Sunny Days in Heaven
Spiritual/Political/Philosophical Blog on the Nature of Truth and Falsehood and Heaven

Thursday, February 10, 2005  

What is evil?

Ever since President Bush began using words like "evil-doers" and the "axis of evil" he has been branded by the Left and the liberals as an atavistic religious nut. The claim is that he sees everything as black and white, and as all enlightened people recognize, nothing is simple or black and white.

Of course, what the enlightened never recognize is that the observation of evil in the world is not black and white. Evil comes in varying degrees. There's a great difference between an abortionist and a woman who procures his services. But both have clearly chosen to do something evil. One has chosen it once (or more, I know a woman who had four abortions), and the other has chosen to do evil a thousand or more times.

There are pundit cycles when some new horror instigates a cascade of comments about the nature of evil. Jonah Goldberg talks about monsters here, for example.

What I find missing from the discussion, though, which is actually central to it is the concept of sin.

It's as though serious people are fighting tremendously just to get others to perceive that there is real evil in the world, that the idea of sin cannot yet be broached. Especially since the mere mention of it would discredit everything the speaker said in the eyes of the enlightened and indifferent.

"Okay, I'll grant you that it appears as if there is such a thing as evil in that some people cross all bounds of decency, but surely that is because someone pushed them. People don't cross into evil on their own now, do they?"

If you answer that the Pusher is the Devil, you will be laughed out of the room, even if you simply mean it figuratively; that the Devil is the personification of the sinful self in every person.

You will be equally ridiculed by the "wise" for asserting (without the Devil) that sin is the Pusher of people into evil.

(Quick aside. If you want to see a great movie about sin, rent the Russian movie, The Return. It is a brilliant parable on human nature and complicity in resentment and sin.)

Many articles and books have been written about "whatever happened to sin?" Because by and large, the basic understanding has disappeared from our culture even among Jews and Christians. Preaching about sin smacks of fire and brimstone sermons, of snake handlers and revival meetings. We are too polite to talk about sin out loud but must whisper in the corners of the church about, you know, sin being what happens now and then; but, hey, isn't everything forgiven?

Others in the world blame everything on others, whereas in the USA the idea of personal responsibility remains strong except among the elites in our institutions.

The influence of those elites cannot be discounted. The question is whether those elites can be replaced by a different and more conservative or traditional one.

Can anyone imagine the day when the Bible might actually be taught again in public schools? No. It's nearly impossible to imagine it. Much more likely is a breakdown of support for public education and a return to privately funded education with vouchers or some system of choice.

But this is away from the point which is that it is not enough for anyone to recognize evil in the world if there is no useful explanation of it. The only explanation that is truly resonant is the assertion of sin.

Sin makes each person a player in the drama of good and evil. It creates clarity which is what the Left, liberalism, and most people avoid as much as they can. When facts are clear and truth is apparent, it makes doing the right thing necessary. That is what is avoided since it is not usually that easy to do the right thing in this world.

posted by Mark Butterworth | 9:44 AM |