Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Should I even consider it?

A_Pomo's recent posts about his friend's son Brent has me thinking along the same lines as the wanderings of his mind. What is evil? More than that though, do I even deserve the right to name evil that I see? Is it my place to do so? If I name evil (whether evil in a person or a person/place/thing BEING evil), am I guilty of judging? If I name evil that I see, am I attempting to be "god" of my locality, trying to reign in the forces that swirl around me into a corral that I control and can handle?

Why are humans, esp western christians/churchians, so obsessed with naming things anyway? Some would say that it's just the result of the rationality/scientism of the Enlightenment run amuck in our pop & church cultures. Some would say that we're supposed to name evil so that we can keep away from it (usually quoting/adapting I Thess 5:22 to meet the needs of their little enclave/ghetto). Some would say that we have no business with naming evil, but they have usually swung to the opposite extreme of the previous example, so willing NOT to judge people/places/things that they embrace anything at face value, without giving the situation even a cursory example.

So what about evil? What is evil? Am I evil? Are you evil? Are humans evil? Is this world/earth upon which we live evil? What IS evil? Seriously now. I don't have an answer, though I surmise that God does and there are days when I don't think that he's telling us all He knows. Paul encourages us to test the Spirit, both ours and that of the person/situation, but I don't think that there's a concrete list there of evils (beyond the 7 "deadly" ones, and those are really so general that we don't pay enough attention to them). Are the people who killed Brent evil? Their actions are evil, yes, but are they? Don't we all possess good and evil within us at all times? Isn't there a conflict between good and evil at work in the world at all times? What happens to that guy if he comes to believe in Christ, follow His teachings, and displays the fruit of the spirit in his life? Does he suddenly become "good" as if he'd always been "evil" before?

Historians and Sociologists look at these concepts and refer to it as the "German Question." What made Germany evil? What made Germans evil? ARE they evil? And if they're not, where did Hitler come from? We all recognize him as evil, but what made him evil? Was he born that way? And if he wasn't, when did he become evil? Was it a single event or a series of unfortunate events? Was it his relationship with his mother or his experiences as a corporal in World War I? What makes someone evil?

Yes, I do realize that sin corrupts us -- we fall into temptation, we're constantly experiencing our flesh warring with our spirit, we do what we don't wanna do, and we don't do what we know we should do. But does that make us evil? Brent's killers did evil things, but are they not redeemable? Hasn't Jesus redeemed them through his death, burial, and resurrection? If they become believers in Jesus and follow in his footsteps, won't their repentance be a wonderful, God-given event? Will they cease to be evil then? Have they ever been fully/truly evil anyway?

I realize that I'm asking lots of questions and even questioning long-held evangelical/fundamentalist dogma concerning evil, who's evil, and why they're evil, but I think these are key questions in the discussion of what C.S. Lewis calls the "Problem of Pain". Evil and Pain exist in this world, so how do we reconcile that with a loving God, who sent his loving Son to die for us, so that they loving Holy Spirit could give us direction as we live? What is really evil? Who is really evil? And most importantly, how can any one of us really call someone else evil when the tendencies to commit that evil are within many of us (since we're all humans)? If Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot, Attila, Ghenghis, American domestic policy concerning Native Americans, Mao, and other killers throughout world history can be considered "evil," what makes them any different than ME? OR YOU?


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