Friday, November 30, 2007

Naming "evil"?

Being somewhat housebound today, I wandered through blogsphere, even checking on some sites that I normally avoid due to concern about my blood pressure. I should really know better. I can actually get through most of the comments on these blogs without major risk but suddenly there is one that makes me hot under the collar and puts me in the danger area. As I have mentioned before, to get hot under the collar in the middle of winter in the frozen north takes some doing.

So what has me all het up today? I wandered through a post on the Archbishop of Canterbury preaching and presiding at a service with/for gay and lesbian priests. The comments were pretty much what could be expected. I would shake my head in disagreement but no rise in blood pressure. And then one jumped out at me. It was one hoping that various people were just misled – that they were being foolish as opposed to evil.

Now I should know better. I really should. There were link lines under evil and foolish and, foolish me, I clicked on them. Well, the evil one led to a certain blog site of a well-known “liberal” priest and the foolish one led to a blog site of another well-known “liberal” priest.

I am not even going into the wrongs of these particular links. I will however speak to the wrong of the naming of a person as evil. Has the commenter ever truly met evil? I believe if he had he would be a lot more cautious about who/what he names as evil.

I had an experience a few years ago where I was frequently encountering evil centered around one person. I do not call the person evil but rather acknowledge that somehow evil was present with this person. Even having an encounter with this person time and time again, I still would not name the person as evil.

Part of it is that I believe that we are all children of God and I believe that, being created in the image of God, we all have a “spark” of the divine within us. To claim that a person is evil would be to say that there is no element of God in that person. I cannot and will not believe that evil is strong enough to wipe out completely the presence of God. So regardless of the actions of a person and how they manifest evil, I will not call a person evil.

It is interesting that frequently when I am being assaulted spiritually, in unrelated circumstances, this one person with whom I sense the presence of evil, will start appearing in my life again. Note, that I am still not saying that this person is evil only that evil is present when this person is – that somehow evil is around this person.

I have a wise and knowledgeable friend who also has had some experience with sensing evil. He describes it as a sort of energy. That is how I see it, as an energy that is present with this person I keep encountering – almost an aura if you wanted to be sort of new age about it.

With these experiences in mind, I would caution this other poster (if I thought it would do any good) to be careful about the word evil being applied to people. Part of this is from my own experience of evil. The other part is looking at the healing of demons in the gospels. The demons are not the people healed but something separate from the people. The demons influence various behaviours but as soon as they are exorcized the person is on the way to becoming who they are meant to be. I think of the demons entering into the swine and jumping off the cliff. The action is separate from the swine themselves, influenced by the presence with them. I look at the people in the texts in which the demons call out to Jesus. In all these instances the evil is separate from the person themselves.

So I urge that we take caution not to call people evil, not to demonize the “other”. We may disagree with beliefs or actions in any area of the spectrum but we should be cautious about personalizing it with the people holding those beliefs or doing those actions being named as “evil”. Once we dehumanize people in our minds by applying such titles as “evil” it is easier to forget that God also loves these people and desires goodness and health for them. And eventually, that can lead to us doing even more harm than we believe the original person did. It’s a slippery slope that can lead us into doing “evil” ourselves.

Love and Prayers,
Ann Marie


sameo416 said...

Hate the sin, love the sinner...
or it's close cousin
hate the demon, love the demon-possessed...

Barbara Coloroso has an interesting book "Extraordinary Evil: a brief history of genocide". She makes a fascinating extension from her numerous (and good) parenting books - that genocide starts decades before with contempt for that grouping...contempt that leads to bullying beginning with individuals.

I worry when people start labelling others as 'evil' or even 'foolish' that it is really a form of "polite" bullying.

Treating someone else with contempt by labelling them, removes from them a degree of humanity. That process is one I would have no trouble calling evil.

A good post, and sadly too true.

I met your sister in our parish today, and passed personal greetings back.

Ann Marie said...

I worry about a number of labels. They are way of categorizing that allows people to take one step back from relating to others as fellow humanbeings, as fully beloved children of the Creator. They are a way of saying that the "other's" point of view or belief is of little value and as such they can be disregarded to some extent in the scheme of things.

For instance: One could name me a "liberal", a heretic, etc. By naming these, my views on many issues are discounted and yet neither of these terms fully describes who I am. There are many ways in which I am also quite "traditional" (although that traditionalism is often expressed in a different manner from most).

I think the biggest problem I have with people using the term "evil" is that many people do not truly know what they are talking about. I have only scratched the surface in my encounters with evil and have no desire for anymore encounters. I hate to see the term trivilized by being applied in cases where, at the worst, there is disagreement on certain issues or understandings of faith.

Yes, my sister took my parents into your neck of the woods. Mom and Dad stayed with one set of relatives and my sister stayed with our cousin and his wife who attend the same church as you. I wondered if she might be there on Sunday.