Evil exists. How Easter provides our only response
In response to the Syrian government’s unconscionable gas attack against their own people last week, Scott Simon, an NPR reporter who has covered war, genocide, and crimes against humanity re-evaluated his understanding of evil. This is more than a reconsideration of vocabulary or the integration of a word into our personal lexicon. This is a reporter’s reassessment of his own worldview. Assessing the reality of evil in the world opens the conversation to the reality of world broken by what the Bible calls sin.
Simon shares his view of evil up to this point:
I have always avoided using the word “evil” when covering terrible events, even those in Bosnia and Kosovo that would later be labeled war crimes. I was of a generation educated to believe that “evil” was a cartoonish moral concept, a word we used only when we didn’t know what madness or imagined infraction might drive human beings to commit murder, even on a mass scale.
So, why consider using the word now? Because now he’s a dad attempting to explain what his children are seeing and hearing on television. Other kids, foaming at the mouth, gasping for breath, lying lifeless in the street where minutes earlier they played. Simon had no good journalistic word to describe something that required moral judgment. As a dad, he told them the truth: it was evil.
Those are real people. This is happening in real time. That is really happening. And it is happening because evil is really real.
He goes on to recount an interview about a different crime against humanity, in a different decade, on a different continent. The parallels are unnerving because the root is the same. The conclusion: Evil exists.
Simon interviewed the Canadian military general in command of UN peacekeeping forces at the time. He knew what was coming in Rwanda, but the UN prevented him from acting before 800,000 people died. The commander’s experience convinced him of the existence of evil and the devil. The commander said this:
“I’ve negotiated with him,” he told us, “shaken his hand. Yes. There is no doubt in my mind … and the expression of evil to me is through the devil and the devil at work and possessing human beings and turning them into machines of destruction. … And one of the evenings in my office, I was looking out the window and my senses felt that something was there with me that shifted me. I think that evil and good are playing themselves out and God is monitoring and looking at how we respond to it.”
No doubt this interview stuck out to Simon because of the Commander’s clarity of thinking. I cannot begin to comprehend what he has seen, the human suffering he has witnessed. What happened in Rwanda is evil personified. The injustice and suffering we see in Syria are horrific and heartbreaking— and evil enacted.
What is our response to this evil? I cannot do better than my friend, Dan Darling has written in Christianity Today,”Easter’s Blow to My Social Apathy“:
It is the story of Easter—the bloody assault of the Cross and the rapturous renewal of the Resurrection—that fuels our fight against evil today. We work against injustice by leaning not on our own inadequate resources, but on the Spirit-empowered vision of Christ. If a new kingdom has dawned in Jesus, our work to find justice for the oppressed announces to the world that his coming is indeed good news for the poor and needy. When we make this our mission, we are not simply acting as activists; we are showing the world a glimpse of the kingdom of God, if only in small doses.
Because as Christians, we simply do not have the option to look away from these atrocities. Evil seeks to dehumanize what God has imprinted with His very image. The good news is Easter has an answer to evil. We are the witnesses to the goodness and beauty of the gospel. I’ll leave you with this hope we have:
Easter is more than a saccharine, pastel-colored American holiday. It’s an announcement to the world that there is another story, something more than the cycle of violence, inhumanity, and hatred that corrupts every corner of the cosmos. Christianity assigns worth based not on utility or beauty, but on every human’s unique status as an image-bearer of the Almighty. Christ defeated the enemy, and that unleashes a Spirit-led army, in every generation, to be healing agents for the world.
See also this Easter video from Carmen: Getting up in the Dark