Summary: You know evil by its actions. You know God by his actions, his actions of love. Every day, in every way, make sure which side you are on. Be on God’s side, keep God’s law of love.
CSI, Heaven’s Gate, and Evil
Please turn in your Bibles to the book of Proverbs, chapter 3, and follow along as I read verses 7-8.
7 Be not wise in thine own eyes: fear the LORD, and depart from evil.
8 It shall be health to thy navel, and marrow to thy bones.
Amen. The word of God. Thanks be to God.
CSI is a TV series which follows detectives working at the Las Vegas Police Department Crime Scene Investigations bureau. Since its debut in 2000, CSI has been consistently at the top of the ratings. Last week it was once again the number one rated TV show in America. It is also the most violent TV show in America. It has really graphic scenes of headless bodies and gaping wounds. The redeeming values of the show are that the plots are well-written, the actors do a good job, and the bad people die in all sorts of ugly ways. So the show often, but not always, has a moral: Do evil and evil happens to you.
I might as well ‘fess up here. I am a fan of CSI. That does not mean that I am not critical of the show, but I usually watch it.
Last week’s episode (October 13) was entitled “Shooting Stars.” The CSI team discovered eleven bodies in an abandoned military installation outside Las Vegas. They also found a round room with a sphere in the center of the room that would light up and create the effect of a meteor shower on the ceiling. It looked like the group was similar to the Heaven’s Gate Cult. The eleven victims timed their suicide to coincide with a meteor shower that occurred the previous night.
In the course of the show, we learn that the group actually did not intend to commit suicide. They intended to take a potion that would render them unconscious and capable of communing with aliens in the meteor shower, but one member of the group is sure that by their deaths, they could be raptured out of this world and rise up to live on a higher, purer plane with powerful alien beings, or something like that. And she is certain that is what they really want, so she administers a lethal drug in place of a sleeping potion, and kills them all.
As I watched that show, I thought, It is amazing how easily we convince ourselves that something that is obviously evil is really all right. Now that CSI is just a TV show, but the way they depicted the murderer’s thought processes seemed all too real.
Do you remember the real Heaven’s Gate Cult? In 1997, thirty-nine members of the cult committed mass suicide. They were led by Marshall Herff Applewhite (b. 1931), the son of a Presbyterian minister. Applewhite attended Union Theological Seminary in Richmond for awhile and then served as music director at the First Presbyterian Church in Gastonia, N.C. before he went west and went weird.
Apparently, he and his cult believed that salvation is by UFO. In the mid-nineties, Heaven’s Gate got all excited about the approach of comet Hale-Bopp One photograph by an amateur astronomer seemed to show an object following the comet. UFO believers proclaimed that this object was a spaceship.
The Heaven’s Gate cultists thought that this supposed spaceship had come to take them away before the earth was destroyed. They decided that the only way they could get to the spaceship, and be saved from total destruction, was by “exiting their human vehicles.”
On March 27, 1997, in Rancho Santa Fe, California, Applewhite and his disciples drank vodka and ate phenobarbitol-laced apple sauce. A video of the bodies in bunkbeds, covered neatly with purple blankets and wearing identical, brand-new, Nike sneakers, was shown repeatedly during the media coverage following the suicides.
The members of Heaven’s Gate were all ages, but mostly in their forties. They were mature individuals. The question is: How did they reason themselves into doing evil? How was it that thirty-nine intelligent and fairly well-educated individuals convinced themselves that committing suicide was a good idea?
We could ask the same question about Jonestown. In 1978, followers of Jim Jones committed mass suicide in Guyana at a site called, Jonestown. They fixed up a huge quantity of fruit punch laced with cyanide. They then made all 276 children at Jonestown drink the punch, then the adults followed. In the end, Jones killed himself with a gunshot to the head. 914 people died.
Why? Why would any adult assist in murdering 276 children, then kill themselves? That was evil. We all agree on that. Jim Jones was evil. Marshall Applewhite was evil.
How do we know this? By what they did. By their actions. And even before they acted, we could have known they were evil, by what they said, because they used words to justify their evil actions. Applewhite’s cult talked about “exiting the human vehicle.” Jim Jones had his people down in Guyana practicing suicide rituals. Again I say, it is amazing to me how people can reason their way into evil acts.