by Mike Pyatt
After every inexplicable tragedy, like a mass shooting, pundits scratch their head, and the narrative commences cultivating palatable reasons to a growing secular culture that instinctively rejects the possibility of absolute evil. Memories are short and selective. At the conclusion of WWI, there was a naive movement, that world powers must do whatever it takes to remove the causes for war and conflict from the earth. Idealist and humanist mislabeled WWI, “The War to end all wars.” One of the fathers of science fiction, British writer, historian, and social gadfly, H.G. Wells was considered a prophet by his humanist contemporaries, though he was known primarily for his novels, The War of the Worlds, The Invisible Man, and the Time Machine. He predicted some of the technological advances of the 20th Century, and wrote about the evils of war, advocating a naive pacifist approach. When war descended upon Europe, he concluded that the German buildup, since the nation’s 1871 unification, was driven by a corrupt industrial and political system, that needed to be eradicated. The unbounded optimism of Western man, reached exhaustion, facing his extinction in his own manufactured, misguided nobility.
In 1914, Wells penned a series of essays advocating the disarmament of the German Empire as the only solution to stave off further war in Europe. He wrote, “This is now a war for peace.” He argued for a league of nations that would usher in a one world government. President Woodrow Wilson helped put together the League of Nations immediately after WWI. Previously few had imagined that the entire globe could be engulfed in war and conflict. Many leaders were optimistic that, in the insanity of the apparent evil, humanity would come to its senses, and purge the utter brutality of war and recognize the futility of such a future conflict.
The League of Nations suffered and failed, as has the feckless United Nations, to prevent further conflict in the 20th Century and beyond. After the 1919, Versailles Paris Peace Conference, it was apparent that slogans and words were wholly insufficient. Nevertheless, that didn’t halt the proclivity “to meet in Paris” after WWII, in 1947, and in 1973, Paris Peace Accords, ending our involvement in Viet Nam. Or the 2015, Paris Agreement on climate change. What’s in the drinking water in Paris?
Universally befuddled commentators concluded what ultimately was needed was a “change in the way people think?” Wells belatedly came to see that ending war and conflict would require a “change in human nature.” With their “faith in man’s goodness” shaken, scholars and world leaders still wouldn’t swallow the bitter root that man, at his core, unredeemed, is morally bankrupt. Rejecting an orthodox Biblical view of man, many desperately advocated that education would ultimately eradicate the causes of conflict. 19th Century philosopher John Stuart Mill argued that the existence of evil demonstrates that God is either not omnipotent, or not loving, or good. A view commonly held by contemporary scoffer and naysayer alike.
Some classify evil as individual evil and natural evil. The former, they maintain, is a series of events not attributable to humans, like a tornado or earthquake. The latter is attributed to some consequence of human activity, a shooting, unthinkable acts, such as serial killer. In a 1989, interview, with Dr. James Dobson, before his execution, serial killerTed Bundy, described his rearing, “All-American, normal, with loving parents.” What happened? He warned of the ensnaring lure of pornographic addiction and its pernicious consequences. Was it a matter of culture, or genetic disposition?
We’ve heard chilling accounts of parents caging and starving their offsprings for years. What’s that? Poor parenting skills? Discipline gone awry? Evil? C.S. Lewis declared, “Free will, though it makes evil possible is also the only thing that makes possible any love or goodness or joy worth having.” We’ve erred in condemning only evil monsters like Hitler, Stalin and Amin. It’s easy for one to diminish, or ignore, the existence of evil until one’s a victim of a depraved act. William Golding’s, 1954, Lord of the Flies, exploded the myth of human innocence. Hawthorne’s 1850, The Scarlet Letter, once required high school reading, impressed upon a nation, which was predisposed to forget, the idea of original sin, and its pervasive influence.
Evil doesn’t exist in a vacuum. It exists much the same way a wound exists on one’s body, or as rusts exists on a vehicle. Neither can exist on its own. There must be an agent. We’re that agent. When God created Adam, He created him good, but Adam was a free agent. Eyes wide open, he chose to disobey. We would’ve done the same. Goodness always existed as an extension of God’s Holy character. Not evil. It entered with Satan’s rebellion, and invaded our physical universe, and man’s Fall. That’s our ball and chain to this day. The fig leaf of man’s pretensions to rectitude and nobility are stripped away, as evil testifies otherwise. Camus was wrong; evil’s root isn’t ignorance-it’s sin.
In a1930’s Sears & Roebuck catalogue, one could purchase any of ninety-six rifles or shotguns, and it would be shipped to one’s door. That continued until the late1970’s. How many mass shootings occurred during that span? What changed? The NRA’s a convenient target. Should one ignore the insatiable appetite for violent video games? Our unbridled access to the “dark side” of the internet? What of the loss of True North on our moral compass? Why the leap to infringing on the Second Amendment, raising the age of purchasing a rifle to twenty one? The average age of the past twelve mass shooters was thirty-one. In the face of evil, we’re offered another desperate, illusionary feel-good maneuver. What’s next? Kim Jong Un having a “change of heart.” Will he launch a “Love Thy Neighbor” foundation in Pyongyang instead of a missile? What do you think?
Mike Pyatt’s a resident of Natrona County. His email’s firstname.lastname@example.org