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Commentary: Good vs. Evil - Who’s winning?

 Are you getting to be afraid to read the paper or watch the evening news?  Does it seem to you that evil is gripping the world? The question might be asked, as it has been for centuries, are people basically good or basically evil?  There is certainly strong evidence that man is evil. Where do you start the discussion? One obvious point would be the attack on the Twin Towers in New York City on 9/11. Over 3,000 killed. Pure hate, pure evil.  Years later we have the most recent face of evil, ISIS.  What could be more cruel, savage and evil than to behead ─ broadcast by video ─ the innocent American journalist, James Foley in August of last year?  Then in the span of a month, another American journalist and two British aid workers and a French tourist are also beheaded.  Then attacks followed, one after another, where 17 were killed in Paris, 10 in Tripoli, 22 in Tunisia, 130 in Yemeni, 30 Ethiopian Christians in Libya, 21 Shi-ite Muslims worshipping in Saudi Arabia, on and on.  Then a Russian jet plane is shot down over Egypt in October of this year, killing all 224 aboard and in a recent, but not the last attack, 129 innocent people are murdered in Paris with over 350 more injured.  What could be more insanely evil?  What could be more discouraging?   But ─ it’s not just Muslim terrorists who murder at random.

We do it in America too. Where do we start with that discussion? One obvious point would be almost exactly three years ago, Dec. 14, 2012, in Newtown, Connecticut, when a seriously disturbed young man murdered his mother and then went to an elementary school where he executed 20 first grade kids, ages 6 and 7, then six adults, including four teachers, one principal and a school psychologist. He also wounded two police officers before he killed himself. Since then there have been 81 school shooting in this country resulting in 54 deaths. Insane, evil.  But all the shootings aren’t in schools. We all remember January, 2011, when Rep. Gabrielle Giffords was shot in the head and 18 others were shot at a supermarket in Tucson, Arizona, killing six, including a U.S. Federal Judge and a nine year-old girl.  We remember shootings in movie theaters and federal warehouses.  Most recently we remember the murder of three and wounding of nine at a Planned Parenthood Clinic in Colorado Springs.   

More dramatic perhaps was the murder of nine African Americans, including their pastor, at a prayer meeting in their church in Charleston, S.C., this past June 17 by Dylann Roof, a 21-year-old white supremist in a hate crime. Roof just walked into the church, sat down with the group, and began shooting at the end of the meeting.   At this point you may decide that evil is overcoming good in this world and in the U.S.A. ─ no contest. But before you file your verdict, there’s more evidence to consider.   First of all, consider that the press does not give equal coverage to good and evil. When 129 innocent people are slaughtered in Paris or nine praying Christians are deliberately shot in Charleston, there is no way to find or report offsetting headlines about “good” being done somewhere else.  That’s not a criticism, simply a statement about printing and broadcasting the news on any particular day.  Bad news spreads faster than good.   Yes, amidst all this evil there is good. Going back to Charleston, on the day the murderer of nine, Dylann Roof, was brought to court to set his bond, the judge invited representatives from the victims’ families to make statements about the case if they wished. No one was prepared for that. Nevertheless, a daughter of one victim who was a 70-year-old custodian in the church, stepped forward, while choking back sobs, she said, “I forgive you.  You took something very precious away from me. I will never get to talk to her again ─ but I forgive you, and have mercy on your soul...  You hurt me.  You hurt a lot of people.  If God forgives you, I forgive you.”  Others followed with the same message, some could not.  Obviously, no one can forgive crimes committed against other people and obviously, some people do not deserve forgiveness. And obviously, when under attack, we don’t turn the other cheek. Force must be met with force. Let’s face it, ISIS must be crushed and it can’t be done with an olive branch.  Although innocent people are murdered every day and our obvious reaction is to cry out in pain for vengeance, in the face of what seems like endless growing evil, there is good.   

Where is it? Peacemakers don’t make headlines like terrorists do because their daily efforts are small steps in the direction of “correction.”  The United Nations and NATO can be instruments of peace, or when necessary, force. The Salvation Army, Red Cross, Doctors Without Borders, our churches and so many other agencies are instruments of caring, mercy, help and peace. The nature of man is to be good. Only when it is twisted does it become evil. It would be easy to be discouraged, to believe that evil is winning, man is basically evil and to wallow in pessimism and despair.  But, to over-simplify an obviously complex issue, there are more good people than evil, and although the evil will always be among us, they will not win unless the good surrender.  As Edmond Burke (you can read about him on your own) said, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”  And, as Winston Churchill said, “Never, never, never, never, never surrender.”