The Gospel according to John Wayne
It seems as if the American idea is that the response to evil is “kill it.” We seem to think if we could kill evil, then paradise would be free of the serpent. This I think is why we still have the death penalty in the US. It certainly is the Hollywood version of what to do with evil – kill it, blow it up, shoot it, beat it to a bloody pulp.
A friend told me this is why American kids grow up so in love with violence: violence is presented as the only way to defeat evil. But then comes the other element of American pluralism and relativism which says: but what is evil? And so we train our children to violently oppose evil but then can’t quite define what evil is since everything is acceptable and there are no clear definitions of what evil is. So the violence in America is often senseless. When nothing is recognized as evil, neither can anything be recognized as good; so more confusion sets in.
Characters played by John Wayne at least had a sense of right and wrong. Certainly those of us who grew up in the Cold War were taught there are good guys and bad guys. But today, we can’t tell who is good and who is evil.
In The People of the Lie , Scott Peck challenges the psychiatric/psychological community into recognizing that perhaps there exists a personality which is evil – he labels it the “Evil Personality Disorder.” He says his life as a psychiatrist has led him to believe that there really are those individuals who live by a different set of morality and values then most of us, and that by our standards they are evil – they are willing to lie, cheat, steal, kill, maim, hurt and destroy life. Peck thinks they should be recognized as such and then society needs to come up with a way to deal with them.
Ultimately he believes that the way to deal with them is not to kill them but to love them, though he admits that they may never recognize that love, and may in fact hate and rebel against it. But he seems to think if we surround them with love, that is the only true way to deal with their evil and distorted thinking.
Killing “evil” is quick and often easy. We do it in countless ways – we dump thousands of pounds of pesticides on our gardens, farms and homes to rid ourselves of all types of unwanted and destructive pests – insects, animals, weeds, blights, fungi and diseases. We seem to carry that thinking into many aspects of our fight to survive on earth. We believe that is the way we won World War II, and it was our ultimate weapon against communism.
“You cannot kill an idea,” Leo Tolstoy wrote, yet we try to uproot all evil in the world by killing it. Evil doesn’t die so easily. The Cross is God’s weapon against evil. Not by arming and equipping His saints do we destroy death, but God does it by death itself. Was it Emperor Theodosius who boasted that his armies could eventually defeat Satan? That idea is alive and well in America today where we believe a bigger, stronger, better equipped army and police force will eventually take care of all the evil in the world.
See also my Can Evil be Killed? And Capital Punishment