November 17, 2014
“An act of pure evil.”
That’s the headline this morning for USA Today, as they report the death of Peter Kassig at the hands of ISIS in Syria. The third American to be killed in their brutal fashion – for their own sordid public relations purposes – is drawing additional attention to the frontlines of the war.
Kassig was only 26. He graduated high school in Indianapolis, became an Army Ranger, went to war, came home to begin college… and then returned to Lebanon and Syria to do relief work among Muslims. He converted to their religion after his capture by ISIS in 2013. President Obama said that his murder was “an act of pure evil by a terrorist group that the world rightly associates with inhumanity.”
We’re living in a time of conflicted communications. Within the American culture, any mention of religion – as a cause, as an effect – is virtually dismissed. Only the Christian faith can be defamed in a headline; its followers are fair game for repudiation and marginalization. At the same time that factions within the Muslim world are at war with the West because of faith, the West has moved from faith to godless reason as a philosophical foundation for life.
How does an “enlightened” post-Christian ethos handle the use of terms that are founded in a Judeo-Christian paradigm?
Evil: profound immorality, wickedness and depravity, especially when regarded as a supernatural force (Oxford Dictionary).
Good: that which is morally right; righteousness (Oxford Dictionary).
Supernatural? Righteousness? Those aren’t words from the Sunday news shows; they’re more likely heard – at the same hour – in Sunday services. It was not always so.
“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing” (most often attributed to Edmund Burke, b. 1729; d. 1797).
Burke understood that political debates – whether addressing domestic policy or international posture – would go back-and-forth between “good men disagreeing” and the direct confrontation between that which is intrinsically good and that which is essentially evil.
A notable noble – his name is lost in history, but we remember him as the Rich Young Ruler – came to Jesus to seek assistance with his personal challenge: how does philosophy become strategy?
“ ‘Teacher, what good thing shall I do that I may obtain eternal life? ’ And He said to him, ‘Why are you asking Me about what is good? There is only One who is good; but if you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments’ ” (Matthew 19:16-17). Only One is truly good, according to Jesus; who is that?
In an obviously fallen world, the declarations of good and evil are inherently flawed: we operate within a spectrum of degrees, with any manifestation of either condition faced with comparisons. Find an evil… and then watch for that which is more. Identify an example of goodness… and continue the search for someone who is even better. The President calls ISIS “pure evil;” was Hitler more evil?
The headlines bow to the Holy; modernity does not inform morality. Biblical insight: “We know that anyone born of God does not continue to sin; the One who was born of God keeps them safe, and the evil one cannot harm them. We know that we are children of God, and that the whole world is under the control of the evil one. We know also that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true. And we are in him who is true by being in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life” (1 John 5:18-20).
There is One who is good; there is one who is evil; humanity is under the control of one or the other. Jesus disallowed the confusion that follows the “all religions seek and follow the same god” foolishness; He demands fidelity to the One True God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit…