What Do We Do with Evil?
Corporate Evil and Corporate Good
Friday, October 16, 2020
Both Jesus and Paul radically reframe the human situation and invite us to live a vulnerable human life in communal solidarity with both sin and salvation.
- Neither sin nor salvation could ever be exclusively mine, but both of them are collectively ours!
- Universal solidarity is the important lesson, not private salvation.
- We all hold responsibility for all instead of blaming one or the other.
- Human solidarity is the goal, not “my” moral superiority or perfection.
I know that does not, at first, feel like a strategy for successful living, and it is certainly not one that will ever appeal to the upwardly mobile or the pure idealists. It first feels like capitulation, but that is not Jesus’ or Paul’s intention at all—quite the opposite. Paul believes he has found a new kind of victory and freedom. He himself calls it “folly” or “foolishness” (1 Corinthians 1:21, 25, 27; 4:10), as it is for most people to this day. He often calls it a “hidden mystery” that only the wise discover. Paul believes there is a hidden, cruciform shape to reality, even revealed in the geometry of the cross (see Ephesians 2:13–22). The world is filled with contradictions, false alternatives, zero-sum games, paradoxes, and unresolvable evils. It is foundationally unjust, yet we must work for justice in order to find our own freedom and create it for others.
Paul is an utter realist about life on this planet. We must fully recognize and surrender to this foundational reality before we try to think we can repair the world (tikkun olam in Hebrew) with freedom and love. For Paul, his insight is symbolized in the scandalous image of a man on the cross, the Crucified God who fully accepts and transforms this tragic human situation through love. If this is the reality to which even God must submit, then surely we must and can do the same.
By giving ourselves to this primary human absurdity, which shows itself in patience, love, and forgiveness toward all things, we find a positive and faith-filled way through “the world, the flesh, and the devil.” This is not by really resolving it or thinking we can ever fully change it, but by recognizing that we are all complicit in this mixed moral universe. This is perhaps the humility that Christians need in their campaigns for social reform. This is “carrying the cross” with Jesus.
Humans often end up doing evil by thinking they can and must eliminate all evil, instead of holding it, suffering it themselves, and learning from it, as Jesus does on the cross. This ironically gives us the active compassion we need to work for social change. My acceptance of a cruciform world mirrors my ability to accept a cruciform me.
God has created a world where there is no technique or magical method for purity or perfection. Forgiving love is the only way out and the only final answer is God’s infinite Love and our ability to endlessly draw upon it.
Adapted from Richard Rohr, What Do We Do with Evil? The World, the Flesh, and the Devil (CAC Publishing: 2019), 79–81, 83, 85.