Thursday, April 6, 2017

Can Evil Be Exaggerated?

We have recently been instructed from the pulpit not to "exaggerate the evil in the world." Come again? Janice grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area, Steve on the opposite coast. We never thought the evil of homosexuality would reach into our home in Utah and hurt our young family. But it did, through the internet. And it was really bad. Are we exaggerating it? Does the evil today---the insidious propaganda, the intimidation and false teaching and sexual immorality---that boldly marches into our schools and our courts and our entertainment and our communications and our churches and our very homes, that threatens our religious freedom, need any exaggerating?

Can evil be exaggerated? Isn't evil a done deal? Isn't evil bad no matter how much of it there is, no matter where? Doesn't evil proliferate when good men do nothing?

It's like saying, don't exaggerate your cancer. It's not that bad, you don't have it except in certain spots. Don't dwell on it. It's not all that important. You can bet a cancer patient, at least one who wanted to keep living, would not appreciate that attitude. It's like saying, don't exaggerate the 60 million needlessly slaughtered unborn human beings since Roe v Wade. How can you exaggerate a real number?

No, you can't exaggerate something self-evident. It's there. It exists. Evil is by nature evil. It has no variants. We're living in a time when unborn babies are brutally destroyed. You can see photos of these tiny dismembered, decapitated humans. Sixty million unique humans killed because of irresponsibility and selfishness. Pornography is a multi-billion dollar industry; this soul-killing material is available to children, kids are making and sharing porn of themselves. Hedonists are parading in our city streets with little children present. Sexual immorality is being introduced and taught to school children. Children are being abducted into sex slavery. These evils are real, they are actually happening. They need zero exaggeration. These pervasive evils, were they happening to only one person, are horrible as is. 

Those who have been personally harmed by the evils of today, in being fined, in being fired, in losing their businesses, in being demonized, in being shunned, in losing one's innocence, in being lured into hedonism and misery and illness and death, in losing one's children, in having an abortion and intensely regretting it, should find any softening or whitewashing of these highly popular evils highly offensive. 

Sure we appreciate the good and beauty of this world the Lord created for us, but that doesn't make the evil of our day less real or our obligation to call it out and resist it any less important. Where does it say in the scriptures that we should play down the evil around us? Where does the Lord ever say that? The Lord, in fact, tells us to recognize and repent of the secret evils in our very hearts. In no uncertain terms the scriptures warn us against even the appearance of evil, against thinking there is no harm in a little sin. We're warned to be watchful, to beware of the devil's flaxen cords, to recognize and call out evil.

Failing to stop evil leads to more evil. The pervasiveness and insidiousness of evil should actually wake us up and increase our vigilance. We mustn't close our eyes, ears, and mouths. It's only monkeys that do that. We must open our eyes, ears, and mouths. We must discern clearly between good and evil. We must not equivocate. We live a good life and trust in the Lord. We act like Christian soldiers and make whatever sacrifices necessary to be God's servants.

If those who are supposed to warn us of the evils of our time are telling us the evils of our time aren't really that bad, that we shouldn't confront them with all our energy, what will be the obvious results? We will relax our diligence, we will turn less to the Lord, we will ease up on discerning between good and evil. We will breathe a sigh of relief, be lulled into carnal security, take pride that all is well in Zion, and ---- embrace the evil all around us. Yes, that is what happens. That is what is happening. Evil triumphs when we shrug our shoulders at it, close our eyes to it, pretend it's not so much or so bad. Human history is rife with this reaction and the destructive results.

Diligence in confronting evil is often made fun of in popular culture. Remember in The Music Man when the town is in an uproar because of the new pool hall? We got trouble, they say, and we chuckle. We chuckle because everyone knows the game of pool is not evil in and of itself. Many people have pool tables in their homes. It is the human tendencies to vices, evils such as idleness and gambling commonly associated with a pool hall that the townspeople were wary of. And they weren't exaggerating. Did you know that prohibition was pushed on society by women who were wives and mothers, not because of the evils of drink (many nice people drink alcoholic drinks), but because of the prostitutes seducing husbands at saloons and ruining families? Prostitution is always bad. They weren't exaggerating this evil.

Some things are not evil of themselves---like a game of pool or a fermented drink. It's the human  vices and sins, often associated with some things, that are evil. These are the seven deadly sins--- pride, envy, wrath, lust, gluttony, sloth, and greed---things that are evil all the way through, in every situation, at all times, in all places. That's the sort of evil exponentially going on in the world today. No embellishments necessary.

Let's make sure we define evil correctly and give it absolutely no allowance. Evil is always the same. It has no nuances. It cannot be exaggerated. It's either present or not.

If you don't think there has been a shift---in tone, in emphasis, in purpose---read this quote from Gordon B. Hinckley, 2004, from "In Opposition to Evil." Do we hear this much today? What are we hearing instead?

“The tide of evil flows. Today it has become a veritable flood. Most of us, living somewhat sheltered lives, have little idea of the vast dimensions of it. Billions of dollars are involved for those who pour out pornography, for those who peddle lasciviousness, for those who deal in perversion, in sex and violence. God give us the strength, the wisdom, the faith, the courage as citizens to stand in opposition to these and to let our voices be heard in defense of those virtues which, when practiced in the past, made men and nations strong, and which, when neglected, brought them to decay.” 

Back in the 1950s short story and novel writer Flannery O'Connor wrote, "My devil has a name, a history, and a definite plan." She said that perhaps in these permissive times all a writer with Christian concerns can do is point out that there is evil in the world. And now, we are to the point where churches are telling us to not worry about evil so much.

What a time we're living in, when we're told to be careful not to exaggerate the very real and vast dimensions of our time.

No comments: