Posted by: Botolff | November 18, 2009

Evil Presents as Shameless

“Evil is present when there is a profound absence of empathy, shame, and goodness.  Empathy involves connectedness to the heart of another and a respect for their personal boundaries.  An evil person is unmoved by the inner world of the other and has no respect for boundaries.  Shame involves an ability to be exposed and disturbed about actual or perceived violation of relationships.  An evil person is unaffected by exposure, so is consequently shameless.” – Bold Love

All this talk about evil may be perking your interest, and you may be wondering how to differentiate between an evil person, a fool and a common sinner.  If only it were that easy.  And if it seems that easy, we should probably concern ourselves with labeling someone something they may not be.  I have been surprised a number of times, but unfortunately it usually isn’t that I thought someone is evil and they turn out not to be.  Quite the contrary.  Although I can be quite a cynic, I have a knack for giving people the benefit of the doubt and hoping the best.  But on more than one occasion I have had to accept that someone I thought may just be a fool or a common sinner is actually evil, or at least significantly bent towards evil.  How did I come to this conclusion?  Through time well spent investigating my own motivations, as well as others, and leaving my mind open to the possibility that people are not at all who they present themselves to be.  Do all those mental aerobics inevitably make me the self-proclaimed cynic?  Probably more than I would like to admit.  But I believe more so that they make me more of a realist with a nose for abuse, which subsequently has helped me to better protect myself and others from some of the abuse that’s being perpetuated. 

So, if it’s not easy, and we need to be exceptionally cautious about casting labels on people, how are we able to come to the conclusions that people are evil, or have a strong bent towards evil?  A place to begin this process is by getting a reading on how shameful/shameless someone is.  I don’t think this idea needs a lot of elaboration.  If you catch someone in their deception, manipulation, violence, sin, and there is no acknowledgement of or remorse for their attitudes and actions, evil is likely at work.  This doesn’t mean that people who don’t have a repentant heart over every “impropriety” in their life are evil people.  Especially considering different people have different definitions of impropriety.  Shoot, most of the teenagers in the youth group I grew up in were considered “little devils” by a number of people in the older generations.  We were even more wicked if we wouldn’t repent for the list of things we had done that some of our elders created in order to keep their “christian world” under control.  Little did most people realize, the wickedness actually resided in the need for control and was perpetuated by the very people who labeled us teens the ungodly bunch they saw us as.  How can I confirm that?  Because many of us were repenting for things we hadn’t done or shouldn’t have had to repent of to begin with.  But, if we tried to point out the faults in the adults/leaders/system, and the improprieties in how things were being handled, man did people jump down our throats. 

One of the key elements to the presence of evil is in shamelessness.  Many wounded ministers have been tossed out of their ministries by means of a catapult solidly built with crafty lies and cheap shots.  Among a number of things, one thing that is ironic is that the wounded minister, the victim, is often the one who is expected to bear the shame of the wicked things done to him or her, as if the very reason why they are being objectified and treated so inhumanly is their fault to begin with.  This next quote from Bold Love is very important…”An evil person, regularly and masterfully, portrays his motives and behavior as innocent.  Others just do not understand.  He is deceitfully gifted in making the victim of his abuse feel like the perpetrator of the harm.” 

Please be careful church…because the person who’s the scapegoat is rarely the one at the root of the problem.  If you ask enough questions, and open yourself up to the possibility that people may not be who you thought they were, you might just find out that the fire wasn’t thrown out of the building.  It’s actually still burning in the basement…or the pastor’s office…or the pastor’s spouse’s house…or in the elder’s or deacon’s team…or a volunteer youth worker…or a faction of elderly folks…or…or…or.

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Responses

  1. I find the idea that there are ‘evil’ people deeply troubling. Sure, people do terrible things: they can be manipulative, cruel, violent, all sorts. But evil? I can’t think of any theological or biblical argument for dividing the world into evil people and ‘ordinary sinners.’

  2. Marika,

    Thanks for dropping in. I am encouraged to hear that you find the idea of evil people “deeply troubling.” If we aren’t being deeply troubled by this thought, I don’t think we will be getting any closer to acknowledging and addressing the level of wickedness that seems to be woven into the original fabric of God’s image bearing creation…regardless of the label.

    I’m curious why it is that you use words like cruel and violent particularly, but the word evil seems to be too much. Aren’t those words all synonymous? Or would cruel and violent be categorized as something less than evil? Is it that evil seems like the “bottom of the barrel”?

    At the risk of trying to prooftext for you, I think the scriptures do an extensive job of delineating categories of people. The Old Testament is laced with verbiage about evil men, evildoers, wicked men and wicked women, particularly in I and II Samuel, Job, Psalms and Proverbs. Genesis 13:13 describes the men of Sodom as wicked. Exodus 23:1 talks about not helping a wicked man. Proverbs 1:22 mentions the mocker (evil), the fool and the simpleton (common sinner). I Samuel 1:16 talks about a wicked woman. I Samuel 2:12 says that Eli’s sons were wicked men. II Chronicles 24:7 points out that Althaliah was a wicked woman. Matthew 7:11 talks about evil parents. Matthew 12:35 talks about good men and evil men. In Matthew 23 Jesus doesn’t seem to mince words as he specifically and deliberately names the Pharisees as a brood of vipers and son’s of hell (wicked or evil). II Thes. 3:2 talks about being delivered from wicked and evil men. II Timothy 3:13 mentions evil men and imposters. I’ll stop there.

    So, I’m wondering why it is that with so much written support for the label of evil and/or wicked people, that you can’t think of any theological or biblical argument for the divisions.

    I can tell you that it took me a long time to be able to see what the scriptures were very poignantly saying about wicked and evil people. The reason? Partially because I didn’t want to judge anyone as that, but mostly because I would have to learn to accept the severity of the abuse I had experienced at the minds and hands of wicked/evil people. I also have a hard time accepting the wicked/evil ways my heart can respond to my circumstances and people around me at times.

    Not at all to suggest you are this kind of person, because I don’t think I know you, but for some people, they deny the label because it describes their own heart. One woman who told me she didn’t believe in evil people turned out to have some of the most manipulative, cruel, violent, wicked, evil ways of treating people I have ever experienced. Maybe the reason why she rejected the label is because her heart was so close to the real thing.

    Thanks for commenting. Would love to hear more.

  3. I think what bothers me is the ontological implications of calling a person ‘evil.’ Calling someone cruel or violent doesn’t necessarily mean that they are utterly without redeeming features; calling someone evil suggests that they are irrevocably lost and without hope of redemption. Maybe some people are, but I sure don’t feel qualified to make that judgment.

  4. Thanks for taking your thoughts further Marika. I think the ontological question you are raising is a very legitimate one, and certainly something for us to be highly concerned about. I think where I would diverge from the path you are describing is that I don’t believe someone who is evil is unredeemable, because the original fabric with which they were created is good at the core. I believe each representative of humanity was created good.

    I too hold the possibility of some being unredeemable, but I don’t perceive evil people or anyone else in that light because the scriptures say “whoever believes in him shall be saved.” I actually think, if an evil person can face their motivations and how those direct their actions, they could experience what some might consider a more powerful conversion. Take Saul/Paul for example. I believe he was probably an evil man with a very revelatory conversion. With or without the label, he did some incredibly manipulative, cruel, violent evil things, but the spirit enlivened his conscience and he listened to it. Hence the rebirth of a man who went on to write a large portion of the New Testament.

    I actually think that by naming evil people, always aware of the risk of misnaming, that I can love them better. I think one of the biggest barriers to loving evil people is that we won’t name them that. I think anyone who is a compassionate caring person wants to believe that it’s not possible for someone to be evil. I still wrestle with the idea at times. Hopefully that keeps me from judging people (handing down a final sentence with no chance for change). But I believe it’s where we fall short of naming a dragon a dragon that we not only lose out on being able to care for the dragon like a dragon, but we let the dragon go around breathing fire all over the place and scorching the earth and people in the process. The damage is often done because we don’t believe the dragon is evil enough to do what he/she is proving he is not only capable of doing, but has a distinct, ingrained, repetitive pattern of doing. How is it that people like Hitler make it in to power? I believe partially because human beings are often devoted to not seeing what is so painful to admit.

  5. What’s the difference between an evil person and an ordinary kind of simple person, except that calling someone evil allows you to write them off? And what happens to ‘Do not judge, lest you yourself be judged’?

  6. It seems as though you keep taking the responsibility off of the person committing the wicked behavior, and keep putting it on the person who is trying to name it. Victims are used to that happening to them all the time. I think that’s partially why perpetrators often continue to be perpetrators.

    Are you still getting the impression that I’m “writing an evil person off”? Quite the contrary I believe. I’m inviting them to repentance and change by naming what must be named in order for healing to take place, just like naming my own sin. Some people are almost entirely self-consumed and live in such a way that consistantly what they believe, say and do has a wicked intention. Some people’s “sacrifices” are actually nothing more than a ploy to get something for themselves. Those are evil people. Without someone addressing the level of their wickedness for what it is, instead of what we wish it was, it’s not likely there will be an impact on their future behavior. And that is even more specific to evil people, because their conscience is already seared to the point where the shame they should feel is next to impossible to get them to address.

    Now, does this mean I go around categorizing people? Of course…don’t you? That’s a baseball player. She’s a doctor. He’s a murderer. They are a family with young children. Without categories, we are left immobile in addressing our race and ourselves. However, I don’t go looking to place people in an “evil person” or “ordinary person” category. If you get to know someone, and pay attention, they place themselves in those categories according to their intentions and how they address their world. I also don’t believe that everyone will or needs to remain in the category of “evil person” or “ordinary person”. That’s why it’s important not to judge…bad or good.

    As for judging and how I understand it, judging is synonymous with a final conviction. We don’t have the right to pass final convictions on anyone. I don’t consider an “evil person” label, or a “good person” label for that matter, as a final conviction. The passage in Luke goes on to talk about condemnation. We do not have the right to condemn someone. Only God decides someone’s ultimate fate. That is not our job. Frankly I am more concerned about the approach of people who have decided who’s going to hell and who’s going to heaven, than I am about naming someone the evil person they present themselves to be. The latter I experience for myself, and I’m also capable of changing my position if they prove differently. The former, in my mind, is judging someone, and that’s not our place.

    The woman I spoke about in my first comment used to be incredibly crafty at trying to convince me that I was not to “judge” her or even question her motivations/intentions. I could address her actions (because I think she thought she had better control of those), but I wasn’t to “judge” her heart. It was a great way of diverting me from naming what was becoming increasingly obvious about her underlying motivations. I whole heartedly agree with the statement, “Do not judge.” However, that can be a great deflector from the real issue, which is that some people are just evil people and need others to name that in order to invite them into redemption.

    Just out of curiousity, do you watch the show “Heroes”?

  7. I’m afraid I’ve never seen Heroes.

    How is labelling someone ‘evil’ more helpful than challenging them about a particular attitude/action? How does it help you to recognise the complexity of any individual’s motivations and actions? I’m not saying there’s evil at work in the world and in and through people, but I’ve never yet met anyone who doesn’t have some redeeming features, some resemblance to God, and I don’t see how the ‘evil’ label does anything other than help you ignore the good in people.

    What does it even MEAN to say that ‘some people are just evil people’? I’ve never met anyone of whom that seems remotely true, and I’ve met some people who are pretty unpleasant to be around. Sin is a complex thing, and is to do with brokenness and hurt as well as bad choices that people make. This article does quite a good job of articulating some of that complexity and expressing why your labelling people ‘evil’ makes me uncomfortable: http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/thereporters/markeaston/2009/11/struggling_with_personality_di.html

  8. Marika,

    I was hoping to reply before now, but we just passed through the Thanksgiving holiday here in the U.S.. Thanks for your patience.

    As always, you have some good questions. As well, I appreciated the article. Thanks for sending it. Very educated, well written, and some important things to consider. It seems as though Mr. Easton is attempting to offer an important challenge to be careful of the black and white. And as I have been saying, we need to be careful not to make final permanent judgements on someone regardless of what judgement that could be. But again I’ll say that judgement is different than naming. Interesting that even Mr. Easton seems to have his own category of who is evil…

    “I met dozens of people with personality disorder at last week’s conference, many of whom had had dealings with the police and courts over the years. But none looked like Hannibal Lecter.”

    So Hannibal Lecter is his description of an evil person, and Mr. Easton himself just created his own black and white categories amidst his attempt to suggest that’s a bad idea. As a side note, I don’t think it’s likely that he is going to run into “Hannibal Lecter” at that kind of conference.

    I think we all know who “that kind of person” is, and if you don’t think you’ve met someone who mirror’s Hannibal Lecter in their style of relating to people, then I would suggest it’s possible you haven’t wanted to see it. Hannible Lecter didn’t seem like the psychopath that he was to most people; neither did Hitler. But both men existed, even if the former only in parrallel connections to Manson, Bundy, or Dahmer. How is it that they got away with so much devastation, unless people just didn’t want to see, and wouldn’t name what they did see as what it was.

    I do want to mention that “personality disorder” and “evil” are not necessarily synonomous terms from my perspective. Certainly not all people with personality disorders are evil people. I know some people struggling with personality disorders who are very loving people. What I would say is that all evil people have some sort of diagnosable personality disorder.

    I think I need to clarify the word “just” in my statement you quoted. By my choice of the word, I did not mean to suggest that all evil people are “only” evil. There is almost always a glimpse of goodness in an evil person, even if only for a fraction of a moment; and sometimes that’s all you get and it’s hard to see, even though others believe they see it all the time in that person. The more evil we are, the further we get from things like empathy, shame, goodness and glory; and the less likely to display truly loving characteristics. By the word “just” I meant something closer to “basically” or “foundationally” meaning evil people have a core way of relating that is contemptuous, devourous, deceptive, manipulative, etc.

    I agree, sin is a complex thing, and again, I am glad the label makes you feel uncomfortable. I think it should make us all feel uncomfortable. But without it, I wonder how it is that you will be able to love and care for truly wicked people. In your strongest language you are choosing to name people’s sin as “bad choices”, and are using words like “unpleasant” to describe your experience of the people you seem to have the strongest painful reactions to. With terms like that, I don’t believe you will be working with very many evil people. Now, they may exist around you and have an impact on you and others in your sphere of influence, but it’s not likely you will be seeing or addressing them in light of how they are truly presenting themselves. Although I think the categories of “bad choices” and “unpleasant” exist and have their place, I don’t think those are appropriate terms to describe a serial killing cannibal.

    A few questions that came to mind as a result of our last couple interactions are these…Why is it that, after asking for a theological context, that you didn’t address the fairly lengthy list of verses I mentioned in the scriptures where God the Father, Jesus and other believers very openly and specifically used the labels evil or wicked to describe certain people? Also, are you aware in this ongoing dialogue that your responses consistantly have to do with your struggle with my approach, and not with the wickedness that very real people perpetuate? Do you have any thoughts as to why it is that you use words like “unpleasant” and “bad choices” to describe people’s sin? Food for thought.

    P.S. My Heroes question was because there is a strong representation of good and evil in the show and the label was used by one of the characters in last week’s episode to address someone I would categorize as truly evil. No worries if you haven’t seen the show.

  9. But what if a person can’t recognize evil? Makes a body want to stop fooling with people at all… Except for Watchman, he’s pretty cool.

  10. I hear ya BJ. I think we’ve been seductively lulled into something of a dream state that’s a challenge to wake up from. But I would also add that, from my perspective, and in my personal experience, I don’t know that it’s as much about not being able to recognize evil, as it is about being willing and able to name the evil we have all been personally impacted by. It can be a shocking experience to be unplugged from the matrix, but the rewards abound, because there are truly many people who care and want goodness to prevail. Thanks for jumping into the conversation.

  11. And I agree about Watchman. He’s been around the block a number of times, and I like how he shows up when he passes by.

  12. Aren’t you afraid of being wrong when you label someone evil? I mean, is it better to play it safe and never name anyone evil or to make some mistakes and incorrectly label some people as evil.

  13. Sorry for the delay BJ. More life happened than I was ready for recently.

    In answer to your first question in your last comment…no, I’m not “afraid.” Partly because in order for me to name someone as evil, I need either an extensive amount of interaction with them, or even more information about them, in order to go down that road. By the time I come to the conclusion that someone is evil, a whole lot of investigation has been done (nothing shy of months/years of well placed curiosity for me, or the confidence that someone else may have about a third party that matches my strong suspicions). I spend FAR more time and energy considering whether or not that label is accurate than what the majority of people will put into instantly labeling someone an athlete, garbage man, a mean man, an idiot, a murderer, etc. And any of those labels could be damaging and alienating as well. The next time you are in a car and someone mumbles “what an idiot” or something of the like when a driver cuts you off, I would encourage you to take a moment to consider what kind of hard core experiencial data the commentor has gathered about the offender in order to come up to that conclusion. And then consider whether or not it’s going to help the other person to put that label on them, or just help the person saying it feel better. Or do we really just think those kinds of reactions have no weight to them?

    I will say that I am cautious and concerned about whether any label is accurate for anyone. Primarily because I’m not God, and there could be more to the person’s actions, attitudes, words or motivations than I can see or have experienced. Therefore, there has always got to be room for misinterpretation. And even if I happen to be spot on, I believe that anyone can change, even if the only way would be for God almighty to step in personally and redirect their path. So, what might be accurate naming in the morning could lose some of it’s weight by the afternoon. When I have come to the conclusion that someone is evil, the challenge is holding the tension of hope and possibility for something different. Genuine humility in that person will reveal if that is possible, if there is any to be had. That brings up a whole other process focused on understanding whether someone is genuinely humble, or just looking for a new way to get attention or protect themselves.

    In response to your second question, I have a two fold question to throw back in the pot. What is safety…and who are you hoping will be safe?

    Thanks for your contributions. They’ve got me stirring.

  14. Obviously, if you can correctly diagnose a person as evil, you should. What I mean by safety, I guess I was thinking more about judgement in the next life, whatever that ends up looking like. Is God more likely to say, “I wish you would have believed in people a little bit more,” or, “I wish you would have been a little more outspoken when you saw evil.” I mean, they both sound right, but if a person has to choose…

  15. Is your comment “Obviously, if you can correctly diagnose a person as evil, you should.” meant to be facetious, or serious? If it’s serious, the way I understand your statement seems to suggest you went from wondering if that is possible, to suggesting it’s some people’s responsibility to do that?

    In regards to judgement, personally, I don’t believe God is going to ask questions like that of us, so it’s hard to respond do that one. But that is just my belief.

  16. No, it was a serious statement.

    I went back and skimmed the post again and thought about what I was trying to say. I guess it’s like this with me, on a visceral level, when someone hurts me, I’m very quick to sever all meaningful personal interactions with that person outside of a quick hello and polite small talk. Which is a judgment, right, with my actions?

    But I will bend over backwards to let everyone know that there’s nothing between me and this other person, that I am pronouncing no formal judgment on them.

    So I guess maybe what I’m working through here is this: Am I being a hypocrite for acting one way and speaking another? Is there a difference between a personal, unspoken reaction and a public pronouncement of evil?

    Would it be helpful to discuss this in terms of a specific but fictitious situation?

  17. So one of the questions that just came to me as I was considering your last comment is…Are you concerned about naming people evil because of what it might do to them, or because you are afraid if you do that someone could say the same thing about you? In your last comment it sounds like the fear is about your own evil potential, not other people’s.

    My thought to your judgement question is that it may be judgement when you do that with someone, especially if you just pretend you haven’t been hurt, and don’t offer the opportunity for them to address how they have hurt you. But it could also be self-protection. I don’t interact with some people on a more “meaningful personal” level 1. because I just don’t have the time 2. because apparently I don’t legitimately care enough and 3. because that’s not what some people are really looking for, even though they make you feel like that is what you should give them. Some people just want to use you only to make themselves feel better. Therefore giving these types of people what they want isn’t really loving them very well, because it doesn’t challenge their selfishness. One of the problems I have seen develop is that many of us who still feel shame and can be ashamed, have been trained well to give people who don’t what they want, and guilty if we “fail” to come through. Therefore, we just pretend like there is nothing wrong because we are afraid of what they might do if we actually said there is.

    As for your question about a “personal, unspoken reaction and a public pronouncement of evil”, I’m not sure. I think this is where a specific but fictitious example might help me understand better where you are coming from. What I can say is that rarely does “making a public pronouncement of evil” help address the public display of it. Mostly because people don’t see it, and more importantly don’t want to see it. Sometimes the best results of a public pronouncement is the healing factor for the announcer, because public pronouncements can actually open the door, if noone else steps in, for evil to secure a new position. That’s not to say the pronouncement isn’t important, as I believe it is invaluable. Because without some sort of pronouncement, evil still gets to cause damage, and we won’t be any closer to a solution until it is named. It’s just that most people never wanted to hear the pronouncement even well before there was ever a need for one.

    Your turn.

  18. I guess it’s more I’m worried about them being able to say the same thing about me. I think for me, personally, my thoughts are so muddle most of the time. I get lost in the details, can’t see the overall picture. It just seems that if a person was going to pronounce something as evil, they should be on solid ground as far as their reasons why they think something or someone is evil (something you’ve already pointed out, I realize). It just seems I never reach that ground, or I have it for a brief moment, then I get confused.

    So maybe I’m not disputing that people in general should judge evil, just my ability to do it. And is it that I can’t do it or that I don’t want to.

    Here’s my example: At work, people are always complaining about each other, claiming that everyone else is out to get them fired, that other people are playing dirty. leaving work for them to do, blaming them for things that go wrong that aren’t their fault. And I know some of it is true and there are things going on that are wrong, but it would take so much to sort it all out into good guys and bad guys, if that is even possible. And what’s really evil and what is just a matter of perspective. My partner talks about it all night long, but I just want to ignore it all, put in my time, and go home. So, do I have any moral imperative to speak up at all?

  19. BJ,

    I wish I had the time and emotional energy to keep up a more consistant dialogue on my end right now. Unfortunately I don’t, as a lot of my energy is currently being directed down a different path. So, I trust that you can roll with my spottiness and respond however you need to accordingly. Thanks.

    First, I love the wrestling and the dialogue. Thanks for thinking, feeling and expressing something. I think that’s the primary reason why I don’t believe you are an evil person. One of the benefits we have in this discussion is that we know each other personally a little bit. And what I know of you, I don’t believe you to be an evil person. Your comments alone in this dialogue help to confirm that. Now, that doesn’t mean you can’t or don’t do evil things, or don’t have some wicked motivations. It just means you don’t live by those as the foundation through which you act in the world. I believe one of the only reasons why my radar seems to be a little better in tune with evil than some people’s, is because I know some of the areas my own heart have a wicked bent. At times, selfish, deceptive, arrogant, dismissive, controlling, abusive, etc. I frankly think it’s because we know something of how others could judge us that it should help to keep us from judging others. But again, judgement in my mind is a final pronouncement of something with no room for change. To me, naming and judging are significantly different approaches. It’s possible I may have misrepresented my own concept of judgement and naming throughout our conversation. That might need to be cleared up.

    One thing you mentioned in your last comment is the idea of confusion, which seems to stem from a lack of confidence for many of us. I believe that one of the signs that something wicked could be at work in our situations is the confusion that we find ourselves in. One of the tricks of the trade of evil working through abusive people is the attempt to create confusion and shift blame. That is one reason why I was confident evil was working through people making decisions at the church I was thrown out of. There was an intentional confusion created to mask the decisions they were making. When evil is at work in people, it strives to establish a fog that keeps people from holding appropriate individuals responsible. If the fog is strong enough, inevitably the victim gets blamed, as they are the easiest one to scapegoat. Part of the problem is that the victim is made to feel foolish and guilty, which often keeps him or her from feeling confident in naming what is happening. It’s truly masterful, and more common than we often recognize. It’s when the truth is pursued and situations are challenged and named that the confusion can be addressed, but that’s also when evil seems to turn up the heat.

    I believe that’s why, when I shed some light on what happened to me through my public launch of the blog, the pastor who got me thrown out immediately went to writing Watchman and telling him what a bad guy I was to work with, and recommending he stay clear of me. When Watchman didn’t cave to his pressure, then the pastor threatened us with legal action if we didn’t stop writing. When that didn’t work he tried to post a comment on our blog attempting to discredit us. No one will likely know those parts of the story because they’ve probably been told that he tried to contact me to set up a meeting to talk about what happened and I “didn’t accept”. The games that are played by unrepentant people who must be in control and have someone else to blame can create an intense amount of confusion. That’s the plan; until the plan is thwarted, and that’s when people get mean. That’s why victims lose confidence, because the game is set up so that no matter what move a victim makes, he or she is going to pay a price. It’s no wonder, when I would bring it up, that the pastor and his wife always acted like they didn’t understand the concept of “making someone pay”. They were so good at it themselves that in order to even acknowledge the concept, they would have to deal with wicked motivations of their own hearts. It’s easier to just make someone else pay.

    I wonder how much of your confusion has been created by people who don’t want you to see the truth.

    As for whether or not it’s a “moral imperative to speak up at all”, I would say, with our own cowardice in mind, it’s always up to our discression. The question that I ask myself is, “Even though I can’t, nor is it my responsibility to, address all the evil that exists, what am I doing to press evil back in this world?” As for responsibility, I start by considering whether or not there are victims involved who cannot speak up for themselves. I personally believe any moral imperative has to do with protecting the defenseless, and even then, we will never have enough time and energy to address everything. I don’t even have the kind of commitment necessary to address the log in my own eye, let alone the speck in other’s. So, if my investment isn’t about protecting the defenseless, I give myself much more flexibility about how much I get involved. If I don’t have the time and energy to follow my initial investment up, then it’s my philosophy that it’s best not to get involved. I still like to throw some things out to see if anyone’s willing to address things alongside me, but I usually don’t “dive in” unless I am committed to following the process to the end, and am willing to take hits along the way. It takes a lot of time and energy to cut through the games and motivations of people with ill intentions. Sometimes we just don’t have it in us.

    After all of what I just said, there is always the possibilty that you should “say something” because it’s what your conscience keeps prompting you to do. In that case, throw all the logic out the window and give it a shot. It’s great practice even if you don’t feel like it helped.

  20. I have been meaning to comment on your discussion here for some time, but I keep forgetting. I have been checking in every once in a while to see if anything new has shown up and I decided today is the day to comment.

    I find the concept of “evil” an interesting thought. I personally believe that Scripture doesn’t label people as evil, only selfish and willful and that Christ died for all who come to him. I do not believe I have ever met someone who is evil, however, I have met many who are egocentric and selfish. I think “evil” points to unredeemability(is that a word?) while “selfish” points to something any of us can be if we fail to put ourselves in submission to Christ.

    I don’t believe I could ever label a pastor as “evil”…however, ego driven and selfish…in a heart beat. I could easily do that because I have the capability, at any moment, to become the same. It is just human nature. When people are selfish, it blows up the relationships around them. Husband and wife is the one I can relate too, but shepherd/sheep apply the same. Does that make people evil when they put their needs in front of the needs of others? Nope. It just makes them human.

    So, I guess my thesis statement would have been: The label “evil” is easy to apply to others when they hurt us, however, selfish is a better term. “Evil” implies that there is something in them that distinct from me and that I could never act in a like manner. “Selfish” implies that devoid of the grace of God, submission to Christ, and being led by the Spirit, I could making the same choices.

    Anyhow…just my thoughts. IMHO there was only one “evil” individual – Richard Simmons.

  21. Rodmaster,

    Good to hear from you again. Always appreciate your thoughts and challenges. First and foremost, yes Richard Simmons was evil. Do I know this from his character? Nope. Just from his workout plans that I tried at home when I was a teenager. I think he was trying to kill us all.

    More seriously though, I started my reply by pulling up a plethera of scriptures that make it very clear that the Bible labels people as wicked and evil: Genesis 13:13, 18:23, 18:25; Exodus 23:1; Numbers 16:26; Psalm 10:15, 14:4, 22:16, 27:2, 37:1, 53:4, 71:4; 109:6, 140:1; Prov. 4:14, 5:22, 12:12, 14:19, 17:11, 24:19, 28:5, 29:6; Isaiah 1:4, 55:7; Jer. 8:3; Ez. 30:12; Deuteronomy 1:35, 13:13; Judges 19:22, 20:13; I Sam 1:16, 2:12, 15:18, 24:13, 25:25; 30:22; II Sam. 3:34, 4:11, 7:10, 13:13, 23:6; I Chron. 17:9; II Chron. 24:7; Ezra 4:12; Job 3:17, 8:22, 9:22, 9:24, 10:3, 11:20, 15:20, 16:11, 18:5, 18:21, 20:5, 20:29, 21:7, 21:16-17, 21:30, 22:15, 34:8, 34:36, 36:6, ; Matthew 5:29, 7:11, 12:35, 13:49, 24:48; Luke 6:35, 6:45; II Thes. 3:2; Acts 2:23; Romans 4:5; I Cor. 5:13, I Cor. 6:9; Rev. 2:2…….and that’s just 15 minutes on Bible Gateway passing up dozens of more references in Psalms, Proverbs and Ecclesiastes particularly.

    I don’t think it’s that the Scriptures don’t label people as evil, as the evidence seems to clearly state in the contrary. Which then causes me to wonder why we have such a hard time with the concept. With all that evidence, I am wondering why it is so difficult to do what the Bible not only does, but in some situations seems to directly calls us to do as well. Is it that we blindly hope and trust that people, like “Christian” leaders particularly, can’t be evil; is it that we aren’t confident in being able to see evil people; are we afraid of being wrong; is it that idea you mentioned about the label “evil” feeling like it makes someone unredeemable; are we afraid of seeing the evil in ourselves? What is it that keeps us from being able to accept the idea of an evil person, because I think the Bible makes it clear that some people are evil. Even the fact that we (and I include myself in this until a few years ago) somehow believe(d) that the Bible doesn’t actually say what it clearly states, suggests we have a very hard time with the concept. Why is it that evil, and people willingly committed to an evil lifestyle, is so difficult to accept?

    As for the idea of selfishness vs. evil, I think there is something significantly different between the two. The woman who made a mad dash to cut me off in front of the mushroom pork dish at the Chinese buffet the other day is selfish. Frankly, my irritation at her sly and inconsiderate behavior stirred up some of my own selfishness. But I didn’t get the impression that she was an evil person because of her selfish behavior. However, Hitler wasn’t just a selfish man. His selfishness consummed him to the point of no remorse. He was a premeditated killer with a thirst for impermissible human torchure and pain. If the Hitler example seems too intangible, then what about Goebbels or Bormann? Ted Bundy? Jeffery Dahmer? The Green River Killer? Myra Hindley? Beverly Allitt? Ilse Koch? Katherine Knight? I think part of the problem is that if we are even able to grasp the possibility that people like these could have been evil, we can’t seem to bring it down home to our own back yard with the possibility that some of our religious leaders can be too. I believe that’s because if we see anyone as evil, we only see people like serial killers as evil. But the scriptures make it clear that wickedness is a matter of the heart, not the specific actions. I know some evil people, and I am confident that they don’t need to physically kill someone in order for me to be confident their actions and motives come from an evil place rooted deep in their being, primarily because they prove it through repetition. The only way I can even begin to see this is by considering the evil in my own heart and acknowledge that but for the grace I am aware of in my own life and others, go I. Evil people aren’t aware of that grace because they don’t need it. They may even use words like grace in their vocabulary, but it doesn’t mean they live by the words they are using.

    I agree, the label of evil is easy to apply to others when they have hurt us. That’s why we need to be very cautious. But in some cases, “selfish” doesn’t seem to be accurate. We do need to be very careful what we declare, and as I always say, we need to leave room for the possiblity that people would prove us wrong, or they become redeemed, and then we need to take a different stance.

    I so appreciate your caution and your commitment to keep looking at what is “appropriate” when it comes to addressing people. I just believe that we can’t address all of us for who we are if we aren’t able to accept that some are who we wish they weren’t.

  22. […] long time ago when I wrote the post called “Evil Presents as Shameless“, my then roommate mentioned that I really should write a post about seduction, and how evil […]


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