For Lo the Days are Evil

I was driving from Tuscaloosa, AL to Oxford, MS to offer a workshop and saw a bill board message that read:  “Even so, Lord Jesus, Come, for Lo the Days are Evil.”   There has been a lot of contemplation within our Unitarian Universalist congregations about evil after the tragic shooting at the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Fellowship in Knoxville, TN.  Evil is a subject that we don’t handle well as a faith movement.  So when it strikes in such a personified and directed way, it is time we take notice and find ways to deal with the matter. 

What struck me about the billboard isn’t so much the statement of announcing the days are evil.  What struck me about the billboard is that the solution offered was an outside intervention, the return of Jesus, to remove the person or people from the evil days.  Rather than seeking divine guidance in dealing with the evil and reducing its impact and power, this solution was to pluck us out of the evil by the return of a Messiah to rescue us.  It was a let’s not deal with the evil we see and instead pray for the rapture as our get out of evil days card. 

It seems that Unitarian Universalists have something in common with conservative fundamentalist Christianity after all.  While we might not be praying for the return of Jesus, we do tend to look the other way in the face of evil and not call what is evil by its name.  We might call it racism or economic injustice or genocide or war but to label these as Evil would mean that we have developed a theology around evil that answers or attempts to answer questions such as: What is evil?  How does evil generate? How can evil be dismantled of its power?  Is it a power, an entity of force in the world?  Can someone be possessed by evil?  These are tough questions.  

Our Humanist inclinations are that humanity has the ability to solve the problems of the world.  If we only made a more concerted effort we could solve the problems we see around us.   We tend not to call these evils but rather as problems needing to be overcome.  Our Humanist inclinations get a bit fidgety when Evil is mentioned.  We have no problem in using the word love as being a universal force in the world.  But state evil as being a force and we find ourselves jumpin’ all around the subject.  

So  while our conservative Christian friends wish to be plucked out of the Evil they see around them, we would prefer to bury our heads in the sand when Evil with a capital E is mentioned.  I sense the events in Knoxville are about to change our thinking about this reality in our midst.  It is with some curiosity that I pause and wonder how we will begin to deal with the nature of Evil from here on out. 

Blessings, Serenity Home

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Published in: on August 16, 2008 at 5:05 pm  Comments (3)  
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3 Comments

  1. It seems to me that for a Unitarian Universalist, evil is anything that causes or unnecessarily increases human suffering. It is not a supernatural force, but just the forces in society that deprive individuals minds and actions. Evil emerges from economic inequality and deprevation, psychological disease, and lack of education. Whereas, fundamentalists would argue that evil emerges from demonic possession and/or the nature of mankind (“the fallen nature of man”).

  2. Yes, I agree. See above paragraph 3. I would also add, that fundamentalists believe in a personified evil entity (aka satan) that is on the face of the earth roving to devour the good and the wicked.

    We, Unitarian Universalists, are good at abstracting into the systems that cause what we call evil. Yet, we have a hard time when evil manifests itself in our world. The beginning of the 20th century was a time of great hope for humanity. Humanism was coming into its own. It seemed there was nothing we could not do to correct societal ills and evils as we saw them. Then WWI happened then the great depression and then the atrocities leading up to WWII.

    We often abstract the concept of evil into “just the forces in society that deprive…” and leave it at that. Yet what do we do when evil takes on a human face? Evil was committed in Knoxville, TN by one person, clearly a victim of a failed system. Yet, if our response is “just the forces in society that deprive…” then we are not responding to the evil that created what happened at the Knoxville congregation. There is a resignation about our faith, when we systematize evil and feel powerless in changing the system that created the conditions. We have removed it from the intimate and personal. And we have removed ourselves from being part of the system that created the conditions that allowed this person to feel so powerless in his circumstances.

    It is here that we as Unitarian Universalists fail at having a response to Evil with a capital E. What happened in Knoxville is a tragedy. It can also be a wake up call for us as Unitarian Universalists to look at what caused the conditions for this horrific event and seek to change the system. The legal system might seek the death sentence for his crimes, but this does nothing to assure that this won’t happen again in another town, another location where the system has failed. If we do not seek to examine the causes, then more events like this will occur, perhaps not in a church, but in a school, or a restaurant, or a library, or any number of places. Evil events all pointing to a system that is failing many many people.

  3. Short of a rapture plucking us from Evil, what can be done about it but to work here on earth within the earthly systems to eradicate, or at least lessen the severity of, the conditions that cause the Evil? In other words, short of a Second Coming, what choice do we have but to continue to work to make sure that God’s will be done, his kingdom come “on earth as it is in Heaven”?

    Not knowing much about your theology, I may simply be repeating the same questions you asked above. If so, please excuse my ignorance.


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