Can you say “evil”?

I don’t know about you, but I have been appalled by the punditry since Saturday’s shooting. The rush to judgment. The crass attempts at political one-upmanship. The non-sequiturs like, “Perhaps this young man wasn’t motivated by political ideology, but we all need to tone down the rhetoric a bit. Because look what it leads to.” These people get paid a lot of money, but the analysis in this case has not been worth two bits.

One of the most frustrating features of this commentary is the inability to speak in moral terms of what this young killer has done. That is why Kevin DeYoung’s remarks this morning are a must-read. He writes:

“The world, and to a large extent the church, has lost the ability to speak in moral categories. We have preferences instead of character. We have values instead of virtue. We have no God of holiness, and we have no Satan.  We have break-downs, crack-ups, psychoses, maladjustments, and inner turmoil.  But we do not have repugnant evil as the Bible has it. And this loss makes the world a more dangerous place. For the words may disappear, but the reality does not.”

Read the rest here.

7 Responses to Can you say “evil”?

  1. Christiane January 11, 2011 at 2:02 pm #

    Thank you for opening this up for discussion. There may be more postings out there on the subject, but this is the first one I have seen.

    I agree that ‘evil’ is at the heart of last Saturday’s massacre/assasination.

    Hate-speech ? Rhetoric?
    Could a young man who is possibly emotionally or mentally compromised react differently, than a person who ‘knows’ that ‘they didn’t really mean what they said, it was just rhetoric’?

    That is what needs to be explored.
    But ‘defensiveness’ right now is not appropriate. Open discussion by American people who are not ‘ideologues’ is needed.

    Those American people are still out there, and they can and will discuss this together, as Americans, in honor of the slain victims of ‘evil’.

    Just a thought: certain rhetoric (we all know what this means), when let loose in our country, as a political device, cannot be ‘controlled’, or ‘called back’, if someone takes it and runs with it.

    The ultimate manipulation of evil: ‘let’s you and her go fight’.
    And when the ‘you’ is an unbalanced individual, the game-player has entered into evil, as he has led someone into sin.

  2. John January 11, 2011 at 5:28 pm #

    I’m not sure I understand your argument, Christiane. At what point can we consider language “safe” enough for lunatics? I can think of no society that has thrived by capitulating to the lowest common denominator.

  3. Christiane January 11, 2011 at 11:22 pm #

    Well, I can list the ‘rhetoric’ we do not speak of,
    but you know what it is, so I will not.

    The point is that, in our society, the reality is that communications advances have opened up our country and connected our world,
    so that what used to be considered ‘not allowed’ (i.e. screaming ‘fire’ in a crowded theatre) now needs to be responsibly reconsidered.
    Has the ‘rhetoric’ gone too far?
    That is question must be addressed by everyone, not just ‘one-side’.

    Responsibility, accountability . .
    we need to think about how our situation HAS changed, and how we can make it safer for the precious nine-years out there . . .

    Should we have a dialogue now in this country about ‘hate speech’?

    If not now, when?

    Just some thoughts.

  4. John January 12, 2011 at 12:01 pm #

    Thoughts and a conversation that I think we need to have, and sooner rather than later.

    However, there is a difference between speech intended to harm, (such as yelling “fire” in a crowded theater) and speech intended otherwise.

    I don’t think our society will be any the worse if rabble-rousing politicians quit using militaristic and violent rhetoric, but what about turns of phrase such as “drop the hammer”, “bury the hatchet”, or “shoot the moon”?

    If the language of politics is unacceptable to normal, morally sensible people, then we are responsible to change it (in the interest of fair disclosure, I believe this to be the case). If, however, language is only potential (and entirely theoretical, I might add) impetus for wanton killing to a deranged nihilist, I suggest that a change of language is not any kind of solution at all.

  5. Christiane January 12, 2011 at 3:14 pm #

    Perhaps an examination of the ‘rhetoric we do not mention’ shows us a pattern,
    when we examine how such rhetoric has been used to influence murderers of innocent people?

    That is something being done in the media.

    A long time ago, the country of Sweden banned certain media practices of focusing intently on the reporting of vicious murders, with all the graphic detail:
    reason: ‘copy-cat’ crimes flowed out from that reporting, it was thought.

    What is the impact of certain ‘rhetoric’ on those who are vulnerable to acting on it?

    But more importantly, what is the MOTIVATION of those who seek to provoke confrontation, stand back from it, and claim otherwise?

    EXAMPLE: The ‘wanted dead or alive’ posters for abortionist doctors, published and disemminated in the areas where these doctors have been murdered? And the fact that their families were also ‘targeted’?

    We can load the gun. Hand it to the unstable among us. And tell them it’s a good and holy thing to pull that trigger.
    But then, we mustn’t walk away as though we, as a people, have not been ‘involved’.

    I agree with you: discussion needed and needed now.
    God have mercy on all of us together, if nothing more, for the sake of the children.

  6. Brian January 13, 2011 at 8:00 am #

    The only crazy thing in the whole Arizona tragedy is that it is being used as a case to limit political rhetoric (free speech). Mr. Loughner was not influenced by political speech to do what he did, he was motivated by an evil heart intent on hurting other people made in the image of God.

    This man bought a gun, magazine, bullets, and wrote about “his assassination.” A person with mental problems cannot plan with that great amount of detail. However a man with an evil heart can.

  7. John January 13, 2011 at 10:52 am #

    Brian, I don’t think its sufficient to say that Loughner was “not influenced by political speech to do what he did, he was motivated by an evil heart”. The reports I have read indicate that he was influenced by a host of media input, from conspiracy theory movies to Neitzsche – both of which are political!

    That being said, the stupidity of the political machine becomes apparent in this case. Rather than seek to understand Loughner and limit similar future incidents, some have chosen to focus on political opponents (e.g. Sarah Palin) instead. There is a huge difference between grisly details of a murder (Christiane’s example) and targeting reticles on Palin’s map of America. This conflation of speech is the same problem that the other side faces.

    One side conflates speech by promoting unchecked free speech. The other side conflates speech by lumping everything remotely violent into one pile. Both approaches share the same flaw, and are not very sophisticated.

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