A few years ago I saw the movie "Lord of the Flies." It was a disturbing movie. How could a group of kids from a civilized country, from "good families," and attending "good schools," turn into savages when left unsupervised for a few days. Yes, the situation was extreme. They were lost in a jungle from a shipwreck. They were forced to fend for each other, to cope with an environment they did not know. Only in movies you say.
In 1965 Stanley Milgram conducted a psychological experiment in which the subjects were led to believe that they were delivering ever more powerful electric shocks to a stranger, on the orders of a white-coated researcher. Our lesson elaborates on the experiment:
"… the depth of corruption that had befallen Israel can be seen in the kind of reforms that Josiah had to undertake. How, though, could the nation have fallen so far? In one sense, the answer is easy: it's because humanity has fallen so far. Just how far humanity has degraded was revealed in a famous experiment conducted at Yale University in the 1960s.
Participants were brought in arbitrarily through newspaper ads and told that they were to administer electric shocks to people tied down to chairs in another room. The switches that administered the shocks were marked from Slight Shock to Danger: Severe Shock, including two more ominously marked XXX. Participants were told to administer the shocks according to the orders of the scientist leading the experiment. As they did, the participants would hear the people in the other room scream and plead for mercy. In reality, the people in the other room were just acting: they were not getting shocked at all. The point of the study was to see how far these normal participants would go in inflicting what they thought was pain on those whom they didn't know, simply because they had been ordered to do it. The results were frightening. Though many participants got anxious, distraught, and even angry, that didn't stop a stunning 65 percent from administering the severest shocks to these people, believing that they were truly hurting them. Ordinary people, wrote the scientist who conducted the experiment, simply doing their jobs, and without any particular hostility on their part, can become agents in a terrible destructive process. How many ordinary people have done terrible things through history, or even today? Too many have, for sure. Why? Christians know the answer. We are sinners, plain and simple."
Some of Milgram's subjects were anguished afterward by the revelation of their dark potential. Milgram's high school friend, Stanford psychology professor Philip Zimbardo, conducted the now infamous Stanford Prison Experiment. The subjects of this experiment were put in a realistic mock prison. Some were selected as guards and some as prisoners. In five days the abuses by the guards to the prisoners were so disturbing, the experiment had to be cut short. This experiment revealed the dark potential of humans. The "good" turn bad, because they were not good to begin with.
The only explanation for this is found in the Bible. We read in Romans 3: 12,
They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one. (Rom 3:12 [KJV])
This is something Jesus agrees with. In the tenth chapter of the book of Mark, a young man approached Jesus and called Him, "Good Master." Jesus answered Him,
Mark 10:18 * Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God.
Our biggest mistake is to think that there is any goodness in any of us. Our natures are tainted with Sin. We are conceived in Sin and born in iniquity. Anything that comes out of us is evil and selfish. There lies the problem. The solution is a heart renewal. It can only happen when we allow the Holy Spirit to dwell in our hearts, pour God's love in our hearts, by letting Him write the Law of God in our hearts.