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Social Issues: Letters

From: Ross Olson [ross{at}]
Sent: Friday, July 14, 2000
To: Editor Star Tribune
Subject: Evil


In analyzing the factors behind genocide in Rwanda, (Rwanda: A Tale of Cowardice and Complicity, July 14, 2000) you came very close to comprehending a fundamental truth, but missed the remedy by a light year. Yes, the world once promised, "Never again," and indeed, "It lied."

Evil is rarely exposed -- much less defeated -- because the common understanding of it is flawed. In addition to feeling that it is a problem of "them, but not me," most thinkers' supposed solutions are superficial or beside the point. And when it is assumed that we are all basically good and constantly getting better, troubling data is treated as the exception.

It is all too easy to grade ourselves on a curve and draw a line separating us from the "really bad" people of the world. But the truth is that we all carry the potential of destructiveness with us, only prevented from acting it out by various personal, social and spiritual barriers. Given favorable rationalizations about individuals or groups, such as, "They stand in the way of the good of the many," or "They are inferior beings," the most principled person can justify horrible actions.

The only consistent explanation that offers hope comes from a Biblical view of sin and redemption. Yes, humankind in general and each individual in particular does have great potential, but our willfulness in refusing to live under the authority of our Creator has introduced a fatal flaw. On our own, we cannot consistently defeat the selfish tendency that destroys all it touches. Only by surrendering to the God Who stands waiting for us can we have any real victory.

The awfulness of evil is affirmed by the suffering that Christ experienced in order to make forgiveness available. His resurrection proves that power is available to rescue and remold every sinner. And as Jesus clarified it for us, if we have ever hated or been angry, we stand guilty as much as the one who actually killed. It is bad news, but it makes us understand both the need for and the wonder of the Good News.

Ross Olson

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