What a weird topic I find myself thinking about. Evil.
Evil can be a variety of things – individual or systemic. It can cause destruction and death. It can also be a source of chaos. Evil can be manipulative, oppressive, greedy, exploitive, and more.
And for some people, it’s appealing. Although I don’t understand why. In the evil, no one actually benefits from evil – even those who use it and somehow benefit from it. They really don’t benefit from it – they are used by evil and rewarded for a time. But that always ends. Evil doesn’t see the humanity of anyone. People are just tools to be used and discarded when they become inconvenient or unhelpful.
So how does evil operate? I’m playing around with the idea that evil can only do something if it gets permission. Let’s flesh that out a bit because I’m sure just about anyone can point to an example of how evil did something without stopping to ask for permission.
Permission doesn’t have to come immediately before an action. But I wonder if at some point permission needed to be granted to go forward.
The most famous example of evil is probably Hitler. He is responsible for the death of millions. He didn’t ask for permission to do that. However, could it be argued that he was granted permission to pursue his evil path because he was elected to office and then given the chancellorship? That set things in motion for him and his party to take over and carry out their plans.
The question would be, how far back does one have to go to find where permission was granted?
If you want to play with a Scripture story, take the temptation of Jesus in Luke 4. Throughout the story, the devil interacts with Jesus and it is always in question format – seeking Jesus’s permission. It’s in the If x, then y. If Jesus complied, then he would be affirming the premise that the devil had, thereby giving consent. But Jesus doesn’t do that. He doesn’t give consent to the false premises of the devil. This is different than Adam and Eve in the story of the Fall in Genesis 3. In that story, the serpent makes statements based on premises and Adam and Eve accept the premises presented, thereby giving the serpent permission.
These are simple examples of course. Things get much more complicated when we are dealing with contemporary examples and people not set out in a story intended to teach something about God or humanity.
Was there permission granted at some point before a war started? What would it be? How about before a murder? Or the breaking of a relationship? Or the stealing of money? What would that look like? And the better question is this – is permission necessary for evil to act? In which case are we just searching for some point in history in a person’s story that verifies the premise?
Evil exists. That I feel I can state. But why? Evil is complex because people and systems are complex and messy. There often isn’t a nice straight line connecting the dots.
Here’s another question to consider – if evil needs to have permission granted in order for it to act, then could that permission be pull away? Or is it a once in motion, always in motion kind of thing?
Does evil begin to end when we no longer accept evil and its ways? How many people does that require? It is a beginning of the end type of thing? Or do we need to have something to put in its place – a type of replacement? After all, if there is a vacuum or void, it will be filled. The question is with what.
Why do we accept the existence of evil and its ways at all, almost assuming that these things are normal and that we can’t do anything about them? Are we just settling for the situation? Why? There is no benefit to this. Why not accept and move towards something better? Why not reject evil and its ways?