In the American political arena insults are daily exchanged between antagonists. At times, even the word evil is dropped to describe opponents.
Who is evil? What are the criteria for calling another evil? It is not necessarily one’s political ideology that makes one of evil opinion. Many political ideologies and positions fall within ethical parameters. Moreover, political ideology is not an appropriate or adequate measure for dividing evil from good. The judgment of another’s opinions as evil should be based on principles that transcend political philosophy. A certain political philosophy may be evil on the basis of universal principles of ethics. Nazism was evil, because it maintained a philosophy that sought the destruction of certain people like the Jews, Christians, Gypsies, those with disabilities, minorities with different sexual orientations, and political opponents. Such a view contravenes the principle of love of neighbor, even the enemy. Christ is the embodiment of this love.
To be a Republican or Democrat is not intrinsically evil. But, to hold certain views destructive of others is evil. One may ask then, are those who support abortion evil? A strong case can be made for this view, based on the example of Christ and universal Christian principles. Can you imagine Christ saying to someone, “Yes, I think you should get an abortion?”
What is the difference between being evil and a sinner? A sinner repents to the Lord for his/her evil and attempts to do better by the grace of God. Evil people do not repent; but, persist in their evil. Do evil people know when they are saying or doing evil? Their response may be that they deny that they are doing evil, or they may delight in the evil they are doing and will persist in it. If they know they are doing evil and persist in their evil-doing without repentance, they are not only sinners but evil. No repentance means no forgiveness, thus no salvation. Most evil people very well know that they are serving darkness. They are the advance guard of Satan.
It must be made clear that evil is perpetrated in what we say and what we do. Speech and deed are under God’s judgment. We must repent in thought, word, and deed as we do in liturgical confession.
The universal principles that we are to use to make ethical judgments derive from the Christian tradition. The Holy Scriptures, the Church Fathers, the confessions and pronouncements of the Church, and contemporary reflection in the Christian community (in convocation) are the sources of authority and our guides. The Holy Scriptures are the primary source of authority that judge all other authorities.
When one is witnessing, it is not enough simply to make an assertion without backing it up. For this reason, many people do not believe they are adequate to the task of apology and witness. But, we must witness. If we need to defend a position that we are unable to do at the time of a conversation, we can tell our adversary that we will acquire the information we need to complete the point we are making at some later date. Our sources of information could be our pastor or another knowledgeable person on the subject, Bad information never helps us in a debate.
All along we must be respectful. If someone seems to be inclined toward evil, we need to find a way to express our concern for what another is saying or doing with hopes that either we come to realize that we have made a false judgment about the other or the other amends his/her ways.
We must be concerned with another’s salvation. This means that not to find a way of expressing our concern is to forsake the other to the powers of evil that inhabit our world. As the Scriptures say, his blood is on our hands (Ezekiel).
Michael G. Tavella
September 21, 2020