The Problem with Evil

The Problem with Evil June 11, 2014

I have been intentionally silent.  Instead of blogging, I have spent time listening to the ramblings  of Elliot Rodger. I watched the news reports of Richard Martinez grieving for his beautiful son, Christopher, one of Rodger’s victims.

Mostly I have sat in silence and grieved for the dead and the families they left behind.

Those law enforcement officers in Vegas.

The Wal-Mart shopper.

The students at Seattle Pacific University.

And now the family of Emilio Hoffman at Reynolds High School in Portland.

I was at the Gap Creek Coffeehouse in Cumberland Gap, Tennessee when my phone flashed the news of a shooting at an Oregon high school. I clicked over and read the breaking news story and, despite such stories being an almost daily occurrence, certainly commonplace nowadays, I still wept.

I wish to all things Holy that we had a wailing wall in this nation. A communal place where we could come together as a nation and fall on our faces before God and one another and pray.

Part of the reason I have been sitting in silence is because there are almost no words left to express how distraught so many of us are over what is happening. It seems like any comment only leads to another useless argument about the 2nd Amendment. Arguing never solves anything and frankly, I don’t want to argue about this any longer.

I simply want for the killing to stop and I know most of you feel the very same way.

On that one point we agree.

Not one more, Christopher Martinez’s father has pleaded. Not one more.

But, of course, that plea has been drowned out by the sound of more gunfire and the wails of those now grieving loved ones gunned down.

News stories often refer to the gunman as “crazed” or “mentally ill” or “deranged”. And perhaps, in some cases, they are right. We know that the shootings at Sandy Hook were carried out by a killer with a documented history of anti-social behaviors.

Whoever thought we would get over the horror of Sandy Hook?  But we have. We are growing more numb to the shock of these shootings every single day. That’s what happens in war, you know. You grow used to the killing. After enough killing, you find yourself able to sleep right alongside the heaps of your dead buddies.

I am not going to pretend that I have all the answers because I don’t. I am just as heartbroken and troubled and deeply disturbed by all these shootings as the majority of people are.

But lately, I’ve been considering the possibility that we are overlooking one of the most obvious of causes.

The problem of Evil.

We don’t talk much about the presence of Evil in our culture anymore – unless, of course, we are assigning it to our nation’s declared enemies and only then for the purposes of politics and war.

Otherwise, we don’t mention it much.

People who dare to suggest that Evil is a living breathing character – every bit as real and as alive as you or me – are considered provincial, uneducated, backwards, religious, or downright ignorant.

I have long believed in God as a living, breathing character. And where there is a protagonist, there is an antagonist. I grew up calling that antagonist the Devil. When I was a child I thought of that character like most children of my generation did – as Satan in a red suit.

I don’t know the evolution of it all but sometime in my lifetime we moved away from a worldview of God and Satan, of Good versus Evil, to a simple worldview that declares It’s all Good. Everything.  But it isn’t all good, of course. We have headline proof to the contrary almost every single day.

As loathe as civilized people are to admit it, there is a very real and present, living breathing Evil in this world. To deny the existence of a living being of Evil would be akin to believing that Kim Jong-un is a humanitarian or that Hitler was simply trying to help his people out of poverty.

Evil has a name – Destroyer. It is a being that is both mighty and powerful and, oh, so devastatingly seductive. There isn’t any lie the Destroyer won’t tell to get his way with us.

The problem of Evil is that we simply don’t recognize him anymore. He’s gotten so adept at disguising himself. We go right on acting like the abused spouse, afraid to acknowledge his power over us, and afraid to move out for fear of what the neighbors will say or think.

Some would think it laughable that what drove Elliot Rodger wasn’t mental illness but rather a pact with Evil. There is a difference between being mentally ill and being outright Evil. We used to recognize those differences. We seem to have lost the ability to make that distinction anymore.

While it is true that partnering with Evil can indeed make a person mentally ill, not every mentally ill person partners with Evil. And a person can partner with Evil without becoming mentally ill. I don’t believe what drove Elliot Rodger was mental illness. I think Elliot Rodger made the decision to partner with Evil.

Partnering with Evil is like taking a walk into a dark basement. At first, our eyes adjust to the darkness until we are completely enveloped by the darkness. Then we can’t find our way out no matter how hard we try.

Years ago, Frank Peretti penned an unforgettable novel titled This Present Darkness. In it, Peretti suggested that the only way to control the forces of Evil in the world is to pray. God’s angels are unable to take any defensive action until we invite them to help us.

It may sound simplistic. To some, it may even sound ignorant. But I believe that if we want to stop the Evil that lurks among us, seeking to destroy us –  is destroying us – the only posturing that needs to occur is face-to-the-floor, praying as if our lives and the lives of our children depended upon it.

That’s our call to action right there.

That’s where a change for good & goodness begins.  


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