There was a time in my life when I was a corporate attorney. I wore power suits, worked 80 hour weeks and sold my time in six minute increments. I wrote and researched and researched and wrote and almost always ate dinner at the firm every night of the week.
And in that world one afternoon on the 35th floor of our offices looking across at the Sears Tower an attorney told me, “I don’t believe in evil.”
I didn’t know how to respond. My mind drew the blank of an open-mouthed codfish.
There wasn’t room for argument. It was simply case closed. The words came out of his mouth fait accompli. There is no such thing as evil. Period.
There is nature and nurture and misguided choices. There is misguided youth and judgmental society. There is an inability to control actions and a case for medication. There is room to live and let live. But there is no evil.
“The fact that ‘devils’ are predominantly comic figures in the modern imagination will help you. If any faint suspicion of your existence begins to arise in his mind, suggest to him a picture of something in red tights, and persuade him that since he cannot believe in that . . . he therefore cannot believe in you.”
C.S. Lewis, Screwtape Letters, Letters from a senior to a junior devil, p. 40.
Four months later I was in Kyiv, Ukraine working as a legal specialist on a UN counter human trafficking program. And no one doubted that what we were up against was evil.
We had to inhale it on a daily basis. The wrecked and wretched misery forced on women ten, twenty, thirty times a night. The broken limbs of toddlers, the beggars, the baggage, the gaping holes in their lives and souls that no amount of counseling or treatment could ever completely restore.
The layer upon layer of STDs, the bullet holes, the forced abortions, the inability to have children ever again. Evil had a face – up close and personal – and every day we tried not to flinch as we looked back into its hollow eyes on behalf of the women we worked to preserve.
Sporting horns, a goatee, and dressed in red tights or not, evil was alive and we all believed.
I am no longer afraid to call something “evil.” To use the word that makes many of us itch and scratch uncomfortably in our seats. Because to name something is to acknowledge its existence and thereby equip ourselves to respond.
Evil discounted will only advance.
But evil named, called out from behind the skirts of free speech or the church or a government policy, or my own heart can be confronted. It can be dragged out into the light and exposed. And we are all the freer for it.
The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it. John 1:5.
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