Ordinary Evil


What frightens us? For most of us it is not aliens or apocalyptic disasters.

I recently finished reading my first Stephen King novel, Lisey’s Story. King is famous for creating stories of horror, so I was braced for frightening images. What I encountered were people of ordinary evil: a deranged self-appointed hit man who took pleasure in maiming his victims, a father who both loved and terribly abused his children, and, odd to say, a mad-man with a gun on a college campus.

Each character was realistically drawn from the stuff of depraved human nature. There was nothing inconceivable about any of the evil. It is the world we live in; it is the stuff of our very own hearts.

I write this on the morning after a mad-man with a gun took the lives of 30+ on the campus of Virginia Tech University. The evil there displayed was awful and hard to fathom. But it was ordinary evil, the simple stuff of hearts in rebellion against God.

Here at HPC, we are not untouched by this tragedy. A professor of one of our families was among the victims.

I cannot begin to explain why such things happen, and why they happen to others and not to me. I know that such events do not fall outside the providence of God, but I cannot explain how they fall within that providence.

I do know that there is a cloud that hangs over human life, a cloud of ordinary evil. But this we know is a cloud that will be one day lifted. It is a cloud that we can even now see beyond. And it is a cloud whose impact and spread we can have a part in diminishing, as God blesses the testimony of his church.

In such times I cannot be driven or frightened by what I do not understand. I can only persevere in what God has called me to do in this world of evil, to so live and speak that through and beyond the evil his grace and kindness might be seen.