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A Christmas response to evil and terror

In his Dec. 9 commentary, Lynn Hummel poses the question: “are people basically good or evil?” The bulk of his discussion was a list of recent terror and murder incidents. I believe his article was designed to address the fear, anger and frustration that grips America, fear brought front and center by senseless gun violence and ISIS type terrorism.  Unfortunately, he fails to answer the basic question he asks about the nature of evil. The 5th Century theologian Aurelius Augustine grappled with the question of the nature of evil and concluded; “Evil is not a positive substance, instead evil is an absence of good” (paraphrase). Augustine goes on to demonstrate that evil is like darkness, which by its nature is an absence of light. Evil then, is an absence of good. That begs the question, is humanity able to distinguish the presence of good… do we know what is good? The framers of the American Constitution believed in the existence of an internal Natural Law. This law is universally defined by judicial systems as the inherent existence of the ability of a rational human being to know either the absence or presence of good in acts and deeds.  

If this is correct, then the perpetrators of these acts should have been capable of understanding that their actions were NOT good. Unfortunately, as we all know from experience and from our study of history, the human conscience can either be enlightened to enhance our understanding of good or be scorched with indocrination to believe lies - lies that place the individual self or will of the group above the rights of others. Some have chosen to not only believe these lies but also act violently on them, rejecting Natural Law and centuries of teaching of the truth of God: demonstrating that absent the good of God, mankind will always turn to the darkness of evil.  So how did we replace truth with lies in America? Beginning in 1962 with Engle vs. Vitale & Abington School Dist. vs. Schempp, the United States began the process of systematically removing the truth of God from our society.  For 50-plus years nearly every ruling by our Judicial System has been to diminish or eliminate any influence of Christian ethics: resulting in no mention of Christianity in our schools, no nativity displays or Ten Commandments on public property, no celebration of the birth of Christ and Christmas in public venues, no Christian ethical constraints on behavior, no Christian understanding of the nature of man, no public mention of the name of Christ. As Augustine noted, a vacuum created by removal of truth, is a recipe for creation of darkness and an environment for the growth of evil.  In the place of Christianity, our government and educational system has given us a vacuum of unconstrained freedom and an environment in which terrorism and murder can thrive.  

In my opinion, there remains only one starting point if we wish to retard the evil Lynn Hummel discussed in his Commentary; we must acknowledge the need for the good of God. Over 2,000 years ago, God entered our world in human form to destroy the darkness of evil and turn us back to the “light” of truth. John the Apostle said, “And the Word (God) became flesh, and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father full of grace and truth.” Isaiah said, “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulders (the governance of good shall be His responsibility), and His name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.” It leaves us with only one conclusion: If we want to find a solution to terror and murder, then we need Christmas…we need the Prince of Peace. Christmas is the only hope for our world.

(John Clauer is a retired Marine Colonel with 36 years of service and lives in Park Rapids. He taught ethics and military history at University of Pennsylvania and Villanova, earned a masters degree from the Naval War College and is a published author.)