Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Evil

Joel and I have been sharing a book for the past couple of weeks. He started reading it first. I picked it up before he had the chance to finish it and now, I am sucked in too; just a few chapters behind him. I grab it every time he lays it down. The book is called "Balancing Heaven and Earth" by Richard Johnson. I have no doubt that this book is going to inspire many new blog posts for over the next few months. Johnson is a man after my own heart and therefore, speaks truth to me in a way that gives my experiences with this world a language that can be understood and articulated to others.

Last night, after Joel had fallen asleep, I picked up the book and read with my head lamp on "red" so that I wouldn't wake him up. I devoured a good ten pages before I fell asleep myself. In that hunger for the words that came pouring out of the paragraphs in front of me, I came across this line:

"A possible definition for evil would be to say that evil consists of a right thing in a wrong place. It is not the thing that is wrong; only its placement." (page 66)

Think about this. Evil is the right thing in the wrong place. Or better, the right thing at the wrong time.

Johnson spoke earlier in the book about how people help each other cope and grieve when bad things happen. I have talked about this myself here. Often times, people say the right thing to a hurting person at entirely the wrong time. Is it possible that evil comes down to this simple formula timing and intentionality?

Is the human experience of living well really boiling down to the practice of being present enough to know when to act, speak and be? I think it is coming to that very conclusion.

This reminds me of a song that my husband and my mom sang at my uncle's funeral a couple of years ago. It was based on a scripture passage that I think really makes this statement of evil clear to the reader.

There is a time for everything,
    and a season for every activity under the heavens:
    a time to be born and a time to die,
    a time to plant and a time to uproot,
    a time to kill and a time to heal,
    a time to tear down and a time to build,
    a time to weep and a time to laugh,
    a time to mourn and a time to dance,
    a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
    a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
    a time to search and a time to give up,
    a time to keep and a time to throw away,
    a time to tear and a time to mend,
    a time to be silent and a time to speak,
    a time to love and a time to hate,
    a time for war and a time for peace.
Any of these activities done at the wrong time would be called evil. They would cause pain and disappointment. Perhaps, our understanding of evil has given it too much individuality. As a child, I thought of evil as the fruit of Satan's work. Of course Satan was a red monster with a pitch fork, who for some reason, God would or could not stop. It scared me to think that my Creator wasn't able to control such a mongrel as Satan was described to me.
I am thankful to say that I don't believe in that kind of evil anymore. From what I have experienced of this world, it seems very clear that created in God's image we all create. With the power to create we also create situations of harm and dissolution for one another. We give things that would normally be harmless great energy because we use them in the wrong place, wrong time and with the wrong people.
I think Johnson is on to something here. What about you?
As you ponder that thought, why don't you check out this video? It always gives me a laugh. Thank you, Byrds, for this wonderful rendition of God's word.