No Noble Savages
Posted: November 1, 2021
Conquest. War. Bloodshed. Death. The Aztecs were a savage tribe. They did many things that did not please God. They adored false gods. They murdered people. They prized power but not human life. Today, it is popular to revere (or honor) all native cultures. But not all cultures act honorably. All humans are capable of evil. And terrible evil came out of the Aztec empire.
The Aztecs built magnificent temples to their gods. But their religion was ghastly and false. They believed that they owed a debt to the gods. That debt could be paid only with human blood. They sacrificed other humans at their temples. They thought this gruesome act would keep the gods happy. And they thought happy gods would let them remain powerful.
“It was a deeply serious and important thing for them,” says John Verano. He’s an anthropology professor at Tulane University in Louisiana.
The Aztecs were good at many things. They had advanced engineering skills. They built artificial islands as a foundation for Tenochtitlán, their capital city. They constructed pyramids and temples. The Aztecs also developed a complex calendar system. Education was highly valued by the Aztecs. So were art and agriculture. Much good came from the culture of this fierce warrior tribe. But so did much evil.
In Psalm 106, the psalmist remembers God’s faithfulness to His people, even when they rebelled. The Israelites worshiped a false god. “They exchanged the glory of God for the image of an ox that eats grass.” (verse 20) “They served their idols, which became a snare to them.” (verse 36) The psalm also says that the Israelites poured out innocent blood that they too sacrificed to the pagan idols. What a horror!
But God remembered His promise of faithfulness to His people. Verse 45 says, “For their sake He remembered His covenant and relented according to the abundance of His steadfast love.” God did not give the Israelites the punishment they deserved for their evil actions. He knew that their sin would be covered by the blood of their (and our) Savior Jesus Christ.
God created all people with dignity. That means He made everyone worthy of respect and honor. But still, we must be careful never to call evil good. God created the Aztecs—like all people—in His image. He made them worthy of bringing Him glory. But they destroyed other bearers of His image. They chose evil over good.