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Is Evil Pure?

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The fear of the Lord is hatred of evil. Pride and arrogance and the way of evil and perverted speech I hate. (Proverbs 8:13)

My heart goes out to the people of the Tree of Life Synagogue. My prayers are with the larger Jewish community that must continue to face anti-Semitism. My concerns continue for all churches, synagogues, mosques, and other religious gathering places because we are all vulnerable to hate. I am also concerned for how we perceive and discuss the perpetrators of such horrific crimes. 

Over and over I hear the media talk about the murderer described as “pure evil.” I seriously disagree. While what the perpetrator did was despicable, hate-filled, and even evil, that does not make him pure evil. Am I just splitting hairs for a devotional? No, I am concerned that if we call someone “pure evil,” we are successfully able to distance ourselves from the murderer and their actions. 

Pure evil” implies something supernatural, like Michael Myers, who can be shot, stabbed, and even have his head chopped off in the “Halloween” movie series, and still stand back up and live to be pure evil in yet another movie. Pure evil also implies that the devil’s power is involved. Pure evil is too simple an answer, and too easily lets humanity off the hook.

The perpetrators of such evil have their own stories. Unlike horror story characters like Michael Myers, these real-life murderers have families who loved them. They often had issues throughout their lives, but also had redeemable moments. Some had serious recognizable mental health conditions, while others are like John Wayne Gacy, who went through most of his life with unrecognized issues. For all these individuals, mental breaks, personal abuses, etc. helped prepare these individuals to be walking time bombs.

We need to recognize that any one of us put in the same circumstances, might end up seriously dysfunctional. While this does not excuse their horrific actions, it does make it wrong to call individuals “pure evil.” When pure evil is not used, then we are forced to talk about the lack of mental health resources, the reality of hate-filled social media options, etc. Pray for the survivors of this and other acts of violence. Also, pray for the perpetrators and the opportunities our society has to bring healing and diminish hate. We need the Holy Spirit’s guidance. That is the only true supernatural power at work in our world!