Summary: God humbles and gives great hope to mankind, created in his image.
“There are one hundred and ninety-three living species of monkeys and apes. One hundred and ninety-two of them are covered with hair. The exception is the naked ape…homo sapiens.” So wrote Zoologist Desmond Morris in his effort to analyze human behavior through the actions of primates.
A few years ago the Associated Press reported on the new exhibit at the London Zoo: “The captives in the human zoo sunned themselves on a rock ledge, clad in bathing suits and pinned-on fig leaves. Some played with hula hoops while others waved. A signboard informed visitors of the species’ diet, habitat, worldwide distribution and threats.”
A child looking at the exhibit asked, “Why are there people in there?” Polly Wills, spokeswoman for the London Zoo, replied, “Seeing people in a different environment, among other animals… teaches members of the public that the human is just another primate.” The Zoo’s press release said, “We have set up this exhibit to highlight the spread of man as a plague species and to communicate the importance of man’s place in the ecosystem.”
Al Mohler (President of the Southern Baptist Seminary) writes: “The Human Zoo is a perfect illustration of our contemporary confusion…. The London Zoo may want its visitors to learn ‘that the human is just another primate,’ but… all this talk about human beings as mere animals… is undermined by a single second’s reflection on the fact that it is the humans who built the zoo, captured the animals, and came up with such a silly idea as ‘The Human Zoo’ in the first place. The humans were not captured and placed there by apes or elephants. The signs identifying the various creatures were not produced by the inhabitants of the reptile house….”
Dr. Douglas Kelly (Reformed Theological Seminary) reminds us: “The question of origins is one of the most significant that a person ever faces: where we came from is crucial to understanding who we are and where we are going…. The Biblical vision of man as God’s creature, whom he made in his own image, has had the most powerful effect on human dignity, on liberty, on the expansion of the rights of the individual, on political systems, on the development of medicine, and on every other area of culture….”
Genesis 1 and 2 explain how we came to be.
[Read: Genesis 1.26-31; 2.5-7. Pray.]
Every day thousands of tons of concrete are broken and crushed as new construction demolishes the damaged and decayed structures of previous years; and no one cries. Last year, just over at Waycross and Hamilton, an old strip mall was razed, but no one complained. It was just concrete.
But if we form that same concrete more carefully, something almost magical happens. Shape it into a statue of, say Saddam Hussein and stand it downtown Baghdad. People cheer when it is destroyed. But form concrete into the likeness of Abraham Lincoln, place it in the center of Washington, D.C., and hundreds of thousands will travel to see it and many will weep with joy as the gaze on the concrete. Before we mix it with water, concrete is cheap, dirty, common; shape it correctly and it can touch our deepest emotions.
Of course, it is not actually the concrete which makes us shudder when standing in front of Hussein or weep before Lincoln. These are images, representations of something far greater than the sum of the parts. Hussein’s statute stands for oppression, hatred of God and humanity, and a reign of terror; Lincoln’s for freedom, love of all mankind, and opportunity for previously unknown happiness.
It is not only concrete which forms images, is it? I remember well the 2000 Olympics and the presentation of the gold to swimmer Lenny Krayzelburg. His parents fled Odessa because of anti-Semitism. When they arrived in the United States in 1989, they spoke not one word of English. It took nine months for Oleg to find work as a hospital cook; Yelena also eventually got a job there as a technician. They did not own a car, so Lenny rode a bus for 45 minutes, then walked the eight blocks from the bus stop to the Santa Monica swim club. He also worked to help with the family finances. It was so hard that he almost gave up swimming. Then Krayzelburg wins the gold, out national anthem plays, and we are moved as we watched our flag rise. We did not cry because of the flag – rather what represents – freedom bought at great price.
For millions of people, Mr. Obama’s election is an image of great power. Those who are not dark skinned tend to see only his policy decisions; but for a culture whose daughters and wives were arrested for sitting on a bus seat that a white man wanted, having an African American as the most powerful man in the world screams freedom and equality.