May 24, 2022.
Evil entered the Robb Elementary School in Uvalde Texas. Evil can take many forms, sometimes it’s obvious, almost cliche-like: the Nazi concentration guard ushering hundreds of Jews and undesirables into the gas chambers, dad or stepdad abusing their own children, but often it is more subtle; the scam artist preying on the elderly, seeking to rob them of their life savings, those spewing hatred and vitriol on social media in some perverted dogma or twisted religious idea. This time it came in the form of a deranged, demented 18-year-old armed with a rifle. An hour later 21 innocent people, children, and teachers are dead. We grieve as a nation, we struggle to understand, to wrap our head around how and why this is happening. Both political parties and all media channels, take positions, issue statements, and offer endless criticism and solutions without acknowledging that evil exists.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the globe, the war in Ukraine rages on with untold innocents killed and all but forgotten as this latest tragedy rolls onto our front porch. Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn wrote, “What seems to us more important, more painful, and more unendurable is really not what is more important, more painful and more unendurable, but merely that which is closer to home.” The Ukrainian crisis in no way diminishes the horror that occurred in Uvalde, the causes are different, but the loss of innocent life remains tragic whether it’s one life or hundreds, every life is precious regardless of age, nationality, or religion.
Evil will never be a popular topic at a dinner party, it’s unpleasant and for the most part, we want to believe it doesn’t exist. If we acknowledge evil, it forces us to accept that it’s part of our existence, but out of our control. We want to believe that we are in control, that while things are not perfect, the next ordinance, law, or legislation will bring us closer to perfection and peace. History has taught us differently.
Ironically as it sounds there is a positive side to evil. The design of the universe and nature teaches us that where there is darkness there will also be light. Recognizing evil is not a loss of faith or condition of hopelessness but rather an embrace of something even more powerful. Romans 5:20 “…but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more.”
I love this from Henri Nouwen, “But in the midst of all this pain, there is a strange, shocking, yet surprising voice. It is the voice of the one who says: ‘Blessed are those who mourn: they shall be comforted.’ That’s the unexpected news: there is a blessing hidden in our grief. Not those who comfort are blessed, but those who mourn! Somehow, in the midst of our mourning, the first steps of the dance take place. Somehow, the cries that well up from our losses belong to our songs of gratitude.”
“Lord have mercy.” A short prayer, three simple words, a prayer of a contrite heart, acknowledging no goodness within us, and that God owes us nothing, but hearing a quiet voice saying, “My grace is sufficient not just for you, but all of my creation.”