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What Does Evil Look Like?
Is capital punishment justice or is it vengeance?
John Allen Muhammad has met his Maker. In the autumn of 2002, Muhammad along with Lee Boyd Malvo as an accomplice, shot and killed ten people in the Washington DC area.
Convicted as the Beltway sniper mastermind, he was executed by lethal injection on November 10, 2009 at Greensville Correctional Center in Jarratt, Virginia. He was pronounced dead at 9:11 PM EST.
The question of capital punishment now gets some time in the limelight. Debates about its morality are being waged in boardrooms, backrooms and electronic chatrooms. Is it justice? Or is it vengeance? Is it the ultimate penalty for the ultimate crime? Or is it surrender to barbaric instincts? Emotion-soaked opinions are being tossed around without concern for statistics or principle.
In the Oprahized culture of the day, the loudest expression of feelings carries the most weight. Bumper-sticker cliches and sound-bite arguments can’t be avoided. It would be easy to stir the pot here, but to what purpose?
No Horns Or Pitchforks
The nondescript appearance of John Allen Muhammad captured my attention. It began to fascinate me or perhaps it is far more accurate to say that it disturbed me.
One would expect that the person who orchestrated the cold-blooded shooting spree that terrorized Washington DC and kept the commentators hopping for weeks would look like a monster or at least a wild-eyed bogeyman. But he didn’t. He looked normal. He had all the coiled fury of Barney Fife. His eyes gave no particular indication about the turmoil in his soul. He could have been the guy next door.
There was nothing extraordinary or striking about him. No horns were straining to peek out of his hair. A pitchfork wasn’t a part of his arsenal or accessories. He was not the devil incarnate. He was an ordinary flesh and blood human being. That’s the point, isn’t it?
A Darkness Within
It would be so much more palatable if the face of evil was obvious. We might be able to make sense of cruelty and violence if the wickedness roaming the quiet countryside had the countenance of Frankenstein. When innocent people are shot down going about their daily routines, we think it’d be easier to understand if a grotesque hobgoblin was responsible.
A nefarious act requires a terrifying specter to be held accountable. We do not want to see villainy in the guy next door because in all honesty we do not want to see a reflection of ourselves. We do not want to consider or confront the darkness that lies within us.
Elvis Costello penned some words that strike close to home: “One day you're going to have to face…a deep dark truthful mirror…”
It is a deep dark truthful mirror that we ought to regard with humility. Our pride demands rational answers to the horrors of mankind’s ceaseless inhumanity, but the truth is rather simple: Evil is real and tangible.
We want to reject that idea with quick, knee-jerk fierceness. After all, we aren’t some band of stone-age hunters and gatherers in awe of strange superstitions. We are scientific and modern, so we scan the horizon searching for alternative explanations.
The reality of evil is far too complex for our politically correct sensibilities. Its evidence is everywhere, but we recoil because the concept seems so antiquated.
Not to worry; we’ve scaled the heights of the most challenging intellectual dilemmas, so it is only a matter of time before we will eradicate what the primitives once referred to as evil.
The mystery of evil has plagued us since we first succumbed to its temptation. And despite humanity’s illusions about our capacity to eliminate evil, it will remain in tact because Satan is a living being at war with God. His sole objective is to wreak havoc and destroy all that God loves.
A fisherman turned apostle named Peter warned: “Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.”
No one is exempt from evil’s sinister influence. John Allen Muhammad was not some isolated aberration. Given the right set of circumstances, we are all capable of anything. Left to our own devices there is no boundary line we will not cross.
It is a timeless certainty that God spoke through an ancient Hebrew prophet named Jeremiah: “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?” The face of evil is our faces; each one of us must deal with our own deep dark truthful mirror.
Our only peace is found in humble acknowledgement that God exists, God is good, and his eternal plan is unfolding according to his design.
Let the pundits investigate those facts for a news cycle or two. It might be a ratings vein of gold that’d result in miles of videotape to keep us informed.
- Wanted Man
Wanted Man a.k.a. Ken R. Abell, seeks to be a blessing to others. He's a rake, a rambler, and a teller of tales who understands that there is strength in a story well told and well lived. To learn more, inquire or schedule him, visit this web site.
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