Friday, 29 October 2010

But for the Grace of God...

"He's an evil man." Recently I've been hearing this sentence pop up more and more. Everyone says it. I say it, but I'm not so sure I should.

I didn't hear it much growing up. As a kid it was "bad guys" out to kidnap me, and as a teen, it was more just really "messed up people, making evil choices".

But now they're evil people. Maybe we've just gotten fed up and tired of being magnanimous. Maybe we're seeing more evil now than we did before. Maybe it's an allergic reaction to too much political correctness. But whatever the reason, we're definitely slotting people into the "evil" category.

Normally, the word "evil" in my mind elicits thoughts of Disney villains, or movie antagonists cackling malevolently as they pet their black cat and lay out plans for world domination. They're completely one-dimensional characters without anything else to them. Sure, they're evil. But real people aren't like quite like Disney villains. Real people have "layers", as Shrek would say.

Take Heinrich Himmler, for example. Sure, Adolf Hitler was the CEO of the Nazis, but Himmler was the one that worked out how to actually kill everyone, and oversaw the operations. Extremely, horrifically evil operations. If ever we can apply the label "evil" to someone and be justified in doing so, surely we can apply it to him.

But he also had a daughter named Gudrun, that he called "Dolly". He'd fly her all over the place so they could spend time together. That's her in the picture, touring a concentration camp with her father. He loved that kid. She loved him. I don't think that means he was a good person, but it does make him seem a little less uni-dimensional. A little more human, perhaps, and a little more relatable. I wonder if he thought of his daughter just before he killed himself.

So maybe he wasn't pure Disney-like evil, even if he was bent on world-domination. He still qualifies for the term "evil", right?

How am I different from him? Well, I haven't arranged for any mass genocides, nor do I plan to. Our life stories and goals are completely different. Yet, aren't our selfish sin natures the same? The only good thing in me is the light of Christ. Without him, I would be as depraved as Himmler. Maybe I wouldn't be quite so hardened as him, or quite so successful as him, but I'd still be an ugly, evil sight. And since I certainly didn't do anything to earn Christ, to claim my goodness as my own would be ridiculous.

Even now, having received Christ, I still do evil things. Of course Himmler was evil. That's a given. Either we're stating the obvious, or we're forgetting that we're all in the same boat, that really, but for the grace of God, that would be us. Can we really condemn him as "evil" without condemning ourselves? Maybe it's better to go back to thinking of people as "unsaved" and "doing evil things". We can call a spade a spade, sure. We don't need to tolerate evil, and we certainly don't want to be blind to it. Let's call out evil when we see it. But perhaps it's better that we let God be the judge of people, lest we call down judgment upon ourselves. And to pray for their redemption as we thank God for ours.

"If people can be taught to hate, they can be taught to love." Betsie ten Boom


Bri said...

Good post.
His daughter toured concentration camps? He was okay with her seeing them... was she okay with it? If you know more, tell me.

art said...

It seems like there are more "evil" people now then 10 years ago. I know it is not the case. Perhaps we just hear about it more now or the actions are more public.

I think you are right that we should not call people evil. I suppose that would be almost the same as saying "I HATE that person". Maybe we should just say, "I really, really, really don't like that person" instead?

Justin said...

Evil people bathe in doves blood. Himmler didn't. So he can't be all evil.