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defining evil, part 2

Before the deadly events at Charlottesville are flushed away by our 24-hour news cycle, a reflection. The week before Charlottesville I observed that neither philosophers nor theologians have developed a widely accepted definition of evil. Rushing in where they fear to tread, and adhering to Albert Einstein’s desire that explanations be as simple as possible, but not simpler, I offered my own definition of evil.

Evil views death and/or destruction as a solution.
The terrorist driver who plowed his car into a crowd killing one and injuring 19 others, clearly believed mayhem—death and destruction—to be a solution for the protests he opposed. By my definition that is evil.

Nazi marchers conducting a pathetic little torch-light parade complete with Nazi salutes, identifying themselves with and approving of a fascist regime that used—even industrialized—death and destruction as a solution. By my definition that is evil.

White supremacists who wish to destroy America’s pursuit of a liberty-based, color-blind society. By my definition that is evil.

Progressive vigilantes destroying monuments they find offensive. By my definition, that too, is evil.

There’s no excuse for the
terrorism practiced by the driver of that car, ever. Nazi supporters advocate destruction as a solution. Contrast white supremacists with God’s condemnation of skin-deep judgements; “People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” And any group that assigns itself the role of judge, jury and executioners—whether to tear down statues or the deadly lynching of blacks—looks more like ISIS and Al Qaeda than lady justice.

If monuments should be removed, our democratically elected representatives can act. Voters may then validate or repudiate their actions. Still, rather than tearing down, why not build up? Charlottesville might erect a statue of the eloquent
anti-slavery spokesman Frederick Douglas. It would provide an ongoing teaching opportunity to position a statue of ex-slave Douglas and his pen confronting a general and his sword.

Prof. Peter Beinart, City University of New York, contributor to The Atlantic writes, “Violent activists of the left and the right have become the unlikeliest allies.” Both extremes need an evil enemy. And the media, needing viewers to stay tuned through the next commercial break, broadcast destructive spectacles in place of solid journalism.

But evil cannot be shouted or protested away. And it feeds on violence.

Christians at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, SC showed us how to confront evil.
They forgave the 21-year old racist who walked into their church Bible study and murdered nine, wounding three others. They challenged the murderer to repent of his sin and seek God’s mercy. With weeping and mourning they fulfilled the apostle Paul’s command, “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” ~

Dan Nygaard