I do not know why evil exists, but I do know that it does. On December 14, 2012, a crazed man in Newtown, Connecticut shot and killed 20 children between the ages of five and ten. This week we celebrate the birth of Jesus and then, December 28, commemorate the children killed by a jealous and fearful king.
Do not tell me that guns don’t kill, people do. Do not share with me any of the glib sayings that defend a position that has nothing to do with freedom or democracy. Do not tell me that if the shoppers at Clackamas Town Center in Oregon or the children and teachers in Newtown Connecticut all had guns themselves, lives would have been saved. Do not tell me any of this. I will not believe you.
And don’t you dare tell me that the killings are punishment from God because people are living a life-style of which you do not approve. No such God exists. Don’t tell me it is simply the price of an individual’s mental health problems. This is about evil, individual and systemic. It is past time that we get honest and confront it.
There is not a simple explanation for every aberration in the human condition. Evil is not simple. If we think we can overcome it through reason alone, we are deluding ourselves. Did reason overcome Hitler? Gacy? Dahlmer? Lanza? Evil exists! It destroys, maims, hurts, lies and seduces. It bullies and kills. It has a life of its own. e Give evil a high-speed gun, or a bomb or some other powerful means of destruction and children will be killed. It happens. Right here. It also happens, in our name, on foreign soil.
Why are we still so completely surprised when evil erupts? When America was called a sick society in the ‘60s, because of the Kennedy and King assassinations and the inhumanity manifest during the struggle for civil rights for all citizens and the deaths related to a war no one could support, no one wanted to hear it. But it was true then, and is true now. We are a sick society precisely because we deny evil’s presence among us. We have no problem acknowledging the possibility of evil among strangers and those we see as different, but we refuse to acknowledge its presence in ourselves. If others destroy and kill, it is wrong. If we do it in the name of what we call a higher principle, it is morally justified. We have to acknowledge the truth: evil is not a stranger; evil is always evil.
I cannot pretend that I am immune to evil’s cunning presence. Can I say with absolute certainty that if I am attacked, I will always respond proportionately? No, I cannot. Nor can our nation. It is only with God’s grace that we can keep evil at bay. Of course, we need to remember that even the One Who was all-good was crucified by evil. He lost. But then, He rose beyond death and put evil in its place: present, but devoid of ultimate power. Evil might kill the body, but it cannot destroy eternal life. The cross, our only hope, marks evil’s defeat.