Saturday, October 02, 2010


Unitarianism, "in its 400-plus-year history, has claimed that humans begin in good shape with the prospect of getting better. We have been perennially soft on sin and evasive with evil." (from Freethinking Mystics With Hands, Tom Owen-Towle)

Sure, September is a busy month.  Things to do.

But as my blog-lleauge the Rev. Earthbound Spirit, pointed out, there was a very light response to the UU Salon question, "What is the nature of evil?"

And here I am, the writer of the question, and it took me until October to answer the question.

This reluctance to engage the question isn't isolated to the blogosphere.  When I took a class on systematic UU Theology, the week we wrestled with evil was the week when most everyone began their responses with, "This is a difficult topic for me."

Even with the fact that I have written about it before, in that class context, it's still not a topic I jump to.  Writing about evil doesn't motivate me, doesn't fill my heart.  And don't we shy away from it, because of the judgmental aspect?  Who am I to say who/what is evil?

Do I believe in evil?

I do.

I don't believe that evil is a source.  I believe it is a result.  I'll use an analogy to cancer simply because I think it works well for explaining from whence it comes.

We don't always know the cause of cancer.  We often can draw correlations, so we can make assumptions about the cause.  He smoked 2 packs a day for 20 years.  Her mother, grandmother, and aunt all had breast cancer.  And some times we can't.  It's idiopathic.

Sometimes, we can look at evil and see a correlation.  She was mentally ill.  He was abused as a child.  She felt desperate.  He thought God wanted him to.

And sometimes it's idiopathic.  Was he just born that way?

Ah, but now, I have been talking about individuals.  Group evil, systems evil, those exist on another level.  And yet, the systems, the group, are made up of individuals.  How do you look at a report on a design flaw and say, "It'll be cheaper to pay off the victims' families than to fix this"?

And evil is so very hard, because it doesn't arrive in a black coat, twirling a mustache.  Sometimes, it is the child of ignorance.  Fear.  Seeing other humans as "the other."

This week, we saw evil.

The Summary of our Gay Teen Bodycount couldn't even keep up.  It doesn't include Raymond Chase.

And it doesn't include all the teens quietly put to rest with no media coverage.

Were the children who bullied these other children "evil"?  Where do we put the dividing line?  The person who put the video up?  The kid who threatened another?  The child who looked away?

I don't believe these children and teens were evil.  I do believe that they did evil.  And it's real easy to do.

In a sermon, I talk about how we can be the "hands and feet of love."  I believe in that passionately.

But as this week showed us, we -- normal, non-Hitler, people -- can do evil. We can be the hands and feet of hate.  And it ain't even hard.

1 comment:

Earthbound Spirit said...

Preach it, sister. Why, oh, why is evil so easy & good so often hard to do?

And, sadly... Let the bell toll for one more:
Cody Barker in Shiocton, WI...

I heard something about this from a colleague a couple weeks ago, but not the details. Another tragic loss. God help us all.