Is there evil in the world? Just turn on your TV. Better yet, don’t. I haven’t had a television cable connection for almost 15 years and am the happier for it. I get enough news from various non mainstream sources to get an awareness of what’s going on and then refocus my life on other more prudent pursuits. Research reveals that we are indeed affected by what we watch. If I am watching too long, not only does my mood change but so does my physiology. This isn’t ignoring evil but refraining from allowing its negative energy to affect my spirit.
Evil can be defined as the adversarial force that obscures God’s omnipresence in creation, manifesting chaos and suffering in humankind and nature. Evil is contrary to Divine Law that causes us to lose our awareness of our natural nature of being in unity with God. Evil is subversive to our communion with God and the soulful qualities that he manifests through us. For those who do not believe that God exists, the ego, or false self, replaces the image of God and attempts to create the self, others and the world in their own image. All one needs to do is study history to discover that this doesn’t work out well at all. It’s too bad that history has been neglected in our schools and even more sadly, revised to meet political narratives.
Evil can be compared to a disease. A disease is progressive in that it readily spreads. The more evil continues the more chronic it becomes, and like a cancer consumes what is healthy both destroying the self, and that which is around the self. Evil, like the eastern proverb says: the man does evil, the evil does evil and then the evil takes the man. As it progresses, evil become consuming, distorting the being whom it infects with what is known in the mental health field as Anti-Social Personality Disorder. In spiritual circles the term, “demonic,” is used.
Evil also is deceptive—much like COVID-19. We often don’t know it has us in its grip. The mind is clouded from reality and easily avoids indicators that we are not being who we really are. When one believes that reality is subjective, also known as moral relativism, one becomes his or her own god. A great awakening is usually required in the form of a miracle or enough painful consequences to jolt us back to reality. By reality, I mean, God. A difficult challenge with evil is to realize that we cannot cure the evil in others. We can confront people which doesn’t work most of the time because they aren’t able or willing to hear it because they are too entrenched in their defense mechanisms which keep them from realizing the evil that is really there.
When Jesus taught his disciples to pray, Deliver us from evil, he wasn’t giving them a nice pithy saying but a directive for them to use. We often suffer from distorted thinking after straying off the spiritual path that perhaps God isn’t too pleased with us, that we might be fearful of some punishment God has in store for us or somehow we don’t deserve forgiveness. All of this is distorted thinking. As Jesus demonstrated time and again, God is more willing to forgive that we are to ask for forgiveness. This doesn’t mean we get let off the hook for consequences of our actions, but that God has been available to us all the time and it is only in his presence can the dark energy of evil be dissolved.
Jesus knew that temptation is a 365 day a year phenomenon. The whole focus is not to waste time and energy obsessing with temptations or pondering the evil we have done but to first and upmost, to allow God to realign our spirit in His Spirit. One prayer use when I experience a loss of connection with the presence of God is the promise of Jesus to us. When Jesus said, “The Father and I are one,” he also meant this as a promise for us. Evil creates a fear of intimacy in us—where we fear intimacy with God. The best thing to do about this is be straight up and honest about this—as God already knows and that all of us are on a level playing field because I’ve never known a person who has never once felt a fear of “falling into the hands of a loving God” (Hebrews). Praying, “The Father and I are one,” immediately begins the process of reunification with the Spirit who will dismantle the evil that has harangued us and harmed others. This is why daily devotions, study and community worship help us to be aware of our temptations before we cross over the line into evil territory.
If all of this is too difficult, just say “Help.” It will be enough to get God rolling into your life again. Life is too short to live in alienation.
Peace be with you,
Fr. Mark Bigley
Church of Annunciation, Episcopal