Evil is No Fairy Tale

There is a report recently making the rounds about a millennial couple, Jay Austin and Lauren Geoghegan, who decided to take time off from their jobs and bike across the world. There were many posts on their joint blog claiming that they didn’t believe in evil, that though people sometimes do bad things, people were overwhelmingly good at heart. They traveled across much of Africa and Europe, enjoying the trip and the people they met, until they approached the Middle East.Jay-Austin-and-Lauren-Geoghegan-8

Their trip, and their lives, ended there.

They found out the hard way that evil is real. Evil ideologies are real. Evil people are real. They were run down, run over, and attacked with knives by an ISIS group.

One of the most disturbing lies that western society has fallen for is the belief that all people are good at heart, that there may be evil people out there, but only because they are mentally deranged or damaged. This is not only wrong, but dangerous. Every one of us has the potential for great evil, the same way every one of us has the potential for great good. They are the two extremes of free will.

A couple of years ago seeing a decorative plaque that said “Follow Your Heart” prompted a family discussion on whether that advise was good or bad. I asked my girls “Since two of my favorite things to eat are chocolate and bacon, what would happen if I followed my heart and only ate those two things?” They understood my point right away and it was easy for them to come up with their own examples. We looked into the Bible and found that;

“The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” –Jeremiah 17:9

In July of 1961 a famous study was conducted at Yale University, named the Stanley Migram Experiment. Volunteers were put in charge of administering electrical shocks to subjects when they failed to remember and repeat word-pair combinations correctly. They were told to increase the voltage as they went, eventually raising the intensity to levels clearly marked as dangerous. Unknown to them the subjects were actors who were not receiving actual shocks, just feigning more and more anguish as the experiment progressed. The experts were shocked (ha ha) to discover a full 65% of normal, everyday New England residents continued to give increasingly powerful shocks, up to lethal levels, just because someone in authority was telling them to. It was thought that only 1-3% of people tested would be so easily coerced into causing harm to others. After all, people were basically good at heart, weren’t they?

Romans 1:18-32, suggests that one way God displays wrath is to give us over to our own desires, to let us be as bad as we can be. He doesn’t have to actively punish us, He just steps back and lets us destroy ourselves. Some people have called this the most chilling passage in the Bible. This suggests that though we are able to be good without believing in God, we cannot be without his presence or influence, the common grace that we all enjoy.

Richard Wurmbrand, a Romanian Christian minister, observed this first-hand as he was tortured for practicing his faith by the Communist regime of Romania, He observed;

“The cruelty of atheism is hard to believe when man has no faith in the reward of good or the punishment of evil. There is no reason to be human. There is no restraint from the depths of evil which is in man. The Communist torturers often said, “There is no God, no hereafter, no punishment for evil. We can do what we wish.” I have heard one torturer even say, “I thank God, in whom I don’t believe, that I have lived to this hour when I can express all the evil in my heart.” He expressed it in unbelievable brutality and torture inflicted on prisoners.”

Contrast that with Jay Austin’s thoughts before he was murdered;

“You read the papers and you’re led to believe that the world is a big, scary place. People, the narrative goes, are not to be trusted. People are bad. People are evil. I don’t buy it. Evil is a make-believe concept we’ve invented to deal with the complexities of fellow humans holding values and beliefs and perspectives different than our own… By and large, humans are kind. Self-interested sometimes, myopic sometimes, but kind. Generous and wonderful and kind.”

By and large most of the people these naïve, unfortunate millennials encountered on their trip were kind and generous. It only took an encounter with a few that were driven by an evil ideology to show then their error in brutal fashion.

If your worldview does not include real, objective evil, then your worldview is not only fundamentally flawed, but dangerous.

 

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