The depravity of man is both the most empirically verifiable statement and also the most intellectually resistant.
In October we were blessed with the opportunity to travel, all expenses paid, to Ecuador where among other things we got to meet and minister to the people there including some of the Huaorani (Wowrani) people.
The movie “The End of the Spear” is the story of Jim Elliot and his friends who were martyred at the hands of Huaorani warriors, a previously untouched people in the Ecuadoran Amazon valley in 1956.
It is also the story of their surviving widows who forgave and ministered to the Huaorani people and led many of them to Christ. It is one of the most powerful contemporary stories of faith, forgiveness and the gospel of Jesus Christ walked out.
If you’ve seen the movie then you know that the spearing of Jim Elliot and his friends was provoked by a lie on the part of a woman who was trying to distract others and avoid responsibility for her own actions. In a nutshell, she had an agenda that she advanced by manipulating the emotions of her own people and sacrificed the lives of innocent well-meaning people like pawns in a chess game.
Given the emotional response, I would wager to say that were it not for the faithfulness of Elizabeth Elliot and the other wives whose lives were firmly rooted Christ and his word, most if not all of the relatively small number of Huaorani might have been killed in a retaliatory action by western colonists
The Huaorani became increasingly Christ-centered after 1956 yet a group of them rejected Christ in favor of their old traditions and they formed a separate clan known today as the Teromanane. Relations between the two clans were strained to say the least.
Still, the Teromanane were nomadic hunters and avoided the Huaorani villages. Violence could be avoided provided they avoided each other.
The only problem is that Christianity tends to bring modernization. That’s mostly a good thing except that the inherent greed in mankind also gets a new venue in which to express itself.
Peace with the Huaorani opened a larger door to tourism, oil exploration, and the lumber trade that in turn created a market for food previously only taken from the land for sustenance.
The food shortage caused the Teromanane to begin migrating closer to Huaorani villages in order to steal their food. Naturally, Huaorani didn’t retaliate and instead sought reconciliation with their Teromanane brothers and sisters. They told the Teromanane they didn’t need to steal, that all they needed to do was ask and they would give them whatever they needed. This led to more social contact to include a Huaorani man and a Teromanane woman making plans to get married. In Huaorani culture, a man and a woman who are together alone three times are expected to get married.
Apparently, the Huaorani man changed his mind. We don’t know what the woman said to her people. We only know that the Teromanane became so enraged that they kidnapped three young Huaorani children, took them by the ankles and beat their heads against a tree until they were dead. Thanks to Jesus, the Huaorani had become more forgiving but not that forgiving. They formed a raiding party, some of whom we met while we were in Ecuador and killed 15 Teromanane men and women while they slept. Two children were alive when it was done, and the Huaorani took them back to their village and raised them.
Anyone who ran into the Teromanane got speared after that. And the Ecuadoran government shut down most of the tourist activity in the area.