I admire anyone who stares down evil. I appreciate historians who catalogue the horrors of the holocaust. I approve of doctors who face down death. I applaud families that foster and invite a kind of chaos into their lives. I admire family members that persevere in the life of a troubled loved one. I appreciate pastors who don’t lose faith in the light despite this present darkness. I approve of those who mercilessly hunt down and mortify indwelling sin. I applaud anyone who wastes their life on those who have wasted their lives. I admire these because they require fortitude in the face of immense odds.
When I was younger I had the confidence of a prize fighter facing a novice. Now I enter the ring like a bruised and damaged veteran who is beginning to wonder about his life choices. I can barely read about the holocaust, much less watch depictions of it. I sometimes cry when I’m alone in the car and Sam Cooke sings A Change Gonna Come. I think anyone who voluntarily watches Law and Order: SVU is bizarre.
Did Fatherhood do this to me? Is Brad Paisley is right: When tough little boys grow up to be dads, do they turn into big babies again? I think it’s more than that. I think that evil is no longer a concept but a reality. Suicide, alcoholism, abuse, rape, adultery, and self. So much self in this world taking all the good gifts of God and hiding it in lockboxes until they breed maggots. I have lived long enough to see my generation infect the coming generation with such wicked folly that destruction is bound to follow, and when the broken lives of that generation begin to wash up on the shore I know that there will only be the remorse shown by Pilate as he washed his hands of the blood of Jesus. The fight for goodness seems like a lost cause.
Then in despair I bowed my head / “There is no peace on earth” I said / For hate is strong and mocks the song / Of peace on earth good will towards menI Heard the Bells on Christmas Day, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Where else in the cosmos is evil so strong apart from planet earth? In untold galaxies the heavens are filled with the laughter of the Trinity. Only on the 57.51 million square miles of sod given to man is the name of God blasphemed and goodness trod underfoot, while blazing comets travel from solar system to solar system trumpeting His goodness. Evil appears to be an endless sea, but in reality its bounds were set long ago. Maybe the fight for goodness is not a lost cause after all. Maybe goodness is so large and vast we simply cannot apprehend it, like ants cannot apprehend the glory of of the dawning sun. After all, even death has been swallowed up by life.
I was a “good kid” in school. It was not natural for me to make fun of my teachers behind their backs (although I was perfectly willing to argue with them to their face). But one day I was stuck in the nurse’s office with a couple of other kids who started playing “charades” with the goal of impersonating a teacher or one of the principals. I expected it to be a little thrilling, but it turned out to be quite boring. They were only able to mock the things I already knew about: weight, voice, mannerisms. And in that moment I found evil to be disappointing and somewhat boring. It turns out evil can only twist and corrupt and bend what already is, but it cannot create. Evil is derivative, not original. Evil can torture marriage into a thousand misshapen forms, but it cannot create something as unfathomably mysterious or fruitful as Christian marriage.
We all live with the reality of evil because we all live with the reality of death. Death has entered and overrun our world through sin and because of sin, so we are accustomed to strong starts and decrepit finishes. We read of the dawn of empires and know before the first chapter that they have already ended. We rejoice in the strength of youth but know that even the youths shall grow weary and faint. This is natural. This is human. This is inevitable. But this is wrong.
Then rang the bells more loud and sweet / God is not dead nor doth He sleep / The wrong shall fail, the right prevail / With peace on earth, goodwill to menI Heard the Bells on Christmas Day, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
In the midst of our darkened world, there is a flaming sword of Goodness breaking the fetters of evil and slaying the sting of death. There is Forgiveness that reaches farther than the worst offense and there is Reconciliation that spans the deepest chasms. There is a Song for the saddest occasion and there is a Hope for the darkest hour. There is nothing broken that will not be Restored and there is nothing lost that will not be found. Evil is drowning in a sea of Holy Fire. Just watch and wait.