No One Asked #2: Evil

Having grown up Southern Baptist, my knowledge of “evil” was clear-cut. According to my childhood teachers, there are people in the world that embody evil, people that are beyond understanding and beyond mortal forgiveness.

When the Christian fundamentalist idealogy of the Southern Baptist Convention filtered down into our area, I had to struggle with that idea.

Family friends doing mission work in South America were financially cut off by the SBC and left stranded because they refused to sign a creed. (This is ironic, because the SBC was originally founded by people attempting to remove themselves from the practice of the General Baptist Convention.)

At best, it was cold betrayal; at worst it was malice. If anything seemed like evil, it was this: abandoning a family who had given themselves to the Church, simply because they wouldn’t engage in a ritualistic signing of a frivolous “you’re with us not against us” statement.

This unbelievable act of self-righteousness and spiritual warfare flew in the face of everything I had come to know about Christianity, and it gave me the motivation to explore other forms of spirituality that were less dangerous to me, less conditional, less judgemental.

What I discovered puzzled me. The dualistic concept of evil doesn’t really apply to many religions outside of western traditions. I learned that “evil” isn’t necessary to a world view.

When I first heard David Bazan’s song “Bless This Mess” several years ago, a line lodged itself in my brain probably for the rest of my life:

“I discovered hell to be the poison in the well
So I tried to warn the others of the curse
But then my body turned on me I dreamed that for eternity
My family would burn then I awoke with a wicked thirst”

Then 5 days ago it clicked. Fear of death and damnation drives people to confused, selfish acts of interpersonal destruction, and these actions are socially-condoned.

The existence of evil justifies evil.

By calling someone evil, we are using a verbal shorthand which gives us permission to dissociate and justify our own destructive acts. By believing in evil, we relieve ourselves of the burden of understanding.

But no one says “evil” anymore. We say bigot, snowflake, cuck, misogynist, etc., then dismiss our adversary because it is simply easier than trying to understand.

Welcome to the dark side, I guess.