A curious phrase to launch a US presidential State of the Union address? Perhaps. And different people have reacted to these chilling words in different ways. Here's one way to view it: "Hey, wake up! Evil can't be ignored. It has to be faced. It has to be defeated or we'll pay an increasingly steep price for tolerating it."
That's a valid point. But being clear on just how most effectively to deal with evil may not be so easy. Historically, one could say that the world has tried just about every possible way to cope with evil. Yet it still seems pretty persistent!
But there is one way that deserves fuller exploration. It really hasn't been adequately considered, largely because, on the surface, it feels too much like a call to ignore evil. In a phrase, it sounds as though this approach turns the title of this article on its head: "Evil is not real."
Instead of taking that phrase at surface value, give it a little more thought. I find it inspiring to think of God and all of God's infinite goodness as authentic reality. When I really feel clear about this eternal truth, I can find the ability to think more intelligently about the nature of evil.
If God's goodness is infinite, what kind of reality does evil have? However we may describe evil, it's not God's reality. So is this a word game? Not at all. In fact, there is some very practical fallout from this perspective on evil.
Here's an example. Once I was feeling some severe aches and pains. Over several days the condition worsened. One night I found myself thinking about what kind of reality evil had - especially this "evil" condition of pain. I guess you could say that this reasoning was a type of praying. It became so clear to me that if God's goodness is literally infinite, then evil couldn't invade, inhabit, or even claim any of God's territory. It just didn't have the reality of Truth, or God.
I realized that evil's claim to reality was a deception - albeit a painful deception. The moment this fact sank into my consciousness, all that pain vanished. Instantly. It was like a revelation. In fact, since then I've taken more seriously what the Bible's book of Revelation says about being rid of evil, rid of this "dragon." It says, "The great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world" (Rev. 12:9).
Yes, evil is very real to a view that tends to limit or restrict God's infinite reality of goodness. But there's a more accurate view - and with it, a more accurate word for evil than "reality," at least from God's perspective.
Evil is a deception. When we discover the full implications of an ever-presence of Truth, or God, evil becomes a different kind of "reality." Better said, it is recognized as fundamentally an aggressive claim to reality. But a deception of any kind or severity ultimately can't withstand Truth. That is, if we pursue Truth vigorously enough.
Since that night, I've seen evil fall many times. And since Sept. 11 I've wondered if Truth is big enough to defeat more giant kinds of evil. I think we could fail to defeat evil on two fronts: 1) If we ignore it, or 2) If we let evil have the kind of reality it claims to have - a reality that is part of God's allness. I believe we'll defeat evil if we grow adequately in our discovery that God is, as the Bible puts it, "all in all" (I Cor. 15:28). However colossal evil appears to be, its roots too often originate in the little evil ways people tend to treat one another.
So, where do we start? By living more of the fact that God really is all in all. Good is the true impulsion in life. Backed with this spiritual conviction, defeat a pain. Defeat an argument in the family, at the office, in church. Defeat a resentment, a fear, an envy. Defeat whatever way evil tries to push its deceptive ways into your life.
Evil doesn't have God-given reality, and you can begin living more of God's reality, thus proving this incredibly wonderful truth. That's what Jesus did, and he changed the world. He expected us to follow his example.
Our proportionate admission
of the claims of good or of evil determines the harmony of our existence, - our health, our longevity, and our Christianity.
Mary Baker Eddy
(founder of the Monitor)