Monday, January 10, 2011

The Problem with Evil

In our modern world, evil has become ideological. Perhaps it has always been that way in the history of mankind, but the concept of evil as an ideological entity has certainly escalated in the past fifty years. Society considers something to be evil largely upon the extent that we identify with, or oppose the causes connected with the perpetrator of the action. For instance, during the Viet Nam war, protestors condemned our killing of the North Vietnamese, but were silent about the massacres perpetrated by the Viet Cong as they took over control of the South, as they also were silent about the bombing of campus ROTC buildings by their members. In the Middle East, those on the side of the Palestinians condemn Israeli attacks, but consider Palestinian suicide bombers to be heroes, while Israeli leaders, condemning the suicide bombings of the Palestinians, ignore excessive brutalities committed by their own soldiers. Some abortion protestors find little fault with the killing of abortion practitioners while pro choice advocates find no problem with denying the unborn a choice. Accepting that evil is ideological, we turn a blind eye to the evil perpetrated in our midst. By viewing evil in this way we divorce it from truth. What is right or wrong becomes relative. In society today, there is no absolute standard by which to measure what is evil. Without such, it becomes very easy to legitimatize evil, as happened to many people in Germany during the Nazi regime.

But in the biblical world evil is never considered to be ideological. It is always based upon absolute truth. When the Old Testament prophets speak against evil it makes no difference whether the perpetrator of the evil is Israel’s enemy or Israel itself. Frequently the prophets hone in on the transgressions of their own nation, whether Israel or Judah. Things are inherently good or evil and must be dealt with accordingly.

The mantras of political correctness and tolerance may be the areas causing us the most difficulty in today’s world, for they allow legitimatizing many questionable activities and prohibit condemnation of any sins associated with them. They turn a blind eye to and excuse immoral behavior by making it appear to be ideological. Their devotees champion political incorrectness as the greatest sin in the world, further distancing evil from truth as those who disagree are reluctant to speak the truth for fear of condemnation. Against them the prophetic words of Jeremiah ring out “Truth has perished. It has vanished from their lips.”

If we are to consider evil as the Old Testament prophets did, we must throw off the encumbrance of political correctness which is so prevalent in our society today. We must become like Jeremiah who, when contemplating succumbing to the political correctness of his day, concluded that he had to speak out because it was like a fire in his bones. We must be willing to speak the truth. We must speak out against all forms of evil. But we must do so in a spirit of love instead of hate. We must condemn the evil while showing love to its perpetrator. Too often we have been hypocritical, demonstrating more of the spirit of Lamech (Gen 4:23-24) than of Christ in our condemnation of evil. Basing the concept of evil on ideology leads to hatred. Viewing evil as Christ did, on its relationship to truth, leads to love. How do you view evil? Is it based upon the concept of truth or upon ideology? Can you speak against it in love?

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