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The Concept of Evil

The sixteenth century Swiss born French philosopher Jean Jacques Rousseau stated: "Our greatest evil flows from ourselves." For far too long, we have projected the fundamental causes, and responsibility for, evil outside ourselves; and religion is one of the underlying influences of such psychological projection and rationalization.

From the questionable behavior of the Greek gods, to our present concepts about God's Vengeance, and the idea of Satan: Western civilization has always institutionalized evil by proclaiming its source in the transcendent. Evil is psychologically acceptable because we rationalize that we have no ultimate control over it. Other religious ideals also offer projections to their followers; some claiming there is no evil at all. Or, fate or destiny over which we have no control preordains evil acts.

These projectionary ideals not only make it very difficult to offer a definition of evil, they provide an excuse whereby evil gets woven into the fabric of society, as well as a crutch for personal shortcomings.

Theologically speaking, the emphasis upon transcendent causes for evil actually provides an excuse whereby evil becomes accepted as a given state of the human condition because of our inferiority to this transcendent cause. We look to magical prayers, faith in external messiahs, or God's Grace to protect us from that which we create. Such perpetuates a psychological suggestion that evil is something we must fight; rather than, a force we can conquer through self-control.

The other problem, which arises from projectionary theological arguments, is in the definition of what evil is. Once projected outward, evil can easily be defined as that which differs from us in beliefs, ideals or priorities - a definition that can be very dangerous.

A responsible theology must take these problems into consideration if it is to be a positive force in the religious belief structure and have practical social influence upon a community. Theologically, the responsibility for evil must shift from "other" unto the self. In order to accomplish this we must approach evil from different perspective then that which we now use. Evil needs to be redefined in a manner that gives enough latitude to allow for the diversity of our reality, yet, offer ethical guidelines for daily living. Above all, we need to refrain from making pronouncements or judgements in the name of a Divine that in reality no human has the ability to speak for.

The Judaic-Christian society in which we find ourselves has religiously built a concept, which implies that things can be put into neat little categories that we deem good or evil. The good always coming from God and the evil being born of Satan. Based upon such categorical separation, religion often teaches that certain acts are of themselves, intrinsically evil. But once again, we are forced to question whether or not these concepts are healthy? Are they in place to control people? Who is in charge of such behavioral control? Are such concepts truly compatible with the reality of the created world we see around us? And finally, do they lead to a definition of evil that allows us to take responsibility for our personal actions as well as see the real evil present in our world?

Theological reasoning or religious teachings about evil become unhealthy when they contribute to projectionary judgements which are often self-centered; in that, what differs from the promoter, or challenges their personal beliefs, is seen as evil. Such bias teaching encourages a tendency to create all kinds of pronouncements about those who may differ in their faith, life-style, or do not adhere to a particular set of priorities. History is full of the persecution of so-called heretics, devil worshippers, and barbarians - many of which were good and decent people. Often, their only crime was to disagree with another's definition of evil, or another's interpretation of the Will of God. Presently, such theological logic is used to condemn whole classes of life-styles, or thought, as being evil in the eyes of the self-righteous. But are not such results, in themselves, evil!

The idea that evil is a black and white issue is a device often used to control the behavior of those who adhere to a particular faith. And while one could argue that of itself this is not harmful, or, that the individual has free will to accept or reject particular teachings; such ideas can still be seen as irresponsible. They often feed an attitude that those who may differ in opinion from us are against us. The religious logic is that the controller (church) speaks with the authority of God; and those who may stand against it ideologically are therefore against God and must be evil. Thus, the control leads to fear as the true foundation of one's belief because they do not want to appear as enemies of God. The control is then cemented by theological positions of reward and punishment, which are doled out according to the decrees of the church.

Religious ideals that are based upon fear, or structured in the creation of punishment, or enemies (i.e. hell, devils, heretics etc); are psychologically counterproductive. They not only feed projectionary irresponsibility, but they encourage judgements about our fellow human beings, which the gospels tell us to avoid. They also lead us away from the priority of the Gospels, as well as the primacy of other inspirations, which proclaim love the most Divine attribute.

If we examine fear as a motivator, we quickly see that it causes individuals to respond defensively, and often this type of response is extremely irrational. We can see this demonstrated in many of the fundamentalist faiths that are rooted in fear of God, or the devil, often producing prejudicial behavior at the least and violence at worst. Even when not at that extreme, defensive responses by people are more apt to be self-centered or insincere. This often turns belief structures from a positive spiritual and intellectual motivator, into a war zone where it's us against them. From this bigoted war zone is born all those enemies who lurk in the darkness: the devils, the heretics, the sinners, the agnostics, and those outside the faith - and the justification for bigotry and hatred becomes grounded. But we need to ask again; is that itself not evil?

The concepts we are discussing not only create projectionary attitudes that lead to indifference and the blame game; but ultimately, they can feed a paranoia that is dangerous, leading to religious persecution, holy wars, and hatred among peoples. To see all people as children of God as Jesus taught makes such things much more difficult. But once we can demonize, others we can feel justified in any persecution or condemnation of them. It is a method Hitler understood and used to support his persecution of Jews. We also see it used in many fundamentalist traditions of a variety of religious belief structures to incite violence and promote vindictiveness. Such projection is portrayed in the Gospels and used against Jesus himself:

 

The doctors of the Law, too, who had come down from Jerusalem, said, "He is possessed by Beelzebub," and, "He drives out devils by the Prince of Devils."

      (Mark 3:22 also Matt 12:24 and Luke 11:15)

The Jews answered, "Are we not right in saying that you are a Samaritan, and that you are possessed?"

            (John 8:48)

Some of the Pharisees said, "This fellow is not of God; he does not keep the Sabbath." Others said, "How could such signs come from a sinful man?"

(John 9:17)

For a second time, they summoned the man who had been blind, and said, "Speak the truth before God. We know that this fellow [Jesus] is a sinner."

(John 9:24)

Dogmatic declarations asserting a black and white nature to good and evil, are in fact, at odds with the reality we live in - the reality which God created. Reality, as it is experienced, is seldom black or white, but rather, it is a mixture of grays, which blend to produce harmony and fullness to life. Every aspect of opposition is dependent on the existence of its counterpart for its own existence. Without darkness, there is no light; without sadness, no joy; and so on. It is the opposition that makes being such a worthwhile experience. Without this opposition being could not be. In our human natures, in that we are given choice, we tend to focus on this opposition more clearly than looking to the harmony that takes place within this opposition and produces reality. In our Christian tradition, we have the tendency to emphasize the duality to reality, rather than, seeing the awesome harmony.

Thus, we come to a problem many theologies create in their approaching evil.

A responsible theology would not deny the fact that evil exists, but the responsible approach would be hard pressed to blanketly categorize things into a good or evil column. It would be even harder pressed to declare that an action of any kind is an intrinsic evil, for even what is considered the seven deadly sins: pride, sloth, envy, gluttony, lust, anger, and hatred; could, under certain circumstances, play a positive role in existence at various times. Sometimes we need a sense of pride to overcome low self-esteem. A little sloth, now and again, might prevent us from overdoing it. Lust is often the very motivational force that leads to long and loving relationships and then transcends the original lust. Hatred can even be a positive thing, for there are things that we should hate, such as bigotry, oppression, and so on. Even the most universally accepted concept of evil, which is killing another human being, might not always be evil. Is it evil if we killed someone to protect a young child from severe harm? Is it evil to kill in self-defense? If someone had killed Hitler before his reign of terror, would they have been a sinner or a saint? The fact is, we cannot answer such questions because the information for any human being is insufficient to do so. The opposition is always clear, but too often, the harmony is lost to human perception.

There is a Hindu story which illustrates nicely the kinds of problem we have with our human perception and in determining weather a thing is good or bad.

A farmer finds a horse in his field and all his neighbors come to congratulate him on what they perceive as his "good luck". Now the farmer being a wise man responded: "Let's wait and see what tomorrow will bring!" The next day the man's son was out riding the newly found horse when it became spooked and threw him, breaking his leg. Again, the neighbors came by and expressed their sorrow for the "evil misfortune" which befell the man's family. But the farmer simply responded: "Let us see what tomorrow will bring."

Now there was a war going on in the land and the king ordered the conscription of all the young men, most of which were being killed in battle. But when the soldiers came to collect the farmer's boy, he was excused because of the broken leg, which probably saved the young man's life.

We could go on with this story, reversing for each day the consequence of the farmer finding the horse. The answer of whether it was fortune or misfortune, of course, would seemingly depend on the event of the day. But a question would always remain, 'was the actual finding of the horse a good thing or a bad thing?'

The question of evil is not much different. We often see examples where one man's evil can be another's blessing. This is not to say that we are trying to justify the existence of evil, but we need to recognize our human limitations in defining it. Dealing with, and admitting to, human limitation becomes the first aspect theology must deal with if it is to be responsible - as it is with all religious questions.

Religions often define evil as a "breaching of the Will or Law of God ". But as we have already established, and common sense might even caution us to ask - what man has the right to declare God's law? How could anyone know for sure that such was God's Will or Law?

Theologically, or religiously, it becomes impossible for human beings to say what is good or evil to God. This is not to say that we cannot make moral judgements as human beings, or even as churches; but only, we have no right to declare God's Will or judgement in such matters. Our perception is too influenced by our personal experience, belief structure, and ignorance of the big picture of things. In the second place, it might be conceivably argued that there could be no evil to God. That in some way, because of His creative nature, every negative is balanced by some positive act, no matter how bad it appears. We certainly see this as being true in nature. A forest fire destroys life, but new life springs forth. Floods ravage, but they also provide farmland. The insect, plant and animal kingdoms demonstrate this same principle over and over. And in the human world as well; most of us could name evil events that benefited someone or something. For example, some of Hitler's atrocious experiments on humans in World War II lead to medical breakthroughs that benefited many of the sick who might have not had such breakthroughs in their lifetime.

Is this to say, there is no evil, or, Hitler's acts were not evil? Not at all! In fact, our definitions here will recognize a concept of evil - and Hitler's acts would certainly be considered evil. But responsible theology, under the condition of humility, must recognize that religion is very limited in its ability (as humans are) in declaring what is evil in the eyes of the Almighty. It must also come to realize there is no infallibility to human pronouncements or judgements. While the religious role should be to encourage responsible social behavior, it has no right to proclaim God's Will about such matters, yet alone, Her judgment.

Keeping these things in mind, the first problem becomes how we define evil, for definition becomes the key if we are to avoid declaring God's Will; avoid projection; and build a constructive religious concept that will realistically help us to lessen evil in our world.

One possible definition that fits these criteria of recognizing human diversity and limitations without polarizing people's actions has already been suggested. Those actions which we do that irresponsibly imposes our will causing needless destruction, hurt, pain, death, or oppression for selfish reasons or personal gain (p73). Using such a definition, we focus our effort on the consequences of our own individual acts. As postulated, acts in themselves are neither good nor evil. It is the consequences of our actions that make them so. And sometimes, inaction is every bit as evil as an action as can often be seen in the evil of indifference.

People need to think more, about what they do and how it affects others, and the impact of their actions upon the world around them. Telling others how to live does nothing to help us improve our own state.

Projection must be replaced with self-examination. This, to some extent, becomes an easier way for theology to define evil. Things like rape, murder, etcetera: are clearly seen as evil acts because they violate the definition given above. Thus, we can keep many of our traditional moral values in place so we do not end up with a theology of anarchy. On the other hand, if we killed someone in self-defense, such wouldn't be evil, but justified. This allows us to maintain ethics without asserting God's Will - as consequence and circumstance become our yardstick; not some arbitrarily declared law of God.

Even under such a definition, many acts are still not clearly good or evil, because so often the true determination of what is evil lies in the heart of the individual performing the action. The drawback here is that we need a great amount of self-objectivity in our self-analysis, or we end up rationalizing all our actions. But with this definition, we become less able to indict others and certain behaviors such as homosexuality, or atheism cannot necessarily be classed as evil, because the goodness or evil of the act would be in the consequence of an act, not simply the act. For example, it becomes hard to argue that homosexuality is evil if it is an expression of love between two adults.

This "consequence of action" theory of evil also has a healthy psychological effect in our social order. If instilled in our religious people it allows them to equate their actions toward one another with their actions toward God. An examination of conscience wouldn't be about the infraction of one of God's laws, which are objectively thrusts upon us. Instead, it would be about how we are affecting those we interact with. Such ideals would work better to see the reality of God in the human family, which God created.

Human rights, human dignity, equal opportunity, justice, and universal brotherhood take on a new dimension in a consequence based ideal of evil. Present religious attitudes seem to be telling us how to live, when the real role of religion should be to encourage us to live the best we can in the reality of the diversity of what we are. Religion should be helping us to be objective in our self-examination, never doling out rules for Almighty God. Religion's role is to harmonize the diversity of human thought so we can live peaceably; not, encourage intolerance that leads to judgment, bigotry and hatred.

Maybe people have stopped thinking about what they do because right and wrong seems to be so neatly packaged by our religious institutions. Our religious implication is one that states all we need to do is to keep God's law and we are saved. This has led us down a path where much of the real evil in our world is being ignored.

 

This leads us to another kind of evil that Jesus emphasized which seems totally neglected. This has to do with indifference, which Jesus tells us in metaphor will cast us into hell. "Whatever you did not do for one of these, the least of my brothers, you did not do for me," - and then he proceeds to tell those indifferent people that they will burn in the eternal fires (Matthew 25: 31-46). In fact, the whole implication of this chapter takes on the theme that "we reap according to what we sow" and that we are in fact answerable before God for what we do not do for each other every bit as much as for what we do.

The parable of the "Ten Virgins" [Matt. 25:1-13], and "The Talents" [Matt. 25:14-30 and Luke 19:12-28], are profound lessons for the concept that we are responsible for our actions in accordance with circumstances - that judgement isn't a blanket thing! The foolish virgins were cast out into the night, not because they did anything wrong, but because in their foolishness and irresponsibility they didn't look beyond the norm and prepare actively and wisely for the bridegroom's arrival. The same is true with the servant who buried the treasure for the master. He didn't do anything wrong, giving back to his master the amount given; but, he was still held accountable for not taking what his master gave him and putting it to constructive and active use. This is Jesus' whole concept of the Kingdom of God: people accepting responsibility for themselves according to the circumstances in their lives. For Jesus, it is the lack of such personal responsibility, which is evil, and the basis of judgement.

This becomes a second problem for theology. As stated, the present belief structures seem to paint a picture that if we avoid certain taboos we are free of evil. Yet, of all the Bible quotes used to support arguments about evil, the one above is probably the least cited; yet ironically, it is the very principal upon which Jesus proclaims our judgement.

And the King will answer and say to them, "Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me."      

(Matt 25:40)

Then he will answer them, "Assuredly I say to you, inasmuch as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me. And these will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.

      (Matt 25:45-46)

It isn't our adherence to the law, nor our belief, nor our avoidance of certain acts, nor our worship: that Jesus said will condemn us; but he did out and out say our indifference will be our judgement!

If we look at this from both a theological and psychological perspective, the whole idea, which Jesus postulates here, makes a great deal of sense. What the basic structure of this concept states is that if we are busy trying to make life better for those around us, we are much less apt to fall into a category of hurting them. If we were to preoccupy ourselves with reflection upon our own responsibilities to those around us, we would not be so apt to cast judgement upon them.

But when we examine this metaphor, Jesus is even going beyond that concept; placing evil not only in our irresponsible acts that hurt others, but in the very indifference toward human suffering itself. This categorizing of indifference as evil by Jesus not only demands that we look for a further yardstick to measure evil at a responsible theological level; it also brings into question the whole Christian theological concept of what evil truly is. Perhaps this is why our world is so contaminated by evil, while we see the conspicuous evil; we ignore the reality of evil, which Jesus pointed to in these parables.

For example, Christian theology sees abortion, and in some cases, even birth control, as evil; but, child starvation is seen as a social problem, or, God's way of allowing the affluent a way to express charity. But if we examine the problem according to the ethics Jesus offered, given that we could produce enough food to feed the world, and, that many have far more food than they need, - is not starvation truly an evil! Yet, religiously, there is not half as much outrage at starvation as abortion. Religions talk about right to life, but only whisper about the importance of quality of life. God's will is often cited when people suffer, starve and are oppressed; BUT THE REALITY IS VERY OFTEN THAT PEOPLE SUFFER, STARVE AND ARE OPPRESSED BY THE ACTIONS OF MAN - having nothing to do with the Will of God!

God doesn't make people starve, our economics systems do. God does not oppress governments or social status does. Much of our suffering in life is a result of human causation, either by our own actions or that of someone else. Our indifference and rationalizations about these everyday social inequalities and atrocities are the real evil in the world. Our projections about the sins of others have us failing to see the sin of neglect within ourselves.

There is also a secondary point of implication about evil that is given by Jesus, and, this has to do with hypocrisy. Jesus seemed to be terribly disturbed by people who preached something and then failed to live by it. The historian Michael Grant tells us in his work: "Jesus, A Historian's Review of the Gospels":

The word [hypocrisy] occurs no less than fifteen times in Matthew, but is also found in the other Gospels as well.

      (C1977, p119)

 

 

So if we look to Jesus' teachings for what is truly evil, it is really not infractions against laws of God, or, failure to believe - it is the indifference and hypocrisy which surrounds him in and out of religious circles. Today, churches are so preoccupied with sex as evil, they are neglecting the social economic injustices which is the breeding ground for man's inhumanity to man. Theology has so blinded religion with God's Law, they are unable to self examine their own shortcomings.

Perhaps it is best that theology should avoid any dogmatic attempt to define evil, concentrating instead on the human characteristics that make us evil in the first place. Religion, instead of telling us what we must avoid, and what we can and cannot do; should, encourage us to cultivate behavior that is not only responsible, but caring toward all that is of God. It should encourage us to take along extra oil for the lamps of life, or, utilizing our God given gifts to give back to creation.

When we examine Jesus' words and behavior, the implication is that it is the absence of goodness that is truly evil. This is not to say such an absence of goodness is of itself evil, but unless we focus there the consequences of our actions will often result in evil; that is, hurting others directly or indirectly through indifference.

This notion not only seems to make some sense, but it also explains why evil can only exist in humans. Nature, functioning as God intended it, cannot be absent of goodness no matter how many negatives it contains. We, on the other hand, can choose our interaction with God's creation, and in giving us that choice, we were given the potential to be evil.

If we looked for God in the faces of humanity, in the creation itself, we would then make our experience of living an expression of our faith in God. Then, instead of being preoccupied with abstracts, words, laws, articles of faith and supernatural wonders; our human experiences would be shared with the Creator we profess to believe in. When we function out of love of God, instead of fear of Her, and God is seen in the manifestation of people and things around us - our actions toward them become the expression of our faith. While none of us can claim perfection, such an effort as the primary concern of religious direction would serve to lessen indifference, promote healthy concern, and promote personal responsibility; which on a large scale, could help improve the conditions of our world. This, then, becomes the highest tribute we can pay to God and such tribute would lead to the reality of evil being addressed.

The truth is, if we approached evil from this gospel perspective of an absence of goodness at an individual level; there would be a far greater effort to rid our society of so much of the breeding ground of evil; that is, indifference, selfishness, poverty, bigotry and hatred. These things are the real devil that haunts humanity, and they are not an external as we shall discuss in the next topic, but they are uniquely human choices within an individual.

Here, too, we need to be careful. When we talk about this absence of goodness, it is not up to us to make such a judgement about others. In many respects goodness is as hard to define as evil, and true goodness is always connected to an individual's purpose for being - and that is unique to every human being. So personal goodness may in fact differ for one individual or another, but, the ethic, which defines that goodness, is in the result of their actions. Our affect upon reality is our goodness or evil. We should not be judging the affect of others; but instead, examine our own impact in the world.

Religion's responsibility accordingly, then, is to offer a means to objectively examine an absence of goodness within one's self without setting itself up as a spokesman of God or demonizing our individuality. It goes no further than that. Religions have no right to say someone else is evil, or sinned, or is a sinner. Religions cannot even say what sin is, if sin is defined as an offense against God, for what human could know what offends God? And religion has absolutely no right to pronounce the judgment of God for anyone.

We have another metaphor that Jesus uses about removing the plank from one's own eye before they can begin to help their brother with their speck. Too many of our religious ideals are the very planks in our own eyes. They cause us to look at what is all around us, and we are so busy making judgements about that, we can't recognize our own indifference and hypocrisy.

Thus, what we are saying theologically, is that you cannot build sound moral qualities based upon laws, commandments, belief structures, or pronouncements. Theologically, we have approached this problem from the wrong perspective. Religion's role is not about defining or even ridding the world of evil. Its role is about promoting and flooding the world with goodness, love, and compassion. Evil, or even the devil, isn't the problem! The problem is truly in the way we look at goodness. The message of Jesus was not concerned with defining sin or proclaiming God's Law, it was to teach us how to live in the Image of God which is contained in our ability to love one another. This in itself is a difficult challenge, but it becomes an impossible challenge if it is overshadowed by other priorities.

The sin, so to speak, of our great society is not in what one could term religiously unacceptable behavior; it is in its indifference to the needs of humanity. Worship, prayer and ritual can be a good thing, even moral encouragement's can be helpful; but these things absent of a sense of personal messiahship are useless to defeat the nature of Satan and evil, which at their core are within us. Simply defined then, evil becomes the conflict of our egocentric pursuits to the exclusion of our purpose of being in relationship to the whole.

We have already talked about the paradoxical nature of the Divine. We need to remind the reader here, that in this Image God is both personal and impersonal. This concept implies that every individual being is important as a unique individual; a message that religion does have down to a degree. But what is often lost is: the purpose of that being must be tied to the whole in some way because God is both part of one and all at the same time. It is not a contest between individuality and society, it is the harmony or the relationship of one to the other. This is the metaphor of taking up our cross, as Jesus put it - a contribution of some sort to the totality of being for the gift of being. Are we doing our part, according to our ability, to actively work to better creation?

Instead of religion trying to define what is evil for individuals to do, they should strive to present a faith that has individuals searching their own hearts for the contribution - not having members sitting in a self-righteous judgement over others' actions. Theology has to get away from this idea that they can express the judgement of God about good and evil; working instead, to empower individuals with a relationship with God that allows them to make their own personal moral judgements in an objective manner. If our religious upbringing is correct and responsible, we shouldn't need a church to tell us what is good and evil - it becomes self-evident.

We need to recognize in religion that it is not the avoidance of breaking religious laws that makes us good or holy; it is our contribution to being that determines such. It's the way we vote, the way we drive, our human compassion, our ability to love, our commitment toward conservation, our appreciation and respect for all that gives us life demonstrated by our responsibility toward it. It is the fairness with which we treat our employees, or the work we perform for our employer. It is in what we give and in what we share. It's being there for those in need. Holiness is about giving back to being as much as we get out of it! If we concerned ourselves with these things, evil isn't a problem.

Few of us, if any, are capable of living on this planet alone. It takes large masses of people to support life. What we need to face is that we as individuals are dependent upon others; and they upon us for our needs. We have an economic system that recognizes this principle, albeit, not often as fair as it should be. But religiously we see the world as being created for us to live in paradise, when the reality implies, we were created to help fill the needs each other. The idea of gaining paradise for the self as the meaning to life points us away from unity and compassion. The idea of blind faith or obedience to the law as the means of obtaining paradise leads us away from our responsibility towards our fellow human beings - a responsibility Jesus clearly stated was everyone's.

It seems that so often the projectionary flaw in religious thinking comes from the selfish perspective from which we approach our world. We have an "us" and "them" mentality, which we ultimately project unto God, implying God only created us to live one particular way. But nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, life could not go on with any meaning if we were all the same. We need our differences, we need our questions, and we need lots of latitude in the way we live our personal lives.

To tell a family they cannot practice birth control, because it is a sin, is simply irresponsible. Perhaps some people cannot afford children ultimately making them more responsible in not having them. To tell people that their faith is somehow evil and not of God because it differs from dogmatic claims, is irresponsible. Perhaps their faith is serving them better than ours is serving us. To tell same sex partners who are in love with each other that they are living in sin is an absolute outrage.

Philosophers and theologians have debated the question of evil for centuries. They have sought explanations to explain its existence in our reality. They have, in their doctrines of Satan and sin, placed a transcendent cause for it. But all these endless debates have done little to answer the question, and have done even less to decrease evil's grip upon societies.

Perhaps a more simplistic approach is needed, one that is devoid of projection.

In reality, evil is a necessary result of free will. God had no choice but to allow us the choice to be bad, if in fact, we are given the right to choose to be good. It is a simple consequence of the polarity of our world and the diversity it contains. We cannot hold God to any standard of good and evil, because God is what She is, transcending any such notion. God is no more all good than He could be all-evil. But, God is the Source of all being from which our potential to be good or evil comes.

The true cause of evil is within us, and it simply needs no other explanation. In a sense, evil is part of free will. Selfishness and indifference lead us down a path where we choose to ignore our own potential as well as our responsibility. The devil doesn't have to tempt us, our ego driven pursuits are all we need. It is we who choose to use the gift of being in the right or wrong way. In a sense, evil is our choosing to use the power of God (being) in direct opposition to our purpose of being. Evil is not an external that weakens our will, but an internal drive that we fail to control. Evil becomes not much different than our other selfishly compulsive behaviors such as overeating, or over drinking and the like. Evil stems from an obsession with the self to the exclusion of the whole.

For centuries, we have been looking for an external source for evil when in reality such is internal. We strive to place responsibility for evil outside because we refuse to face the fact that it comes from within us. Religion can feed our avoidance of such responsibility by casting our eyes toward other causes, or, providing neat little packages of goodness and evil which are often used to judge others more than ourselves. When people talk of the devil being the master of deceit, such is a metaphor for the self-deceiving the self. It is our own selfish desires that consume us with evil, and we refuse to see it.

The cold hard reality is we are all evil, because without such evil we could not be good. But the messages of the gospel contain a formula for balancing evil. And it too is a part of us. This idea can be found in many other revelations as well. It is a concept that has distinguished men and women of God for eons. Jesus sums it up in the Gospel of John:

I give you a new commandment; Love one another as I have loved you, so you are to love one another. If there is love among you, then you will know that you are my disciples.

(John 13:34)

Religion needs to take its lead from one of the greatest theologians who ever lived, Jesus himself. There is only one preoccupation in the gospel message, and it has nothing to do with faith, defining evil, proclaiming laws, or even the worship of God. Jesus' message by word and example was one of salvation through personal messiahship driven by the love that makes us in the Image of God. In that simple message lies the key to our fulfillment as well as the power to rid our world of evil. When Jesus becomes the example for salvation, instead of the deliverer of it, the problem of evil ceases to be a problem.

It is true that we cannot remake the world, but we can change our role in it. If the power of religion brought home this ideal to the people of faith, the state of humanity would vastly improve. Evil defeats us when we project, evil thrives in our indifference, and evil is a choice that we make. To rid ourselves of evil we need to learn to love, the love that God inspires in our hearts. From that love is born our purpose, and the living of that purpose is the reality of salvation.

FROM THE INSIDE OUT

by Elizabeth Jeffries

 

You are a child of God, placed on this earth

To answer a calling assigned at your birth.

Only you can accomplish this mission as planned

The only true guidance will come from God's hand.

Your personal mission takes courage to find

Look for it first in your heart, then your mind.

That mission will guide you as you take control,

It's the passion and purpose that touches your soul.

Harness the energy your mission inspires,

Muster the courage your best work requires.

Challenge yourself, step up to the test,

Capture your vision, commit to your quest.

Don't be a brief candle, or just a flicker of light;

But a blazing torch, a fire so bright.

Stroke the flame higher, each moment you live.

Then pass on the torch, it's your gift to give.

So go for the gold, go for the glory,

You take the lead and you write the story

Hear the applause, now take up the baton

The orchestra waits, the spotlight is on.

Lead from the inside out on your journey each day.

Sing your own song in your own way.

Awaken, be real, let there be no doubt.

Say: Yes I can! And: Yes I will!

Lead from the inside out.

 

 

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