Why You’ll Never Figure Out Evil From Reading the News

Just one of us. Our neighbor.

Just one of us. Our neighbor.

I think we can all agree that there is a trend towards bizarre and random acts of violence in our culture. For a while, I was reading about the backgrounds of the people who committed these well-publicized crimes. I wanted to know what made these folks tick, what they had experienced that made them erupt in such a destructive way.

I didn’t find anything that I expected, really. Not all came from broken homes. Not all were bullied. No one was found reading The Satanic Bible. Some of the murderers had lives that went beyond playing violent video games alone in their rooms. They are a lot like you and me, actually.

This should not be surprising, but it is, because our culture denies it. We do everything we can to put up a psychological barrier that says, “See, they are nothing like me. Not at all.”

We also simply deny this reality. I remember reading Anne Frank’s Diary in ninth grade, and at the end of the book, she says, “Despite everything, I believe that people are really good at heart.”

Anne Frank was wrong.

It sounds nice and all, and would be wonderful to believe, but it’s simply not true. The Bible plainly states the exact opposite.

As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him. “Good teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” “Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good — except God alone.” Mark 10:17-18

I will never put a curse on the ground again because of man. I will not do it even though his heart is always directed toward what is evil. His thoughts are evil from the time he is young. Genesis 8:21

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

The beautiful thing about Frank’s statement was that she was able to see the good in people. A lot of people can’t get past the darkness to see any of the light, hidden as it sometimes is. But that doesn’t help us figure out evil. And of course we want to. Evil is unpredictable and scary. We need a box to put it into.

This is where psychiatry often enters the picture. We say that people are psychotic, depressed, bipolar or any number of other things to explain aberrant behavior. This doesn’t work, though. Logically speaking, it makes no more sense to shoot children with drones in Pakistan than to set off bombs at the Boston Marathon. And as far as the Aurora shooter goes, well, perhaps he thought he was providing the type of experience moviegoers really wanted — a real-life version of the ultra-violence we worship on the big screen.

Shudder. Of course no one wanted that. But there is something rotten within us that makes it possible for gore and pornography to be extraordinarily lucrative enterprises.

It’s an utter badness that is uncontrollable without the Light who destroys darkness.

Every country at any time in history has had war, murder, rape and abuse of all sorts. It’s in us. It always has been.

The Boston bombers could be your neighbors, your brothers, your sons. Without the love and indwelling of God’s spirit, they could be you.

While I don’t think factors like violent video games and the love of assault weapons are the cause of this spate of violence, it is a sign of just how far we as a culture have strayed from the Light. We shouldn’t be surprised when it’s dark outside, very dark indeed.