September 9th, 2012A Little Bit More About Evilby Dena Hunt
Recent Convert (R.C.), Abigail, and I had a brief discussion about this topic a few days ago on another post. This is an addendum. Surmising evil to be without reason (without justification), and therefore chaos and disorder—the absence of God, I speculated that it might be what hell is like. In the same way that darkness is what it is only because of the absence of light. Two things happened after that—rather, two phrases I heard that became “neon.”
The first was during a homily—I don’t remember the context—in which the priest used the phrase, “abandoned by God.” I know there has been some argument about the words in our Creed: “He descended into hell.” Some people say that “hell” really only means “scheol” (sp?), the word for “the land of the dead” in Hebrew; they say “descended to the dead” instead. Others say no, it means hell as we understand hell. I don’t know who’s right. But when the priest said the phrase, I remembered the words Christ uttered from the Cross: “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?” about which a lot of other argument goes on among theologians (How can God abandon God, etc.). But I think I remembered those words from the Cross because of the recent discussion of evil as the absence of God, of reason, of order. It made me more acutely aware of Christ’s suffering than I’ve ever been before: He bore our sins, our evil deeds, the evil within us all. Yes—I think he “descended into hell,” into the absence of God. And he asks WHY? He asks a reason—there is none—and that is hell, which he endured in our place. I don’t think I will ever recite the Creed again in quite the same way.
The second thing that happened is less theological. On EWTN’s program, Apostolate for the Family, Cardinal Arinze made a reference to the sale of children for purposes of abuse. That horror was the impetus for my friend John’s demand for a reason for evil (which, as we’ve established, is oxymoronic, since evil is the absence of reason). Cardinal Arinze followed up with, “Christians must involve themselves in such injustices.” At first, I heaved a sigh. I’m no activist. I’ve tried—but it’s like a fish trying to fly. Yet we are all, as members of the Body of Christ, to “involve” ourselves—because as the Body of Christ, we are to bring God to the places where He is not. That’s our job. We can’t descend into hell as Christ did (and as the Christ-figure Frodo did), but knowing that darkness can’t occupy totally any place where even the tiniest light arrives, we should “go there.” I could, I realized, go there in the way my saintly Baptist mother did: via prayer. Once when she was visiting me in New Orleans, we passed a terrible accident. A man was being rushed into an ambulance on a gurney. My mother blurted out, “Lord! Please help that man!” I smiled at her and she said, somewhat defensively, “Well, I’m a prayer warrior. That’s what you do when you can’t fight evil any other way.” I never forgot that. And if we can’t be activists, we can, as Cardinal Arinze said, still “involve ourselves,” perhaps in some way other than John’s demand for a reason that evil exists. We aren’t supposed to justify it—so that we can “accept” it. What we wind up justifying then is our own non-involvement.
Anyway, that’s the two things that happened.