Been on a bit of news fast and focusing on Proverbs lately, so I haven’t weighed in on the Las Vegas tragedy yet. It was sad, awful, wasteful, pointless. I’ve been praying for those families. So much heartache.
Mister Rogers of all people, once said something really useful about coping with tragedy, “My mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’ To this day, especially in times of disaster, I remember my mother’s words, and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers — so many caring people in this world.”
I call that, “diving for pearls in the cesspool.” It is wisdom. Find the good.
Philippians 4:8 reminds us, “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.” That can be really challenging in the midst of darkness and evil, but that’s when it’s ten times more important to be obedient to those words. Find the pearls in the cesspool.
I want to focus for a moment on internet culture, on what I’ll call the collective human reaction. We people tend to go through shock, horror, soon become obsessed with every news detail……and than a powerful need to know “why” sets in. Whatever went wrong, we want to know how to prevent it in the future, who to blame, how to make sure it never happens again. A lot of conspiracy theories and social justice campaigns are born of this phenomenon. “Never again,” becomes the rallying cry before we’ve even diagnosed the problem properly.
Our media (and some politicians and celebrities) have gotten so good at exploiting that vulnerability in us and running with it. They like to infuse everything with drama, fear, social justice, blame, keep everyone all distressed and glued to the news. So gun control, anti-depressant bans, racism, conspiracy theories, Trump supporters, non Trump supporters, politics, everything gets thrown into the soup of mediated reality, right when our brains are scrambling so hard to understand “why.”
Somebody smart once said, “the devil’s greatest accomplishment has been convincing us all he doesn’t exist.” I really appreciate that saying because we’re living in this time of subjective morality, moral ambiguity, where “there are no bad people just good people who do bad things,” and everything is supposed to have a perfectly good explanation based entirely on our own ability to reason.
That will eventually drive you nuts because evil is always irrational.
Evil doesn’t care one bit about our capacity to reason. Evil doesn’t make any sense to us because it’s a void, an abyss. “The enemy comes only to steal, kill, and destroy.” In the year 2017 we’re always trying to rationalize away evil, weave excuses like defense attorneys for the devil himself, as if we ourselves can just conquer evil itself by banning guns or instituting more early childhood intervention programs and prescribing more antidepressants. Whatever this “thing” is, we can find a way to fix it, cure it, prevent it from ever happening again.
The answer to “why” this happened is unsatisfying, it leaves us feeling somewhat powerless, and it is scary, because it is simply, because a man chose to do evil. That is a choice we all have, one we can hardly imagine ever making, one we don’t like to admit, and yet it sits right there, so close, haunting us all the time. 1 Peter 5:8, “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour.”
In the absence of Light there is dark. In the absence of the intentional decision to do good, there is only evil. There is no empty place of nothingness, no lukewarm, there are only two options, choosing the Light or choosing the darkness. Evil is the default, it is the “natural” state, it is what exists in the absence of Light, what happens when we don’t chose to do good.
This happened because someone chose evil. That is the why.
For much of my life I didn’t believe in evil, I was confused and anxious when bad things happened, and the world just made no sense. I knew we needed the Lord, but I didn’t truly get it, I didn’t believe in evil and the devil was just kind of like a metaphor for…..something. The Lord placed His hand over my eyes for a reason, so I am quite grateful for that, but that same kind of spiritual blindness now afflicts us as a secular world, as a culture trying to reject faith with little or no understanding of the void we are actually creating in its place.
The fact that we are all capable of choosing great evil and inflicting it on others is a truth often wrapped in layers of denial, one most of us prefer not to admit or to even think about. We like to keep a sharp line in the sand between ourselves and the “other people” who do bad things, often investing all our faith in the power of human empathy or reason and our own personal desire to “be good,” at least “good” in our own eyes.
Human empathy and our capacity to reason are beautiful things, but if they alone had the power to save us we’d all be living in paradise now and everyone would be singing Kumbaya. Empathy and reason alone have failed to protect us for thousands of years. We’ve had some good victories, but we simply lack the power to overcome evil under our own steam. That is why Christ died for us.
Like many people, I was once comfortably encased in my own goodness, having little or no real awareness of Who I actually owed that goodness too, Who was responsible for it, why it was there. I thought it was innate, biological, just who we were as people. It sounds almost funny to say that today, naive, foolish, because much like true love’s kiss, the Lord woke me up one day and it turns out I actually do have a dark side. A dark side that is transformed into a beautiful thing in the hands of the Great Potter and pressed into service for Him, but a dark side just the same. I now no longer have any illusions about the truth of who we are as people and what we are all capable of given the right circumstances.
Evil is a real thing in the world. If we don’t deliberately and intentionally chose good, we choose evil and evil chooses us, and often a whole lot of innocent people get hurt and sometimes killed in the process.
It just is what it is and it will never make sense to us because it is entropy, chaos, what the world looks like devoid of the Lord who actually spoke the light into existence.“The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.” John 10:10
Nightwind addressed a similar issue in a post I rather liked, called “the motive of the Las Vegas shooting.” In it there is mention of a classic Western film Barquero. I really appreciated that point. Tis true.