Evil has many faces. However, we sometimes forget this truth and are taken by surprise. The award-winning show, Breaking Bad, helps us see how complex evil can be. The series is about a high school chemistry teacher who is diagnosed with cancer and turns to making crystal meth out of desperation to try and provide a financial safety net for his family long after he is gone. He gets caught in an ever-increasing complex web of evil that catches you by surprise. I am not addicted to crystal meth, but I am addicted to this show because it provides a fascinating account of the multi-faced reality of evil.
One reality check that hits you in the face when watching the show is that good people can make really bad decisions based on trying to do the right thing for those they love. Their bad decisions get the better of them and they go from bad to worse, breaking bad.
Another reality check that hits you in the face when watching the show is that bad people can do really good things to cover their evil. Their good actions get the better of others who can get conned into providing cover for evil to flourish.
One more reality check that hits you in the face when watching the show is that evil can appear very beautiful. We have all seen pictures of the faces of people who have done crystal meth for a long period of time, but somehow or another it doesn’t keep people from making, selling, buying, and using it. Money and thrills are immediate when you own it. Everything’s interesting when you use it. You might not ever imagine that somehow meth will also break you in the end. After all, evil so often appears invincible.
I am not sharing specifics about Breaking Bad because I do not want to spoil it for you, if you haven’t watched it. I encourage you to watch it. It is better than any sermon I’ve heard or given on the identity and potency of evil and its impact. Far from offering ideology-framed homilies that lead us to see everything in black and white, it offers us evil in all its colorful complexity, absurdity, urbane inhumanity, and sheer horror. There is no moral to the story. The story is the moral: watch out for evil; its various masks are staring each of us in the face.
This piece is cross-posted at The Institute for the Theology of Culture: New Wine, New Wineskins and The Christian Post.