholic, then Anglicans and Presbyterians) between the two. Hutu and Tutsi families babysat each other’s children, went to the same doctors and schools, and prayed next to each other on the same pews.
Yet Hutu leadership used propaganda to convince their tribespeople to use machetes and clubs to kill the men, women, and children from the Tutsi tribe which had held most of the country’s leadership positions but had not oppressed or abused those who were now murdering them. Many of those killed have had their bodies moved to respectful mass graves, such as the one to the right at the Genocide Memorial Center, where 250,000 are buried in these graves.
One of the most overwhelming pieces in the Memorial Center was a picture of a church where 2,000 Tutsis had gone to seek refuge. The Christian leader who served that church then ordered the building to be bulldozed, killing all those inside. They were members of his own congregation.
The tour of the museum ended with pictures of approximately twenty children, with information such as their name, age at the time of death, favorite foods and activities, and the way that they were killed: “hacked by machete in the arms of their mother at nine months,” “grenade explosion in their bedroom at ages four and six,” “clubbed to death at age nine.” Each one was more painful to see than the last.
They were painful, of course, because I was not simply looking at the pictures of the lost future of Rwanda (as this section of the Memorial Center was called). I was also looking at proof of total depravity…a sinfulness which so clouds human thought process and virtue that it was not simply okay, but expected, to kill the littlest ones with farm implements…a sinfulness which leads a religious leader to exterminate 2,000 congregants…a sinfulness which haunts Rwanda to this day…a sinfulness which seeks dominance in me and in you, in many different ways.
Lord, have mercy. Christ, have mercy. Lord, have mercy.
PS for more information about the genocide and work toward reconciliation in the twenty years since, read As We Forgive by Catherine Claire Larson.