Memo to the Boston Press Corps (and others)
Beware of being right. There is no more spiritually dangerous place in the world than that of Courageous Hero who Has Fought the Good Fight Against Corruption. It leaves you blind to your own capacity for evil. One of the most bittersweet pieces of literature in the world is 1 and 2 Maccabees, which recounts the heroic struggle of genuinely great men against the religious and cultural oppression of Israel wrought by Antiochus Epiphanes and others who sought to crush a small people with a noble heritage.
The haunting thing about the books, if you know Israel’s history, is that these heros (and they really are heroic) are also, in part, the people who will form some of the groups most bitterly opposed to Jesus Christ. They were great and good men–and they knew it.
There’s a warning here for anybody who has ever felt the (justifiable) flush of victory over wickedness (and few things are as wicked as the abuse of children and protection of their abusers). It’s so easy to forget one’s own capacity for evil at such times. This explains so much of the Democratic party’s fall, I think. They were genuinely right and heroic on many issues that it became fatally easy to see themselves as the Good People vs. the Forces of Evil. It is a temptation that faces the whole human race. I think it faces the US as well in the War on Terror. Nobody can put on the Ring and fail to do evil. And the temptation is there. Just the other day I heard some idiot talk radio conservative eagerly advocating the nuking of Mecca. It’s bad when Germans do it to Rotterdam or London. But it’s okay if we do it to Mecca because we’re Good. Who needs a declaration of war? In war, you do whatever it takes so that Good can have Power. And if you have to sacrifice wimpy Catholic notions of what “good” is, well, who cares what the Church thinks. It’s a discredited institution. And anyway, what’s so hot about goodness? Power is what gets things done. Give us power and we’ll decide what “good” henceforth means.