The evil we’ve wrought

Published 10:38 pm Monday, December 17, 2012

Some days, the news is just too terrible to believe.

On Friday, as the reports trickled in on the radio, on television and on the Internet — for the first few minutes, it seemed, there was reason for hope.

A school shooting; one teacher injured. That’s the first report I saw, and I shook my head a bit before moving on with my day, relieved that things were not worse. An hour later, checking for news updates, the picture was far more grim than I had thought or hoped, and my mind sought to find a way to deny the reality of the photos and stories that by then were exploding across the Internet.

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But reality, as it turns out, is sometimes even worse than imagination. Reality tells us there is true evil in this world, whether dressed up as a 20-year-old kid with emotional problems who chooses to lash out against the most defenseless people he can find or if it’s dressed in the brown uniform and red armband of a man bent on exterminating an entire race of people.

We spend much of our lives trying to ignore or discount the presence of evil in the real world, refusing to acknowledge the harm that even our “little” sins do to ourselves and the ones we love, to say nothing of society as a whole. We set moral standards that have no foundation, choose value systems designed to provide for our own comfort, and then wonder why things always seem to be slipping further down an awful slope.

We deny evil is real, but we embrace and celebrate it in our culture. Conversely, we say we believe in God, but we cultivate a culture that acts as if He doesn’t exist. How can we be surprised, then, when evil manifests itself so close by and God seems so distant?

Each of us is responsible for his or her own actions, of course, but there is a very real sense in which humanity is responsible for building the clockworks of evil. Each of us refines it and enhances it in each selfish act that dehumanizes or degrades another.

None of us is likely to shoot up a mall or a school — and thank God we haven’t sunk so low — but we think little of destroying reputations and families and futures in the name of self-gratification or self-advancement. Our situational ethics cause us to continually redefine what is acceptable behavior. Each new definition is more twisted than the last, and each new generation presses the limits of those definitions a bit more than the last. And our descent as a people continues unabated.

My heart breaks for the families of Newtown, Conn., who are mourning their lost loved ones today, facing such darkness of the soul in this season of light. Their pain is almost unimaginable; words truly cannot describe the scope of their loss or the depths of despair they will face in the coming days.

My earnest prayers are with those families today. But I will save a prayer, too, for our nation, that it will find its way once again — in short, that it will turn back to God, its only true hope for deliverance from this evil we have wrought.