Writer, editor, stumbler after Jesus

Sometimes it’s best to turn away

I have long held that many Christians are far too namby-pamby when it comes to bad news. They avoid the unpleasant realities of the world as if by doing so they are somehow being spiritual. In reality, they are proving that old saw about being so heavenly-minded as to be no earthly good.

If we won’t face the ugliness of sin, then we can never experience nor appreciate the beauty of redemption. Let’s remember that when Jesus came preaching the “good news,” the Bible says, His first word was, “Repent.” That’s not ignoring the nastiness. He faced it head-on.

And yet there is a fine line to walk here. We can wander from the firm ground of holy honesty to the swamps of careless curiosity. There are some things we just don’t need to know too well.

That’s why I am not going to be looking at any videos of the latest ISIS atrocity, the slaughter of 21 Coptic Christians, decapitated on a Libyan beach.

If it’s true that the eyes are the window to the soul, then this latest slick—with blood—offering is another “smash-and-grab.” It’s like a block of concrete hurled through the panes. Those throwing it want to reach through the gap and snatch something from us.

I am not saying we turn our backs on what is happening. But I do believe that most of us should avert our eyes. I have read enough to know that ISIS kills people cruelly, coldly, calculatingly. I don’t need to watch.

There must be some eye-witnesses to history: protectors, press, prosecutors. But that strikes me as primarily on a “need-to-know” basis. They go and see on our behalf. For the rest of us, there is no need to know all the gory details.

So when ISIS releases another video from its horror vault, I will read about it, but I will look away.

I choose not to watch out of repugnance. I will not give the perpetrators one click of undue attention. They do not deserve my interest.

I choose not to watch out of respect. I will afford those whose last minutes of life were stripped of dignity a measure of honor. I turn my head aside not out of disinterest, but in deep regard.

I choose not to watch out of regret. I have lived long enough to know that some things can’t be unseen. Even if they don’t get shattered, the windows of our souls can get stained by what we give our attention.

I don’t need to watch pornography to know that is harmful. And I don’t need to watch grotesque violence to know that evil is in the world.

Long before curiosity killed the cat, it got this world into the mess we are in today: the fall centered on something that appealed to our visual senses. Maybe it shouldn’t be a surprise that the name of the terrorists who goad us, “Look! Look!” sounds like it has “eyes” in it.

The old kids’ Sunday School song puts it well: “O be careful little eyes what you see.”

The world doesn’t need heads in the sand. But the world doesn’t need to see heads on the sand.

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