Saturday, July 2, 2011

The Apparent Prosperity of Evil

Psalm 73 speaks to the apparent prosperity of Evil.  If God is good and just, then there should be no favouritism. Yet we look about and it seems clearly that there are those who prosper yet do 'evil' things.  Rather than loving their 'neighbour', they are cruel.  They hoard while others go without.  They kill for profit and without consideration of spiritual laws.
Then there are those who are so righteous and loving and caring of others but are poor and unhealthy.  The "health and wealth' spiritual movement would have us believe that the outward manifestation of wealth and health speak to the inner well being. Health and wealth can coexist with spiritual advancement  but obviously tyrants and criminals can have apparent health and wealth without any spiritual advancement whatsoever.
If a person "believes" he too can have wealth and health, this pretty pleasant shallow promise claims without consideration of Jesus's death on the cross and the high cost paid by the early disciples for the depth of their belief.  Apparently no one gets to heaven without scars, because  come from believing in something and standing up for it. When one stands up for good, one makes themselves a target.
There are those with wealth and health who do not believe in God and do not hold God as central in their lives. Instead they're actually against God and have ungodly lives.  Some in organized crime as depicted in the media come to mind.  Some corrupt politicians and beaurocrats also come to mind.  Certainly CEO's and Boards of Directors of companies that have dumped dangerous drugs in third world countries or covered up the dangers of products for profits are at the top of the list.  Those whose sins are 'sins of commission' like Hitler are no different from those whose sins are 'sins of omission" like Eva Braun.  Cigarette producers and their families, and the lawyers and judges who work for them, come to mind.   Abortionists for hire and profit are also in the list.  They put 'money' and the God of Mammon before the God of Love.  They seem at times to have greater wealth.  Also the rich by any means can buy heart transplants, kidney transplants and medications that the poor cannot afford thereby having a standard of health that surpasses others.  Gordon Lightfoot's song Don Quixote does a good job of pointing the finger at those who that great Spanish knight would find unworthy of the company of his Dulcinea.
The psalmist is equally and more eloquently angered.  He cries, "For I envied the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked."
But then he says that he saw also that in time those who do evil get their own according to the law of 'karma' and retribution.  Almost all religions teach 'do unto others as you would have them do unto you.'  Clearly, murderers are missing the mark on this one and thieves profit only in the short run by their trade.  The idea of 'hell' and 'afterlife' has served to address this apparent 'disparity'.  But Marx said "religion was the opiate of the masses' because as a Jewish aetheist he rejected the God of Abraham and Jacob.  The communist product of his philosophy is apparent today with massive failures of those systems founded on the reactionary division of the world into beaugeosie and proletariat only to be followed by the revolutionary 'necessity' of 'dictatorship of the proletariat.'
Yet this is not the only argument that the psalmist puts forward.  Indeed, he goes on to say "How suddenly they are destroyed, completely swept away by terrors."  Faith and trust in God and seeking the Holy brings immediately benefit in this life, peace of mind.  My own experience with the powerful, rich, arrogant criminals is at variance with my experience of the powerful, rich, and humble servants of God.  One is snake like in their behaviour, eyes darting, rapacious while the other has 'peace of mind'.
The key is love and fear.  The more I love God the more I am at one with Love.  Jesus spoke of God the Father, as Abba, papa, daddy.  The more of a musician I am the more music I can appreciate. The better a marksmen the better I can appreciate shooting.  In all cultures there is an appreciation of the refinements of skills yet to what end is that skill used is the issue of morality.  Nuclear energy can be used to light the world or destroy it.  The same truth is heard in the statement,  'guns don't kill people, people kill people'.  The problem isn't in the 'tools', but rather how they are used.
Evil isn't intrinsic but a product of choices we make. I am a child of God, hence I have the capacity to make Godly choices, however if I choose wrongly and selfishly then I increase my distance from God and my eventual alienation.  There are spiritual laws of right and wrong.  Those laws go to the essence of Love God and Love your neighbour as yourself.  The 'relationships' one has with self and others and this world are either loving or fearful.  Fear is the basis of hate.  Alienation is the sense of being alone and persecuted. From that place comes the idea that "offence is the best defence".  It's the 'separation' from others, the tribalism of the soul. It is a really sad and lonely state of darkness.
Movement towards God is movement towards love and peace and laughter.  The psalmist writes "When my heart was grieved and my spirit embittered I was senseless, and ignorant. I was a brute beast before you".
The psalmist recognises that the state of Godliness is a distinctively different state than that of the devolved brute.  Darwin is entertaining in some aspects but the worship of Darwin leads to the appreciation of what the psalmist is saying, the monkey can be dressed in fine clothes, live in a fine house and eat fine food but he will just be a monkey. He will be a dressed up pig, a 'rude beast'.
The psychopath is likened to a 'lizard' having the capacity to acquire (consume),  protect (fear), reproduce (like a pac man).  The CEO's of tobacco companies are such simple programs as are those who profit from drug pushing, selling war, and slavery.
The quality of a psychopath and lizard is that they can 'chameleon'. They can 'act' like they 'appreciate art' . They can 'fit in' . They are Phillistines. They are able to be toilet trained and to actually present to their own children their husbands and wives as 'people'.  Yet in the delightful movie 'Little Big Man', these are not 'people' because they waste and are infantile in their seeking of their own desires at whatever cost to others.  They lack kindness.
The psalmist concludes "Whom have I in heaven but you, and earth has nothing I desire besides you."  The realization of God and the coming into the possibility of kindness and humanity, the reaching for the true humanity of 'loving my enemy', 'doing unto all others as I would have them do until me', having trust and faith in the rightness of God, all of this comes with greater appreciation and insight and understanding. It's likened sensually to gaining 'sight' when before I was blind.  "I was blind, but now I see," the famous hymn is sung.  All the senses of the angry, fearful, covetous, ard murderous are muted senses. Indeed the psalmist describes them as 'senseless'.  They don't have 'colours' in their black and white world and indeed like the drug addicted or alcoholic live in their own fantasies rather than reality.  They can't appreciate a sunset because they're looking over their backs at who of their friends will 'do unto them as they have done unto others'.  When you 'steal' you enter a world of thieves and what you have is no longer 'safe' even with your friends. Murderers fear murder daily.
Hell isn't then a place we go to but a place here and now we can be in.  This is the experience of psychiatrists who treat  psychopaths and sociopaths.  Psychopaths and sociopaths can lack empathy and compassion and all that is so much more.  Scott Peck has written of this "evil" in his remarkable book, People of the Lie.  Robert Hare has written about the same in his book, "Snakes in Suits".
In the end the psalmist writes, "as for me, it is good to be near God".

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