Wednesday, April 9, 2014

The Nature of Evil



Fr. Dwight Longenecker is evocative once again, this time in an article about the nature of evil ...

This puerile, absurd and horrifying aspect of evil is what makes so much of the current state of argument in our own society seem so pointless. How often has one entered into debate with an atheist or agnostic only to realize that they are seemingly incapable of reasoning. They seem intelligent on the one hand, but then spout the most outrageous and ridiculous statements that do not even pretend to be rational or informed. This absurdity is the spirit of the demon. It is evil personified for evil is absurd, and evil is full of rage.

He quotes an exorcist

 "You see," he said, "the devil is a liar and the father of lies. Once you have identified the demon you don't know if you really have or not. The demon lurks within. He will lie, lie, lie. He will pretend to respond to your commands, but then trick you. He is malicious beyond your imaginings."

Later in the article, Fr. Dwight pictures the devil as restless, as eternally pacing up and down and going over what he might have said and what he might have done to have won a recent battle.

***

These things are elements we have seen vividly both on the internet and in our own hearts.

Most especially in the Lying Debate, in which otherwise good Catholics were arguing adamantly that Lying was a Good Thing if it served a Good End, we saw, in spades and for years on end without let up, what Fr. Dwight describes

  • Irrationality
  • Restless agitation
  • Spite

The spirit behind that fight was a mean and narrow one who was as insatiable as he was absurd.  And he never ever slept.  That was the most inhuman thing about him.  As in C. S. Lewis' Perelandra

He argues with Ransom endlessly-using reason when he wants to, and then simply laughing or uttering absurdities when Ransom wins the argument.

But it's not just others who do this.  We do it too.

***

In my own life, I once struggled for many months with a restlessness and anger over how a particularly painful episode had turned out, seeing (accurately) how I'd been victimized, but failing to see how I myself had been a victimizer.   My pain seemed so esoteric and unique that I simply couldn't get over it, and I simply couldn't admit how wrong I'd been in light of how wrong the others involved had treated me.  The merry-go-round kept spinning faster and faster and I couldn't sleep, much less jump off.

And then I realized how common the whole thing was.  I had sinned and those who hurt me had sinned, and the real story was not about my injured pride, but about common human selfishness: it was people doing what people do.

This perspective is not only salubrious when it comes to our own sins, it also helps us put in perspective what's going on around us.

To pick a few random examples.  Those who find themselves supporting Lying cannot do so without a troubled conscience, and so they won't let the argument go.  Those who blame the Jews for everything and who minimize the Holocaust will turn and rend you if you get close to them and their pathology.  The "gay" bullies will destroy good people not because they feel somehow cheated, but because their ultimate goal is the end of life itself.

It's not so much a question of arguing with the malevolence behind these things, it's more a question of seeing evil for what it is.

For the devil is the ultimate Rebel, and ultimate rebellion is a snake eating its own tail.

When they say that mankind shall be free at last, they mean that mankind shall commit suicide. When they talk of a paradise without right or wrong, they mean the grave.
They have but two objects, to destroy first humanity and then themselves. That is why they throw bombs instead of firing pistols. The innocent rank and file are disappointed because the bomb has not killed the king; but the high-priesthood are happy because it has killed somebody. - G. K. Chesterton


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