The "Harry Potter" novels, the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy, and the enormous "Star Wars" cycle all feature entertaining and epic battles of good against evil, but take as their premise that the forces of evil - in Star Wars parlance, the "Dark Side" - can fascinate, dominate, and ultimately destroy an individual.
Disturbingly, at the time of his sentencing, a convicted serial killer in the United States offered an explanation that he had been taken over by the dark side. Does that imply that evil acts are inevitable? Does this somehow excuse those evil acts? These are important questions, no matter what the context.
Something in my heart rebels at the assumption that evil acts are somehow natural and to be expected. At the same time, it's important to support law enforcement officials, neighborhood watch committees, and civic institutions that try to prevent such acts from happening.
It's hard to square the instinctive yearning of humanity for an all-powerful, loving God with the evidence of evil in our lives. Either God is omnipotent or He doesn't exist. And if God is omnipotent, evil could have no attractive power.
Could it be that Christ Jesus solved this conundrum for us? When talking with people who were intent on killing him, he answered: "Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it" (John 8:44).
As I ponder this profound statement, it seems to me that Jesus is explaining an ideal that's hard for us to understand: Evil acts are based on the lie that evil is possible in God's creation.
We don't yet have a complete vision of God's all-power and control, and that's why evil seems both real and attractive. This doesn't mean that we're all dense or doomed to lives of sin. So, is it really possible to get to that point where evil is no more?
I think we work up to this vision by degrees - just as we don't take up higher mathematics without preparation - and so, if we learn to deny vigorously evil's reality and affirm God's good all-power in our prayers in a consistent way, we can begin to minimize evil effects.
I don't claim to have stopped murders and assaults with this kind of prayer, but I think we have to start somewhere. For me, this has meant in the laboratory of the family, where sometimes we are most tested. In the family we find influences that often have huge effects in later life, and, in my case, knowing that God is good and all-powerful has had positive results.
A small example is found in an incident with my teenage son, who sometimes seems to be caught up in rapid mood swings. He must have taken offense at some remark at dinner the other night, and I watched his face darken as he became sullen.
I'm grateful I didn't get caught up in this little domestic drama and react with anger. Just before dinner, I had been reading the Bible and praying to see God's control of our lives, and that spiritual reservoir helped keep me from reacting. Instead, I was able to turn to God, asking Him to show me that He was all-power, that He was Love itself, and that our family was completely surrounded in love and therefore able to express only love to one another. It was only a moment, and when next I noticed, my son was again the happy, witty, and completely loving young man I know him to be.
Knowing that evil is a lie, as Jesus proved, enables us, too, to prove that the "Dark Side" is really the stuff of fiction.
Mankind must learn
that evil is not power.
Mary Baker Eddy "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures"