Commentary: Maybe evil is always with us, but we are not powerless


Demons. Nobody ever wants to talk about them.

Evil. Now that’s a different thing. Its abstract. Diffuse. The kind of thing a sophisticated modern can hum and cluck about regretfully before going on with things just the way they were before — well, before the evil thing happened.

RELATED: Abbott put church shooting in context of evil from Bible to Hitler.

Our own Texas governor contextualized the slaughter in Sutherland Springs with just such a generalized appeal to amorphous “evil” on Fox News. Referring to the Holocaust and the Inquisition and others, he asserted that we need to view this through the long lens of history and understand the fact that “evil is something that has permeated this world.”

It is just a fact of life. “And that the force of evil must be combated with the force of good that is offered by God, and it is so heartwarming to see the people of this community turn to God, turn to hope, turn to the promise of good overcoming evil,” he said.

Can’t argue with that. As a churchman, I believe completely in turning to God, turning to hope and trusting the promise that good will overcome evil.

But all this gauzy talk about evil takes on the air of a discussion of gravity or some other natural law or cosmic property.

What about the agents of evil: the demons. Fact is, you can’t do much about gravity — but if you need to clean the rain gutters, you can get a ladder.

The demons that show up in the Bible have been pretty much pre-empted by the world of psychology and mental health. And our president chose that approach to label this a mental health matter rather than find evidence of demons in the shooter or his acts. But it was just another glossy way of saying: “We can’t really do anything about it.” Crazy guy. You know.

INSIGHT: U.S. gun violence kills more black people and urban dwellers.

There’s another view. Walter Wink, among others, wrote extensively about a modern demonology. The powers and principalities of the Bible come into contemporary focus as the disembodied pressures of greed or status or the will to power or fear – all the forces that make a corporation full of people who “just want to do what’s right” turn into a powerhouse fueling global warming and political corruption.

Why mass shootings are such a stereotypically American problem is partly explained in stats compiled by criminology professor Adam Lankford of the University of Alabama in a 2015 study. With 4.4 percent of the world population, Americans own 42 percent of the world’s guns. Between 1966 and 2012, American gunmen accounted for 31 percent of the mass shootings worldwide. There’s more, but it boils down to a matter of convenience. Like the governor said, there is always evil around for motivation.

But some demons have come down on the side of assault rifles:

There’s fear. Fear that “they” want to take your guns away. And then who knows what “they” will do?

There’s money. Every time a mass shooting adds to the tally of pointless death, assault rifle sales spike.

There’s self-reliance — or whatever name you choose for the macho Western man: high in the saddle and free to roam with a gun at his side. You can name a few yourself, I bet – demons great and small who are the agents of the nebulous evil we so powerlessly lament.

But the greatest demon of them all is futility. His message is simple: There’s no point even trying to find a way that hunters can have their sporting weapons and home-defenders theirs — while still ridding the landscape of the assault rifles and high-capacity magazines that have become the tools of choice for this dirtiest of work.

FOLLOW US ON TWITTER: Viewpoints delivers the latest perspectives on current events.

God dreams of something better for this world — and we are not simply bystanders in that coming about. We have the gifts of love and hope and imagination and discernment. The governor may be right that evil is always with us, but we can overcome futility.

Fritzsche lives in Austin and is interim pastor of Community Fellowship Presbyterian Church of New Braunfels.



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Opinion

Opinion: GOP moderates fold to Trumpism

WASHINGTON — “Moderate Republicans are the people who are there when you don’t need them.” It was one of former Rep. Barney Frank’s many devastating zingers, and it certainly applies to the fiasco unfolding in the House of Representatives on immigration. A headline last week on Roll Call’s website might have been...
Opinion: Trump and the invasion of the West

“It is cruel. It is immoral. And it breaks my heart,” says former first lady Laura Bush of the Trump administration policy of “zero tolerance,” under which the children of illegal migrants are being detained apart from their parents. “We need to be … a country that governs with a heart,” says first lady Melania...
America the beautiful, now America the ugly
America the beautiful, now America the ugly

  MCALLEN, TX – JUNE 12: U.S. Border Patrol agents ask a group of Central American asylum seekers to remove hair bands and weddding rings before taking them into custody on June 12, 2018 near McAllen, Texas. The immigrant families were then sent to a U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) processing center...
Letters to the editor: June 21, 2018
Letters to the editor: June 21, 2018

Re: June 16 article, “Owner’s plan for Lake Austin site: elevator tower, restaurant, marina.” The proposal by the developer is vastly inferior to the 1986 approved plan for the property that included up to 64 single family homes. The developer is wanting a change that will create a commercial and residential development that will...
Commentary: Austin ISD prefers to see us appease parents than teach
Commentary: Austin ISD prefers to see us appease parents than teach

Austin ISD has adopted an “improved” approach to working with families. In this customer-service model — called AISD Cares — educators will prioritize parent requests regardless of professional judgment. This new focus shifts attention away from student needs to submit to the public. In an age when students are at greater risk...
More Stories