A Discussion on Evil
(Posted October 26, 2023)
“Evil begins when you begin to treat people as things.”― Terry Pratchett, I Shall Wear Midnight
These days it seems, just as you think you have enabled yourself to handle all the negative news of the day, something else comes along to say, “wait…. there’s more.”
This Sunday I was planning – and still plan – to share with the congregation the fascinating stories about the symbols and traditions of Halloween, and also to share our own story about Salem, the witch trials and how our Puritan ancestors came to know how evil can infiltrate and use religion to destroy people.
But then Wednesday night the news of Lewiston, Maine’s tragic encounter with a serious mentally ill and seriously armed man started to blot out TV broadcasts. Since he hadn’t been apprehended, the “social media geniuses” started sharing their simplistic solution: “Hey…. all they need is a good guy with a gun to take him out. It works every time,” they posted.
Of course, they overlooked one important point. This man hears voices telling him what to do. The voices told him earlier in the summer to shoot up the army based where he is a sergeant. He did, and he received some short term inpatient mental health treatment. But I can just about guarantee you that, right now, those voices are telling the shooter that HE is the good guy with a gun.
The Need: A Better Approach to Mental Illness
Yes, I’m sure we can agree that America has a problem with guns. But more than that, America has a problem feeling more than a skim coat of compassion toward people with mental illness so that we commit enough resources for their care, so that we don’t just offer them perfunctory inpatient care and then release them. Instead, we should give the professionals and inpatient recovery facilities the ability to keep and treat ill patients for as long as they need to be there, until their health and the community’s safety can be assured.
When the Devil Came to New England
If we give Evil the name of the Devil, then we can say that the Devil sure likes to vacation in New England.
In the years leading up to 1692 in Salem Massachusetts, (just about the time that our Puritan forebears were getting organized here in Danbury) the Devil in Salem was tuning up his plan to use religion and political power to assure the slaughter of innocent people for acts they never committed.
Now, in 2023, insane evil has resulted in the same kind of mass mayhem. Again. And again. And again.
Did we NOT have enough of this with Sandy Hook? I know that our United Church of Christ advocates for mental health and for sensible gun legislation. It’s time that we all individually do our part to let our representatives in Congress know where we stand on both of these issues.
Come on Sunday, not just for the fun part about Halloween, but for the discussion we can have on evil.