The Inconvenient Enemy

When evil is ubiquitous, when we confess with St. Paul, “as it is written: None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.’” Something strange happens. While it may seem a bleak outlook, we actually find ourselves in a situation of unique privilege. When it’s all evil, when it’s all broken and failing, we are given the freedom to choose what enemy we want to focus on, what enemy we want to be outraged by, what enemy we want to highlight. In so doing we develop a convenient outrage that is not driven by necessity but by how it can best serve us.

Take as an example the current Olympic Games in Beijing China. In 2020 the international organization Human Rights Watch wrote about “Chinas Global Threat to Humans Rights.” Stating that the Chinese Communist Party views human rights as an existential threat to it grasp for power. Our own state department says, “People in China cannot practice the religion or belief of their choice. They cannot express their opinions openly or form or join groups of their choosing without fear of harassment, arrest, or retribution. Members of minority groups are subject to mass arbitrary detention, Orwellian-style surveillance, political indoctrination, torture, forced abortions and sterilization, and state-sponsored forced labor.”

China’s evil treatment of its own citizens is well documented and persists without abatement. To join their ambitions by giving them influence, promoting their propaganda, or fueling their economy would be to participate in their evil, to lend a helping hand to an abusive regime. But, well let’s be honest, we all love to watch the drama of high-level competition. We need to catch up on the latest in figure skating or snowboarding or curling. We like the convenience of watching the latest clips on our iPhones. So, we choose a different evil to focus on. On that suits our current situation in life, one that doesn’t interfere with our entertainment.  

We choose the enemy that we want, on that we can tackle in our spare time, one that offers us the ability to look virtuous without really inconveniencing us too much. Or perhaps we focus on an evil we have a shot of overcoming, after all it is difficult to be a hero when evil is universal. This is what we’ve always done, I suppose. Christianity is not exempt from this; every cause is a good cause. Whether it is sexual purity or avoiding alcohol and drugs, defending the unborn or caring for the elderly, protecting the abused or feeding the hungry. We find a nice convenient enemy and get to work. And thank God that there are those who stive to ease the suffering of others. No doubt this world would be much worse without them.

And yet, the problem is much worse than an “out there” distant enemy that we take on. We can boycott the Olympics or march in protests and yet as we press down on the evil it seems the more is uncovered, more squeezes out around the edges. For the reality is that the evil that we see in our world lurks within us as well. It turns out that a totalitarian regime of domination finds a home in our own souls. And there is no escaping the enemy within, not by our own effort or strength, not by our own resolve to be better.

Again, we are led by St. Paul who says, “I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” (Rom. 7:21-24) Who indeed! We would need a hero of unmatched power and love, a hero willing to do what no one else would or could accomplish. 

And there is only one who can do such a thing. Only one who can deliver us from the ubiquity of evil. And he has done it. “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!”