Recognize when evil identifies itself

Evil is real and evil is evil. Bad, wrong, wicked, harmful… Often we try to call it something else though. Either we don’t know what it is or we don’t believe in moral “good” and “bad” or we don’t want to be the ones to judge. There are many reasons for our hesitation to use the word “evil”.

Do I like to think about evil? No! Do I like to write about evil? No! But Martin Luther King Jr. reminds me that “He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetrate it.” And Edmund Burke famously said: “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”

There are moments when evil identifies itself and it sends shivers down my spine. Recently there were two such moments. The first was on June 12. In Orlando, Florida, USA a 29 year old man killed 49 people and injured many others at a nightclub Pulse. During the attack he called the authorities and was actually talking to the police. When asked for his name, Omar replied: “My name is I pledge allegiance to … of the Islamic State.”

The second was on June 16. In Birstall, West Yorkshire, England, a 52 year old man killed a British MP Jo Cox. While appearing before the court and asked to confirm his name, Thomas said: “My name is death to traitors, freedom for Britain.” When asked to repeat, he said it again.

I have read reports that Thomas had a history of mental illness and most likely he had unsound mind. Still, he identified an idea that inspired this murder. Can people in their right mind do evil things? Of course! And many do. Do all people with unsound mind do evil things? Of course not! Most of them don’t.

Both men stated “in the name of” what they killed. Both of them swore an allegiance to an idea and also a group. (In this case ISIS and neo-Nazi, pro-Apartheid and white supremacist groups) Both were somehow inspired and felt justified.

The way I see it, they were inspired by evil. Bad ideas, wicked deeds, harmful results.

There is another paradigm to all of this. The spiritual one. I am reminded of an episode from Jesus life when he met a violent man who was greatly tormented. Nobody could stop him from harming himself and others. Jesus knew that there was something else going one. Something our eye cannot see. He asked the man to identify himself but it was not the man who answered. His tormentors answered and said: “My name is Legion for there are many of us.”

I am not saying that Omar or Thomas were possessed by evil spirits but for sure they were obsessed with evil thoughts and desires. Kind of a perfect storm where many different elements, events, influences and forces come together to create something destructive.

“At first the evil impulse is as fragile as the thread of a spider, but eventually it becomes as tough as cart ropes”Babylonian Talmud

Tributes to murdered MP Jo Cox, Edinburgh, UK - 17 Jun 2016

Tributes to murdered MP Jo Cox, Edinburgh, UK – 17 Jun 2016 (photos from the Internet)

Latvian:

Ļaunums ir īsts, un ļaunums ir ļauns. Slikts, ļaunprātīgs, vardarbīgs… Bet bieži vien mēs negribam to saukt īstajā vārdā. Vai nu nezinām, kas tas ir, vai neticam morālām vērtībām “labais” un “sliktais”, vai arī vienkārši negribam būt tie, kuri tiesā. Var saprast, kāpēc mēs izvairāmies no šī vārda “ļaunums” lietošanas.

Vai man patīk domāt par ļaunumu? Nē! Vai man gribas rakstīt par ļaunumu? Nē! Bet Martins Luters Kings Jr. man atgādina, ka “tas, kurš pasīvi pieņem ļaunumu, ir tikpat iesaistīts, kā tas, kurš to dara.” Un vēl ir slavenais Edmunda Bērka citāts: “Viss, kas nepieciešams ļaunuma uzvarai, ir lai labi cilvēki neko nedarītu.”

Ir brīži, kad ļaunums pats sevi identificē un uzdzen man zosādu. Nesen bija divi tādi notikumi. Pirmais bija 12. jūnijā. Nakstklubā ASV štatā Floridā kāds 29 gadus jauns vīrietis nošāva 49 cilvēkus, un vēl daudzus ievainoja. Uzbrukuma laikā viņš pats piezvanīja policijai un ar tiem sarunājās. Kad viņam tika jautāts vārds, Omārs atbildēja: “Mani sauc Es Zvēru Uzticību… no Islama Valsts.”

Otrs notikums bija dažas dienas vēlāk 16. jūnijā. Anglijā, Rietumjorkšīrā kāds 52 gadus vecs vīrietis nogalināja britu parlamenta locekli Džo Koksu. Stājoties tiesneša priekšā, Tomas nosauca savu vārdu: “Mani sauc Nāvi Nodevējiem, un brīvību Lielbritānijai!” Kad tika lūgts atkārtoti nosaukt savu vārdu, viņš teica to pašu.

Lasīju ziņās, ka Tomasam ir psihiskas slimības vēsture, un drošvien viņš nebija pie pilna prāta. Un tomēr – viņš nosauca ideju, kuras vārdā veica šo slepkavību. Vai cilvēki pie pilna prāta spēj darīt ļaunas lietas? Protams! Un daudzi to dara. Vai visi cilvēki ar psihiskām problēmām dara ļaunas lietas? Protams, nē! Lielākā daļa to nedara.

Abi vīrieši pateica, “kā vārdā” viņi nogalināja. Abi zvērēja uzticību kādām idejām un kādai domubiedru grupai. (Šajā gadījumā ISIS un neo-nacistu, pro-aparteīda un balto rasistu grupām.) Abus tas iedvesmoja un lika attaisnot savu rīcību.

Katrā ziņā viņus iedvesmoja kaut kas ļauns. Sliktas idejas, kas noved pie ļaunprātīgām darbībām un briesmīga rezultāta.

Vēl ir viens svarīgs skatu punkts uz šo visu. Garīgā dimensija. Man prātā nāk gadījums no Jēzus dzīves, kad viņš sastapās ar kādu ārkārtīgi vardarbīgu vīru, kurš pats bija nomocīts. Neviens nespēja šo vīru savaldīt, lai viņš nedarītu pāri sev un citiem. Jēzus zināja, ka tur darbojās vēl kādi spēki. Tie, kurus ar aci nevar ieraudzīt. Jēzus lika vīram sevi identificēt jeb nosaukt vārdā, bet atbildēja nevis cilvēks pats. Atbildēja viņa mocītāji un teica: “Mani sauc Leģions, jo mēs esam daudzi.”

Es neapgalvoju, ka Omāru un Tomasu bija apsēduši ļaunie gari. Taču skaidrs, ka viņiem bija pilns prāts un sirds ar ļaunām domām un idejām. Kā negaiss, kur savienojas dažādi dzīves elementi, un rada iznīcinošu spēku.

Babilonijas Talmudā teikts: “Iesākumā ļauns impulss ir trausls kā zirnekļa pavediens, bet beigās tas kļūst tik stiprs, kā vezuma virves”.

Define ‘happy’ and ‘new year’

A Rwandan friend of mine posted a question on Facebook: “what does ‘happy new year’ mean?” He inspired me to write my own response.

It is January 1, 2016… the first day of a new year. We measure time by counting years but I like to think more in terms of ‘seasons’. There is no magic line that gets crossed just because the date changes. Most things carry over into the next year.

What will carry over from 2015? Thinking globally, I will say that most of the events and responses of last year will continue to have ripple effect on our future. I remember a song from 1991 that was relevant to my generation. Yes, Generation X.  The British band Jesus Jones sang:

“A woman on the radio talks about revolution
When it’s already passed her by
Bob Dylan didn’t have this to sing about you
You know it feels good to be alive
I was alive and I waited, waited
I was alive and I waited for this
Right here, right now, there is no other place I wanna be
Right here, right now, watching the world wake up from history
I saw the decade in, when it seemed
The world could change at the blink of an eye
And if anything then there’s your sign
Of the times

I was alive and I waited, waited
I was alive and I waited for this
Right here, right now”

I wonder how many of us still feel this way?! I wonder what kind of song would Jesus Jones write right here and right now? I cannot count how many times I have heard the words “the world has gone crazy” this last year. Mostly from my friends in the so called ‘Western countries’. One of the lines stuck in my mind are the words of a well-known Russian TV host and journalist, Vladimir Pozner, “I get an impression that the world has lost its mind. I want to say: Stop the Planet! I want to get off…”

This is an understandable way to respond. Wanting to withdraw. And many people are choosing to do just that. The other option is to call to arms and try to fix it. Usually by force because ‘people just don’t obey’ or ‘don’t know any better’. There are plenty of people who believe that the end justifies the means and trying to build their visions of  ‘happy new era’ by violent force. (yes, I am speaking of the extremists – ISIS and such)

So, the common options for making the ‘happy future’ is fight or flight. Personally I don’t choose either because I believe in another way. This is what my friend also mentions in his post. And this is also the way I am trying to learn from Jesus whom I consider the greatest example of how to bring a radical change around us.

André Trocmé, a French minister who helped to rescue thousands of Jewish people during the Holocaust, wrote: “Jesus’ refusal to use force was therefore not some extra historical dream of a mystic trying to forget the concrete realities of this world. He did not ignore the human condition. His way was a step-by-step journey through the obstacles, mountain passes, snares, and cliffs of history. Jesus carved a new path into the hardness of human realities, a path he trod first, carrying on his shoulders the way of the cross and all the requirements of the kingdom of God: social justice, radical transformation, commitment to truth, and personal regeneration.”

When I think of next year, I can see lots of these ‘obstacles, mountain passes, snares, and cliffs of history’. Or to use the words of my friend Noel, “I am not going to promise you that this year will lead you on smooth roads, but you will be reminded that you got shock absorption abilities.”

What are our shock absorption devices? What is our definition of ‘happy new year’? What are we going to do make this next year happier for those around us?

The answers will come day by day if we are willing to search for them. And I will have a very happy year if I take each step with more love and more courage…

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