Evil, Ordinary & Extraordinary
April 1992By William J. O'Malley
The Rev. William J. OMalley, S.J., was the last face you saw in The Exorcist, and teaches theology and English at Fordham Preparatory School in the Bronx. This article is adapted with permission from his book, Converting the Baptized (copyright 1990 Tabor Publishing, a division of DLM Inc, Allen, Texas)
James Joyce was right. Truth pops out from the most unexpected places. My best definition of evil came from M. Scott Pecks eight-year-old son: Daddy, evil is live spelled backwards.
Evil is anything radically opposed to life. If the difference between human life and animal life is that we can grow in our ability to know and love, then evil is anything that degrades us makes us less able to know and love. Evil is killing not just the body, but the self, the spirit, the soul. And it neednt work fast; slow, small, and steady is just as effective in the long run.
We dont talk enough to our young about evil. They are willing to accept that there is evil, but its out there: war, exploitation, drugs. But it is difficult to convince them that they are themselves capable of increasing the flood of evil. Especially with kids brought up on Jesus, the Warm Fuzzy, its no easy task to make them accept that casual character assassination negates a human being, that shunning ugly kids or unathletic kids is the same bigotry as the Klans. Petty evil is still evil. Were in the same business as the Mob, but the Mob has a broader perspective and more guts.
Broadly, there are two brands of evil. Physical evil is destructive of life tornadoes, cancer, drought, death itself. But physical evil occurs most often through no human fault. It is something we have to lay at the feet of God, and defending God against the endless litany of Why-would-a-good-God charges is an enormous task I cant get into here.
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