Friday, September 11, 2009


Reverend Erik Walker Wikstrom addresses some of the things I am struggling with on the subject of evil. Go read it; it's good.

The topic of evil was already rumbling around in my head, but now, today, September 11th, of course it is front and center.

I don't believe in Original Sin, I do not believe we are born evil. Boy, those who compiled our high school reading list certainly did ... A Separate Peace, Lord of the Flies ... bah.

And yet.

What is this antagonism in so many of us? And I include myself in that 'us.'

Rev. Tamara Lebak, Associate Minister, All Souls Unitarian Church in Tulsa, Oklahoma, gave a great sermon August 30, titled Conversation That Matters. Another good one to go check out. She talks about our instincts about others, about how rarely we assume good intentions on the part of someone else.

There is a big difference between thinking and acting. Yes, I agree.

The Husband and I were talking about this last week. Do you think Pure Evil exists? he asked. In the person of another? I clarified. Yes, he said.

I don't think that I do. There always seems to be some tiny fraction of a person's soul that still houses something besides evil.

Whenever I think of evil, I think of Summer of My German Soldier, by Bette Green. Ruth, the maid and mother figure to Patty, says something along the lines of yes, Hitler was evil, but would he beat his own daughter? And yes, your father (who beats you) is evil, but would he cause the extermination of millions of Jews?

There is a big difference between thinking and acting. Yes, yes, I agree.

And yet.

"Watch your thoughts, for they become words.
Watch your words, for they become actions." -- author unverified

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said yeah, you know that you're not supposed to murder. But guess what? If you are angry at someone, you will also be judged.

Searching for the roots of evil.

In that context, it is difficult for me to let myself off the hook for my knee-jerk jealousies, antagonism, suspicions, and all around lack of assuming good intentions.

This eye looks with love
This eye looks with judgment
Free me take the sight out of this eye.
-- This Eye, Edie Brickell and New Bohemians


Robin Edgar said...

"Watch your thoughts, for they become words. Watch your words, for they become actions." -- author unverified

The above actually closely parallels one of the fundamental tenets of Zoroastrianism. To quote Wikipedia's entry about Zoroastrianism -

Zoroastrian morality is then to be summed up in the simple phrase, "good thoughts, good words, good deeds" (Humata, Hukhta, Hvarshta in Avestan)

Personally I think that Unitarian*Universalists could do worse than culturally appropriate that one principle of Zoroastrianism. I am still waiting for good thoughts that lead to good words that result in good actions when it comes to the redress of a variety of U*U injustices and abuses aka evil committed by U*Us.

goodwolve said...

The first real "religious thought" I ever had was that there was no evil. I believe that we choose to declare unspeakable acts of violence and cruelty as evil, but they are just acts committed by humans. Good and bad - we encompass it all. No evil, no hell, no demons, no satan... just people doing things and being judged by those things.

Alex said...

Regarding being born good or evil, a story attributed to the Cherokee always seemed to best sum up my understanding of human nature.

The Two Wolves:

One evening an old Cherokee told his grandson about a battle that goes on inside people.

He said: ‘My son, the battle is between ‘two wolves’ inside us all. One is Evil. It is anger, envy, jealousy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.

The other is Good. It is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith.’

The grandson thought about it for a minute, and then asked his grandfather: ‘Which wolf wins?’

The old Cherokee simply replied: ‘The one you feed.’

Robin Edgar said...

:The old Cherokee simply replied: ‘The one you feed.’

But aren't we taught to share? :-)

Sorry I just couldn't resist that. . . ;-)

Robin Edgar said...

The Devil in me made me do it. ;-)

Gotta love those -

Words as weapons
Sharper than knives

lyrics. . .

No U*Us?

kimc said...

Most of us have the potential for good and bad in us.
there are, however, a few people who have no conscience, the sociopaths. they were apparently born without consciences in the same way someone might be born without a foot or an arm. Some of them, well, they seem to be evil anyway.....

Lunasea said...

Thank you for the recommendations - I always appreciate it when you recommend sermons.