We are polluted. I do not refer to our cities teeming with smog or our lakes and land polluted by garbage and run-off. I mean we, as in you and I. The world is defiled. We need to grasp this fundamental fact about our natures or all attempts at a resolution about what is evil and wicked ends up chasing symptoms instead of root causes.
This is not easy to hear in a liberal culture (and anyone who knows me understands that by Baptist and other Christian standards, I am liberal). But there is an assumption in our materialist culture that people are good (this much is true, we are good since we are made in the image of God) and that God is to blame for everything evil. That kind of pie crust thinking was a favorite mode of thought of the late Christopher Hitchens. Unfortunately, while we are good and capable of great good, we are also bent toward evil or what the bible would call “wickedness.” And there is nothing quite so evil or dangerous in the world as a seventh century religious zealot armed with twenty-first century armaments. The 16th Century French reformer, John Calvin (in his Institutes of the Christian Religion) noted that “even the Cherubim themselves must veil their faces in very terror” in light of the diabolical aspects of human nature.
From theft to war; from feelings of inadequacy to outright despair—these rise up through our soul life like flames, consuming us and the world at times. Calvin’s assertion was that human beings are polluted by a craving or lust (concupiscence) so that it defiles us. Bob Dylan and the Buddha both knew that it is easy for a person to be defiled in this world. Consider the second Noble Truth for a similar discussion of desire/fire/lust or Tanha.
Consider the Sufi (Islamic) poet, Rumi’s verses:
Why do you stay in prison
When the door is so wide open?
Move outside the tangle of fear-thinking.
Live in silence.
Flow down and down in always
Widening rings of being.
Equally, the Apostle Paul’s words are as important:
“If possible, so far as it depends upon you, live peaceably with all.”
Light a candle in this darkness. Confront the shadow that resides in us all. Pray for France. With courage, let us stand down the enveloping darkness that has violated so many. There is a time to stand up to evil and wickedness. Perhaps not since the rise of Nazism have we seen such a force for wickedness emerge in the world. Let us be resolute in love and brave in confronting what threatens to annihilate the innocent.