It started with Freud and Jung, this abdication of personal responsibility. We began to blame wrongdoing and hostility on what our fathers and mothers did or did not do for us or with us. Our primal urges we may use to excuse and explain our abnormal conduct. Some will blame their poverty, but we well-know the vast majority of people in poverty are law-abiding and good people. In a word, a person or group may choose to explain away their anger and wrong-doing through some accident of history or biology. Perhaps it is true that we all bear the burden of our past and our biology and that perhaps we are predestined by these forces to be unkind, unforgiving, merciless, uncompassionate, and even evil-doers.
The question is, what is left of our free choice and freedom? Opposed to the choice of hostility and wrong-doing are compassion and charity. I think I am safe to say that the choice of good or evil constitutes the ultimate freedom to be fully human or less so. Hostility, hate, and evil, for St. Augustine, have no existence. The world consists not only of Hitlers and Stalins but of Albert Schweitzers and Mother Teresas. The issue is are we simply predestined by internal forces or external forces to be who we are or what we are or is it a matter of choice. In short, are we victims or free beings?
I argue that we must recognize in our worldview the existence of good and evil and, in a word, sin and Satan as opposed to goodness and truth. To abandon the existence and reality of sin and evil and blame these impulses on genetic or environmental factors is to degrade our humanity – the humanity that erected the cathedrals of Europe and wrote the Divine Comedy and Paradise Lost.
We all have our choices of sin and death in this life or goodness and light. Once we are relieved of the right and responsibility to make free choices, we are no more than things in the clutches of life. Free ethical choice recognizes both the darkness and goodness that lie within our souls. Sad to say, St. Francis of Assisi and John Milton do and have occupied the same planetary space with Lenin and Pol Pot. We fail as men and women when we explain away the Darfur Genocide and the Holocaust through a deprived childhood and misdirected sexuality.
The time now is that we must recognize the reality of sin and evil, underplayed since Marx and Freud. It is right and appropriate that, once and for all, we recognize not only the right and responsibility to make moral choices but our capacity to do so. No one can be forced to choose and no more can we explain our wrong choices by blaming others. Sin and evil are within our grasp as well as kindness and compassion. To me, it is significant and although our presidents write apologetic autobiographies in some attempt to protect or preserve what they perceive as their greatness, John Bunyan, the great writer and author of the Pilgrim’s Progress entitled his spiritual autobiography, “Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners”.
Question: whatever happened to sin and evil? They are alive and well, in every place – you can look, or live.