Victor David Hanson’s National Review piece from early last week says something that pretty much everybody knows, but is often not said as bluntly as VDH puts it – Obama just flat out does not know how the world works. Hanson’s thesis:
The common bond among the various elements of the failed Obama foreign policy — from reset with Putin to concessions to the Iranians — is a misreading of human nature. [emphasis added]
What about human nature is it that Hanson thinks Obama misreads?
…the autocratic accentuation of the human tendency to interpret concession and empathy not as magnanimity to be reciprocated, but rather as weakness to be exploited or as a confession of culpability worthy of contempt.
Hanson draw a distinction between the “Enlightened mind” which believes that concession and empathy will bring better behavior and the “medieval mind” which understands that somethings simply have to be met with force. Hanson notes that the tendency to exploit civility as weakness is resident in all of us to one extent or the other. VDH has a heck of a point here, and provides copious historical evidence.
But I see this phenomena in different terms – theological terms.
In theological terms what Hanson is talking about here is what Catholics would call “original sin” and Calvinists would call “Total Depravity.” The Apostle Paul put it this way:
…for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,…
If we are left unchecked, we are all going to do bad things. It is just that simple. Those bad things come in many forms. VDH cites many of the bad actors in history and bad acts on the world and diplomatic stage. In a different area the latest video on Planned Parenthood and its practices regarding “abortion product” cannot be described as anything short of evil. The tone of the Planned Parenthood speakers in this video make it plain that the deeper we sink into our tendency to evil the more hardened we come to the evil we do, and therefore the more capable we become of doing greater evil.
That is how the world works – we are in a constant battle against evil. The best of us battle the evil in ourselves and work desperately not to inflict it on the world, while at the same time protecting ourselves from the evil in others. Some fail to see the evil in themselves but do see it in others. Sadly such people are capable of great evil in trying to deal with what they see as the evil in others. Some fail to see the evil in themselves or in others and therefore leave themselves open for great pain and destruction at the hands of the evil in others.
Of course, those that do battle the evil in themselves try to protect themselves from the evil in others first by trying to get the other to see their own evil and battle it in themselves. But that does not always work and it is at that point that more strident measures are called for – all we can do is our best not to do evil while being strident.
It would be easy to declare this divide between those that see the evil in themselves and those that do not as a secular versus religious divide. But alas it is not. I know far too many religious expressions that see the evil in the other, but fail to see the evil in themselves. I have seen much evil done in the name of God under these circumstances.
Obama’s failure to see the evil in the other, for such is what leads to the assumption that if you treat them well, they will respond with kindness, starts with his failure to see the evil in himself. And as a nation, our willingness to go along with the seeming madness of this administration represents our own failure to see the evil ourselves.
The only way to stop evil, whether it is the evil of an atomic Iran, the evil of a corpse creating and selling Planned Parenthood, or the evil of the driver that cut you off and nearly killed you on the freeway, is to begin with seeing the evil in ourselves. This is the fundamental starting point of the Christian worldview.
Whether it be the Sacrament of the Confessional in the Catholic Church, the corporate confessional prayer of traditional Protestantism or the accountability of a small group in Evangelicalism – hold fast to that which enables you to see the evil in yourself. Such is the only thing that can actually end evil in the world.