The Scream

Photo of a woman in Syria from the online website of the Wall Street Journal

Photo of a woman in Syria from the online website of the Wall Street Journal

 

On a workday in September several years ago, I went to lunch at a local sub shop. While eating my sandwich, I read an article about how then Pope John Paul II was so concerned about the poor in developing countries. 

After lunch, I headed back to my office, driving west on East 15th Street in Tulsa. While stopped at a traffic light at 15th and South Utica, I had an experience that shook me to the core, an experience so vivid and intense that it still has a big impact on me years later.

What I experienced was a scream, not a literal scream that I heard with my ears, but a scream that was so shrill, so primal, so full of anguish that it penetrated every cell of my being. The scream was the result of all the poor, all the oppressed, all the abused and neglected, all the starving, all the unjustly imprisoned, all the aborted people in the entire world crying out in unison. The cry was coming across a huge chasm. All the people screaming were on one side of the chasm. Those of us who were not suffering and hadn't been hearing the scream were on the other side of the chasm.

God was part of the scream, too. I could detect, however, that His cry wasn't one of suffering, but one of rage that so many of us lived with such indifference to the scream, the existence of which was very real. All of this made me burst into tears and beg God for mercy.

As the months went by following this experience, I learned that the scream was connected in the Bible to the murder of Abel by his brother, Cain. After confronting Cain with his crime, God told him, "Listen! Your brother's blood cries out from the ground." The cry of Abel's blood is the cry of all of the victims of man's inhumanity to man. 

The chasm that existed in the experience I had is connected to the passage in Luke 16 about the rich man and Lazarus. In the passage, Jesus quotes Abraham as telling the rich man: "Between us and you a great chasm is established to prevent anyone from crossing who might wish to go from our side to yours or from your side to ours."

Let us not be on the wrong side of this chasm.