Responding to evil

You are not alone if you believe that evildoers in our world are growing in boldness and increasingly affect the way we think. This didn’t begin with the confrontations and violence in Charlottesville. For the past year and longer, we have grown increasingly uneasy and suspicious of those we regard as antithetical to our own values and beliefs. Good folks (like us) increasingly now find it acceptable to demonize those whose political views differ from our own, those whose religious beliefs are different, those whose skin color is different. No longer do we agree to disagree. We see these people as evil. Just look at what happened in Charlottesville. Consider scenes of a terrorist about to cut off the head of a kneeling, terrified captive. People mowing down innocent victims with a truck or car. Few would doubt the existence of evil and evildoers in our world, particularly, it seems, in this time in which we now live.

We want such people to go away, disappear from our lives. They are evil. Certainly terrorists are. And neo-Nazis. Let’s not forget racists. Some of us want this embarrassing president to go away and consider him and the people he surrounds himself with as evil. We want to tear down historic monuments we consider racist. We consider them evil.

How should we respond to such evil that seems to be closing in on us?

Many years ago I was tormented by a fellow worker who seemed to go out of her way to harass me in any way she could. She was not my supervisor but might as well have been, judging from her cruel remarks and her treatment of me generally. When I sought the advice of my parents, my mother advised me to try kindness. Kill her with kindness, my dad chimed in. It will drive her crazy. In the weeks that followed, every time I saw her, I greeted her warmly, with a big smile. She reacted with suspicion at first, but eventually our frosty relationship warmed at first to a sort of neutral tolerance, then eventually to a real friendship. I’ve tried to respond this way in other situations. The result hasn’t always been positive, but often it is.

In the aftermath of the Charlottesville experience, most of us seem comfortable trying to push evil acts and evildoers away from us, removing them from our sight. But our faith teaches us otherwise. Mine, at least, is pretty clear on this question, and I suspect that other faiths teach similar lessons. If we believe Matthew’s account of the Sermon in the Mount, Christ admonished his followers to turn the other cheek. Then he said, “You have heard that it was said ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy,’ but I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”

That’s hard. Surely we would find it difficult to love the evildoers in our lives. I have no intention of turning my blog into a Sunday School lesson and certainly don’t wish to offend by being preachy, but I must be honest and confess that I believe in this wisdom from Christ and want to try my best to follow it. How we choose to respond to evil is the great challenge of our lives in this difficult time.

[Note to readers: Last week, in the process of renewing my annual contract with WordPress.com, I briefly lost access to my website and was unable to write new blog posts. That’s been corrected now. Thanks for your patience. Please continue to visit, read and comment. I am grateful for your interest and would love to hear from you.]

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