In the aftermath of tragedy it’s important to make time to mourn, be outraged, reflect, and act. Those immediately affected by tragedy mourn for their loss, their loved ones offer thoughts and prayers, and those around them jump to outrage and demand for justice. These are all necessary, as emotions exist to connect us to each other and what matters, and outrage exists to denounce evil and call for justice and good.
But at the end of the day, mourning and outrage don’t fix problems (as don’t thoughts and prayers). Reflection and actions based on those reflections and prayers do.
There are many worthy and “guilty” topics to reflect and act upon regarding the recent school shooting in Florida, which is named as “[one of] three of the 10 deadliest mass shootings in modern United States history [which] have come in the last five months.”
Gun control and safety. Mental illness and lack of support. Terrorism and disenfranchised individuals. Economic disparity and stress. School safety and defense training. Police funding and presence. Etc.
The one thing that I want to talk about here, which I will argue is more fundamental than the other topics, is the idea that evil things are God’s fault.
Let’s cut to chase: evil is not God’s fault.
Why Evil Happens
Once there was a young man, who’s father was the wisest, kindest, and richest man in the city. He was one of many children, each grown up and living their lives according to their own will. This young man was different than the others though. While all the others took time each week to meet or Facetime with their father since they were young, to receive love from him and learn from him so that they could be as good as him, this young man didn’t care about such things.
He was not interested in wisdom, being kind, or even in being rich, he was just interested in living his life as he pleased. This reflected in his absences from the family meetings and one-on-one time with his father. Without the young man realizing it, his lack of love and discipline slowly changed his behavior and the kind of people he hung around. While he was never one to actively practice lying, stealing, cheating, violence, promiscuity, gluttony, indolence, pride, murder, or any other questionable behavior, it became less of a big deal with each and every passing situation where pleasure was on the other side of those actions.
“Come on man, what’s the big deal? You’ll regret it if you don’t.”
Before he knew it, he was finally thrown in jail for one of his many offenses that had gone on far too long without reprimand.
As he sat in jail, looking at the ground, he said quietly, “I miss my dad. His hugs, his encouragement, his tough but so loving discipline, his truthful guidance. I should have listened to him and my siblings when they came to me, I should have went to them for help when I had the chance. What have I done?” The guy in the next cell heard him, and said “What are you complaining about? Your dad is the wisest, kindest, and richest man in the land. If he was so wise he would have foreseen that you would end up like this and have done something about it. If he was so kind he would forgive you and take you out of this jail right now. And if he is so rich, he would give you anything you want and let you enjoy this life to the maximum. Your happiness is the most important thing, right?”
As the young man sat there in the dark, alone, he pondered the man’s arguments. His heart said “I deserve this, my actions are my responsibility.” But his mind said “No, surely this is my dad and siblings fault. I’ve been wronged, they abandoned me, and they will pay.”
— What’s the lesson here? —
Actions have consequences; you reap what you sow.
Touch the stove when its hot and you’ll get burned. Put a fork in the wall outlet and you’ll get shocked. Jump off a 50 foot, 15 meter, or 4-5 storey building, and you’ll die. For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.
Understandable But Not Excusable (The Power of Teaching)
It’s understandable kids want to touch the stove, outlets, and jump off high places–they are curious and free spirited–but it’s not excusable. As they get older its understandable they want to try new things like drugs, uncommitted sex, crime, gangs, etc., but its not excusable. As they get even older, depending on their economic, social, and emotional circumstances they may want to lash out against others in an attempt to validate themselves and fulfill their needs, but its not excusable.
Many things in this life are understandable, but that doesn’t make them excusable.
This is why from the time that we are young we all need to be taught that there are consequences to the decisions we make, and that we alone are held accountable and responsible for those decisions. Just because little Johnny was encouraged by little Susie to disobey his parents doesn’t mean little Johnny gets away scot-free, both earned a disciplining.
Yes, this is an oversimplification for events that take place in a complicated world where people are purposefully disadvantaged, isolated, abandoned, or spoken against just because of where they were born, raised, or what they look like, work, or believe; or where bad behavior is rewarded with more “freedom” than good behavior; the concept still holds true.
No matter how fertile or convenient a plot of land and soil is, a tree will not grow there unless a seed is planted first, whether by human, animal, or natural intervention. Likewise, evil will not grow and manifest unless its seed is planted in the heart first.
So Who Planted the Seed of Evil?
You did. Or should I say, you accepted the seed into your heart. It’s not God’s fault.
God is not responsible for the actions you commit nor for the sin in your heart, you are. A whole sermon can be preached on why Jesus is the answer to evil and everyone who doesn’t know love is a danger to society, but the bottom line is that evil is the result of people who allow, practice and or encourage evil behavior and thoughts. I admit that I am guilty of this as well, so I’m not talking as a self-righteous person. We are all guilty of sin, which is disobedience to what is faithful and true, and therefore we are all guilty of evil: the fruit of sin.
It’s why we need deliverance. It’s why we need guidance. It’s why we need love and family. Because if we don’t receive such things, which have been freely given to us to steward and share, then we participate in the destructive mutiny of this ship of life against its great and righteous Captain. And unlike some other favorable mutinies we read about in history, this is one that assuredly the Captain and his faithful crew will not lose. Those who commit treason will be tied up and thrown overboard to drown, feeling the pain of death yet never reaching its release.
If the Captain is so Great, Why Doesn’t He Do Something About Evil?
You’re asking the wrong question. The more appropriate question is: Why are you not doing anything with the antidote he has already provided against evil?
“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” – Edmund Burke
The world would be a completely different place if people built a habit to stop pointing fingers at others in outrage, including God, and instead began saying to themselves “Okay, what am I going to do about this, and how can I partner with God in manifesting His Kingdom?” Because as it has been scientifically proven and called the Knobe Effect (click here), emotions–which we said in the beginning do not fix problems–are used more often to judge negative actions as intentional (82% of the time), where as logic is only used when positive results are judged as intentional (which is only 23% of the time).
Meaning, just because its emotionally easier to point fingers and judge others for negative events doesn’t mean you have sufficient evidence and genuine reason to indict them. It’s harder, but more appropriate, to take a step back, logically analyze the situation, and respond accordingly.
In laymen’s terms: God is easy to blame, but you don’t have the evidence or frankly the depth of understanding to blame him more than yourself (your inaction) or the perpetuators of evil actions.
So for those who like to blame God for everything bad, and especially those who barely lift a finger to make a difference in this world: Go take your pride to the bathroom, drop it in the toilet, then sink your head into it and take a real deep breath of your own shitty hypocrisy. Acknowledge your own trash before you call out other people on theirs. Or as the wise king once said: “How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take out the speck that is in your eye,’ when you yourself do not see the log that is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take out the speck that is in your brother’s eye.”
So What Do We Do?
Jesus’ messages usually revolved around this one word: repent. That doesn’t mean to say you’re sorry and ask for forgiveness. That means to change the way you think and ultimately change the way you act. In his messages, he said “repent, for the kingdom of God is in your midst.”
The best example is the personal example. If you want evil to stop happening, you need to first stop being evil yourself and choose good. Get to know Jesus: the best and most authentic doctor, therapist, teacher, brother, and authoritative king to help rid you of evil. Get to know and fellowship with his church, hopefully there is one in your area that understands believing, becoming, and building His Kingdom. You won’t think or find pleasure in doing evil when you find pleasure and think about good with others.
You can do good things in this life without Jesus and His church, but you will never be a good person nor can anyone enter heaven by works. Someone called Jesus himself “good” and he responded with “why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone.” His own church has trouble being good, so what makes you think you will set the example? If you insist on staying outside, however, then at least contribute to society by first starting with your close community. Every tree starts as a seed, then a root, then it springs from the ground, and so on and so forth. If we all contribute in our communities, then it would be like dropping millions of pebbles into the sea at the same time. It’s ripple affects for days.
Concerned about gun laws? Read about them, write your representatives and senators about your concerns, and get involved in campaigns for more responsible gun control policy.
Afraid of guns? That’s a problem, go to your local shooting range and pick up a class on firearm safety. You don’t need to buy a gun but you should not be afraid of one. Respect the power of a weapon, it may help in a time of crisis. Go a step further as a mentally sound, capable, and empathetic citizen by obtaining your Concealed Carry Weapons permit, in case you should ever unfortunately need to use deadly force to protect others.
Feel strongly about the mental health crisis in the country? Read up on mental illnesses (click here), how to spot symptoms, how to get professional help, and or how to get involved in your local community. Not one group of people are more susceptible to mental illness than another, but generally adolescents, elders, the deeply poor, homeless, war veterans, prisoners, and overall isolated individuals are common victims. You’d be surprised at how much a 30 minute genuine and caring conversation with such people can completely change their lives or attitudes.
Worry about terrorism? Don’t, you can’t predict it but you can be prepared for it. Develop disaster plans with your family, build and maintain emergency kits, and practice every so often as a group (click here). Become a Certified Emergency Response Team (CERT) member in your local community as well (click here).
Concerned about economic disparity? If you’re in a position of influence, use that to educate others on the massive problem of wealth inequality in this country as well as to create action plans on how to combat that in your community. If you’re not in a position of influence, get involved in local food banks, clothes drives, or other things that assist those who are in need. In line with the mental illness crisis, your connection and assistance with the poor and stressed may just help prevent that next mass shooting.
Afraid for your children or neighbors children when they go to school? Volunteer at the school, watch out for troubled kids and promote an environment of nurture and growth. Invest in developing relationships–be a mother or father figure–to the kids or young adults in your midst, you can have a profound affect on their psyche and values, and keep them away from gangs, drugs, or other troubles.
Think that there is not enough of a police presence in your area? Sign up for a ride-along (which citizens can do) with a local officer, so that you can appreciate their job and responsibilities. Encourage others to do the same, thereby promoting friendly police-to-community relationships. A community that supports its public servants, and vise versa, can watch each other’s sixes (military lingo for “watch my back.”)
All in all, to fight evil, practice good (meaning its a lifestyle, not a one time event). Evil exists because of the evil inside people’s hearts which manifests in many different ways, some explicit and some implicit; not because of God. We started the mutiny on this ship, it’s better we stop it before the Captain pulls out his sword and ends it violently once and for all. Embody good, which finds its source in the Lord Himself, and then teach good to others. That looks like many different things, all of which can be important and valuable, but one thing I will tell you that doesn’t do shit is pointing fingers and blaming God, laws, or inanimate objects. They are factors, not the source.
We are the source and vessels of the problem, so lets stop doing things our way, surrender to love, and obey life.
“There is a way which seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.” – Proverbs 14:12