Wednesday, January 31, 2007

The Dark and the Light

I suppose it seems fitting that my first post deal with the issue of evil. It has been a prominent theme in my life: a delicate navigation between the worlds of good and evil. I have always been curiously attracted to the darkness. Something that terrified me as a young person. Growing up in the home of a Pentecostal Minister isn't the easiest place to understand why you find yourself so attracted to villains and concepts of evil.

I think I am beginning to understand now that this curiosity came because it was never truly discussed. In a house, in a church, in a family obsessed with redemption, salvation and righteousness, evil was a subject more avoided than explored. I am at a time in my life when I am trying to discover what I truly believe. What is underneath all the programming and expectations of my upbringing and really there under the surface...

That said I had a very interesting conversation the other day with one of the females in my life. We argued for over an hour over the issue of whether mankind is inherently good or bad.

We hear all the time in our society that man is basically good, and yet the heinous acts we see everyday by people worldwide suggests otherwise. The Bible teaches that man is inherently evil, that after mankinds fall in the garden everyone is born a sinner, everyone is born with wrong desires. Growing up with this belief instilled in me, I had always assumed it was right.

Look at some of the horrible things human beings do to the earth, to animals and to one another. It is so much easier to be a bad person than it is to be a good one. For some reason we need to put effort into doing the right thing, whereas wrong acts seem to come naturally. Furthermore, I think the inherent nature of man is an important subject where the existence of God is concerned.

If man is basically good, then we don't need saving. If we are evil by nature, than we need an external force to "save" us... to help us ultimately make it from the darkness to the light.

This is the point in the conversation when an Athiest friend of mine came in. He said that the inherent evil of man (which he also believes to be true) is a testament to the non-existence of God. He says there is no way he could believe in a good God who allowed such horrible things to take place to his creations. Children dying of starvation in Africa, cancer plaguing families, children who are sexually abused by authority figures... how could a loving God allow these things to happen.

I thought for a moment and then used what I like to call Christian sleight of hand... I didn't realize however that it would get me into a sticky situation.

I told him that the very idea of these things bothering him was a testament to God. You see if God doesn't exist and this is a survival of the fittest world, then starving kids in Africa shouldn't bother us... it's merely the weak dying off. It doesn't affect me, why care? Furthermore, looking at suffering, at an abused child and saying, "that's not right, that's not what it ought to be" means that we, as humans, have some sort of preconcieved notion of what IS right and what ought to be. The existence of such an internal sensor that gauges right from wrong and discerns suffering and unjust acts as wrong proves the existence of some sort of greater good. If we look at an act and judge where it falls on this "goodness" meter it means we are judging it against a concept we have instilled in us of an ultimate goodness... and well isn't that just another name for God?

Here's where I got jumped on. Does this internal sensor gauging right and wrong then mean that inside of us we have a concept of what is right? Yes. Well doesn't that mean inside us all, humans are inherently good and decent?

Shit. Well no. I thought about this long and hard. We do, as humans, have an idea of what is right and wrong outside of our upbringing. There is something inside that makes our hearts sink when we see suffering... yet, look at our culture. There is also a side of us that desires destruction... the most popular movies being made right now are slasher horror films like the Saw and Texas Chainsaw Massacre series'. What is there inside of us that resonates with horrendous violence?

The other night when I came in from work my roommates were watching Saw 3 and I jokingly said I was going to make a movie about Cancer patients. Show the horrors of kimo therapy... show the torment of the patients and the heartbreak of their loved ones... my room mates were appauled, and yet they applauded seeing a mans ribcage torn open by some hollywood torture device.

What is it inside of us that has these conflicting views? It seems as though there is a cosmic battle inside humans that rages between the side of us that is good, and decent and knows the difference between right and wrong and the side that is able to treat others horribly, to watch and enjoy gore... the need to stop and see an accident on the side of the road... the need to read about the latest celebrity sex scandal.

How do we balance these conflicting natures? Which one will win in the long run? I don't know any of these answers...