I had bought Hotel Rwanda awhile ago, because it was on sale and because it seemed like an important movie. That was a year ago. I honestly never had the guts to watch it. Tonight, in lieu of renting a movie, Deb and I decided to watch it.
Since we are the parents of four very active children, we typically watch movies in 30-60 bursts. I assumed we’d need 3-4 nights to finish this one up, but we just sat there and watched the entire movie: two hours and five minutes (unheard of for us). This movie was devastating. Almost a million people slaughtered while most of the world did nothing to intervene. The population of Indianapolis and the surrounding area is around one million people.
The sad thing is, it’s happening again. Estimates run from 300,000 to 400,000 dead already. How to respond? In the short term there are ways to put out the fire, but if the coals underneath aren’t quenched completely, the fire starts up again with enough fuel and agitation.
It’s ideology that leads to genocide. The Hutus and Tutsis aren’t even separate ethnic groups. Their division was based more on their livelihoods, and the line between the groups was very hazy. But the lines were drawn more starkly when Belgian and German colonists arrived, carrying a racist ideology with them. Eventually the whole thing erupted into the horror of 1994, with people killing one another based on their identification papers (because they couldn’t tell Hutu from Tutsi).
It’s ideology that leads to genocide. The most difficult thing to change is ideology. We can stop the violence for awhile, we can separate the brothers and put them in time out, but as long as they still hold to their ideologies, convinced the other is deserving of death in the most horrific ways, the result will be inevitable. Ideology doesn’t change overnight, though. The ideology that birthed the philosophies of Hitler and Nazi Germany were born decades earlier in academic settings. There does seem to be a "trickle-down" effect, where the academic ideologies being put forth in one era become the unthinking assumptions and "natural" practices of the next era. Most scholars don’t live to see the working out of their ideas in "normal" life. (Perhaps if they did they’d think twice about what they publish.)
Some people mistakenly assume that academia is disconnected from "real life", that debating philosophy, studying history or hashing out theology is some kind of exercise in esoteric irrelevance. Nothing could be further from the truth. The ideologies put forth from today’s academics become the integrated worldviews of tomorrow’s John and Jane Doe. The philosophy is hashed out in the ivory tower today, but tomorrow the everyman says "We hold these truths to be self-evident…"
This is why it is so crucial that committed Christians continue to become Bible scholars, philosophy professors and theology nerds. The water that is put into the stream of academia today becomes the drinking water for everyone else a few decades later. Committed Christians ought to continue to put clean, life-giving water into that stream, that those who come after us might drink from it and find a "self-evident" ideology that leads to peace, reconciliation, and forgiveness.