Electioneering on Evil

Amongst all of the gradual posting about our trip, which I just thought would be nice for family, I suppose I need to get back to business some. School’s about to start again anyway, so let’s get serious. I was actually very excited to see the two presidential candidates answer questions at Saddleback, which probably relates to me being an optimist and a starry-eyed idealist… it wasn’t so great, in my book. Two things I noticed:

Republicans inherently understand that every appearance is a political appearance. Democrats like to believe that there’s actually a public forum that can be a teaching moment, or a personal moment, or what have you. This is infinitely preferable to me, yet not so useful in today’s media market.

Second, it stands as a good reminder that politicians are just that. They are pretty lousy theologians. (Which makes a pretty good argument about church and state, considering. Politicians would do a pretty bad job at interpreting spiritual issues anyway.) So guys, does evil exist?

I actually think Obama gets himself in more trouble by trying to answer this from a more theological bent, where McCain is just ignoring the fact he’s in a church altogether. The political answer is simple: yes, there is evil (people that do bad things), and we will “get” them. The theological answer is hard to sell, but I think really useful. If there really is a theological “evil,” a force beyond humans that is opposed to good, we run into some problems. (All of which requires a lot more theological work than this, but just to be cute…)

God created everything. Did God create evil?
No. (Phew. After all, God said it was all good!)
Well, so, did evil exist before creation with God, as some sort of bizarro God?
No. God is God, creator of all. Evil as some sort of co-God or anti-God doesn’t fit within dogma.
So, did we humans create evil later as a force that must be overcome by God?
Well, sorta’, but any “evil” we might create is (just as we are) subject to God and already overcome by that very fact.
“Evil” ends up being a symptom (in this theological system) of our inability to understand our true nature as creation, as good.

Harsh news for the pols? Not so much with any spiritual force called evil. Lots of people can go further into why we see so much brokenness and pain in the world around us despite this fact. I recommend this guy and this guy, followed with a long explanation from this guy, who taught me somehow. For me, I’ll say this: It’s easier for me to see a world in which all of us share love of our neighbors when we stop trying to attribute people’s actions to some sort of ultimate evil that we must eradicate, and instead think of them as fellow humans trying to come to grips with their own place in creation.

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