It’s a week since the fires began in the gorgeous Adelaide Hills. The fire was officially declared “contained” a day or so ago. Since then we’ve had a constant downpour of rain. The meterologists have said it’s the “biggest rain event in 30 years”. Places further north are preparing for flooding, and the Hills’ folk have been warned that they too might experience flash flooding. Yep, it’s one big roller-coaster ride when you live in ‘Straya. I’m reminded of a poem I learned while in primary school:

I love a sunburnt country, a land of sweeping plains;
Of rugged mountain ranges, of droughts and flooding rains.
I love her far horizons. I love her jewelled sea.
Her beauty and her splendour, the wide brown land for me.
(Dorothea McKellar)

I live in a land of contrasts. And, it’s been a week of contrasts in human behaviour as well. We’ve seen hundreds of volunteers risk their lives to same homes, properties and live stock – and been stunned at how successful they were at their task. We’ve seen hundreds of volunteers provide food, drink and shelter to those fighting the fires, as well as food, clothing and toys for the kids, for those who had to leave their homes to the mercy of the fire. We’ve seen many, many people spend days searching for injured wildlife; vets who have freely spent hours, days (and it will stretch into months) caring for those animals, at great financial cost to their livelihood; farmers bringing hay and feed for the repatriated horses and sheep; businesses providing free goods, free services (even free laundering of dirty uniforms) and free accommodation.

On the other hand we’ve heard of scumbags trying to scam people, pretending to be collecting money for the fire relief appeal. Other ratbags were telling people they had to evacuate (when they didn’t need to) so that they could burgle their houses when the owners were gone.

In France, some gunmen felt their prophet needed defending, so they shot dead a dozen people. We Christians put up with criticism, name-calling, satirical digs and intellectual disdain on a regular basis. We also see far more Christians than any other religion being persecuted on a regular basis, especially in Islamic countries. Of course, we’re handicapped by the instruction of our God to “turn the other cheek”. Some might see this is a weakness – there are certainly times when the logic of it is challenged – but, I think, in the long run it is one of our greatest strengths.

(Of course, I’m speaking of the genuine follower, who truly aspires to live by our founder’s ideals of love, faith, charity and peace. I don’t mean the religious nutters who like to dress up their hateful, insular, warped thinking in religious clothing.)

Religions have certainly got a lot to answer for in regards to violence throughout history but, before you atheists start getting too smug, it isn’t always the religious who do bad things, or who start wars, or who create gulags, or who slaughter innocents indiscriminately. As a species, we humans have a serious leaning towards the dark side. Indeed, “the human heart is a wicked thing”.

On the other hand, there are many more hearts that have the light of love and compassion shining in them. I choose to believe that one day Love will triumph.