Forgive me for being so maudlin. I get into these spells once in a blue moon, thinking of topics that seem way off (more so than usual). In my Lectio Divina dream, one where I don’t know if I was awake or asleep, I thought of my usual reading, Philippians 2:5, “Have in you the mind of Christ Jesus.” What came out was a series of questions as follows (in no order of priority).
Who is the evilest person you know? Why is he or she evil? According to modern secularism, everyone is not only entitled to their opinion, but no one can tell you that your opinion is incorrect, or in this case, evil. So, where does evil come from? Traditionally, most people know that what Hitler did was evil? Hitler sincerely believed that what he was doing was the truth. With modern secular thinking, who is to say he is evil? Yet, even Hitler can be forgiven his sins, if he repents. What he did, the actions he took are certainly evil, according to everything we know about good and evil. If Hitler had won WW II, would his perverted notion of good be considered the norm? More needs to be discussed this than can be just described in a blog. I am writing a book entitled And Deliver Us From Evil, that contains some of my reflections on these themes in depth. My perspective is not as a theologian, a scholar, but a broken-down, old Lay Cistercian trying to make sense of our why it is so difficult to take up my cross daily and be perfect.
4. Is evil relative, as in one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter? What makes evil so evil? Let’s regroup here. Evil does not come from God because God is the source of good, not evil. We need a center, a measurement against which we can measure human activity, a sample of human activity that is good. St. Paul provides us with not only the motivation for this sample but states types of human behavior that is evil, evil in the sense of making us less human. He ties evil quite correctly with the freedom to be what we should have been if Adam and Eve have not committed the Orginal Sin. I want you to take some time and reflect on the Christ Principle.
I like this passage because it stresses love as the principle of good, but love as explained to us by Christ and his death and resurrection (Phil 2:5) Evil comes about when we disobey the will of God, like Adam and Eve did in the Garden of Eden. That is the archetype of evil. Evil does not exist by itself, in the way love exists. It is the aberration of good, and the fruits of evil are the death of God’s grace and the ability to see with the eyes of Faith. True freedom comes when we submit our wills to that of God, a tall order for our self-indulgent generation.
If God is not the center of what is the good, then evil becomes relative, i.e., everyone is their own church, their own god, their own moral center. If God is not the principle of goodness, we have nothing against which to measure anything to say that it is evil. except ourselves.This promiscuity of evil is the condition we find ourselves today. We have so many people claiming to have the truth, the way, the life, that we get lost in the seduction of the individual and choice.
Remember, Jesus was like us in all things except sin. There is a reason for that statement. There is no sin, no evil in God, only goodness.Evil comes from humans not doing God’s will or acting on the words of God, e.g., The Ten Commandments, The Beatitudes, The Golden Rule.
Again, Genesis provides the clues to our collective inheritance. It is not man (Adam or Eve or even us) that determines what is good but God alone. In my thinking, God does not choose what is evil, but what is Good and we humans don’t do it. That is what I call evil or also sinful. The danger in all this evil talk is that we become sin-centered rather than grace centered. In their zeal to reform the Church of the Fifteenth Century, reformers certainly had a lot of work cut out for them. My problem is that they made some false assumptions about human nature and how we use grace to enable us to survive in condition of original sin. Some people think we live in an age where promiscuity and licentiousness is the norm rather than the rule of law. We have the rule of law from the State but don’t respect the rule of law that comes from God.
4. Modern idolatry is the greatest evil. As I see it, idolatry is the greatest evil in the world today. The followers of Christ will be persecuted if the Real Gospel is preached because people will hate you because they cannot be god if they hold your assumptions. (Matthew 24:9)
“Then they will hand you over to be tortured and will put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of my name.”
If you hold B.F.Slinner’s hypothesis about operant conditioning, he says we shy away from discomfort and pain in favor of what is convenient and comfortable. Is evil in the eye of the beholder? Is evil what we say it is, apart from what God thinks? And who intreprets what God thinks, anyway. That person would wield immense power, even if only perceived power. If good makes us feel sad or uncomfortable because we don’t understand its implications or we don’t accept God’s power over us, we become the center of the universe, morally and spiritually speaking. That means we are god. It also means we commit idolatry. It is evil that is obscured by our own pride. The cost of discipleship, as described by St. Paul, St. Augustine, and Dietrich Bonhoeffer.
“When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.” ― Dietrich Bonhoeffer God, through Christ’s teaching, invites us to follow his heroic pattern of overcoming obstacles to his mission, giving his life for his cause, rising from the dead, and ascending to the fulfillment of the mission. In many of my conversations with atheists, agnostics, and even some believers, it turns into an infinite loop of trying to prove they are correct. When you know you are correct, anyone else cannot be so. But that is exactly what happens with the follower of Christ who tries to hand on the moral and spiritual practices that come from living the Life of Christ. Never give up your fierce love for Christ, even if everyone else claims to have the truth and nothing but the truth, so help you God.
5. There is no evil in Heaven. The Lord’s Prayer states, “and lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.” Evil is sin and sin means we miss the mark, as an archer aims for the target but misses the bull’s eye. All it takes is practice. As a Lay Cistercian, I try to practice seeking God each day, not passively, but by actively doing good works that lead to strengthing me against the Evil One. Read Chapter 4 of St. Benedict’s rule for a list of those things that help to reinforce goodness and deliver us from evil. There is no room for good and evil in the same room. Hatred and Love can’t exist in the same room together. Where there is God, there is love; where there is love, there is God. It is up to me to struggle with my daily cross of growing from self to God.
Praise to God the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit now and forever, the God who was, who is, and who is to come at the end of the ages. Amen and Amen. Cistercian Doxology