The Camino is fast approaching, the time when we take a motley crew of students and others down the ancient trails of pilgrimage, to the sacred city of Santiago on the western tip of Spain. Along the way we stop to camp in rural villages, and gather before the evening meal to sit on scratchy grass to talk about God. Matthew has been divvying up the sessions between the Agapé staff… and I was handed the joyous topic of “the problem of evil and Christian hope.”
The problem of evil? Really?! The problem that LGBT communities are shot dead, that ISIS is moving with a vengeance, that poverty is so much further from eradication than we pretend, or that the environment is breaking under the weight of carbon emissions? Or the problem that people think they are not good enough, that families don’t speak to each other, that children are abused by people they trust, that our deepest longings remain unmet, that we are ratty and sharp-tongued despite our pledge to “love each other.” Or is that sin? Symptoms and causes. Sure what does it matter?
I think the devil has drastically overplayed his hand over the past few decades. It’s become too obvious. The classic example is the Nazis. People ask, how could Adolf Hitler, a man who had once sung in the church choir, who had been an artist, how could this man lead a nation to systematically exterminate its minorities? Or how could Mengele, the doctor in Auschwitz, an educated man, how could he take young twins and inject them with typhus, sew them together or amputate their limbs?
But the most horrific thing about the Nazis was not that men like Hitler and Mengele existed. It was that everybody was involved.
Nearly everyone’s dad was a Nazi. It was an irresistible force. It makes me wonder what irresistible forces look like today.
Perhaps the devil is not overplaying his hand. Perhaps he’s not playing a new game, but just trundling through his old notes and re-hashing the same tactics. And maybe it’s me who is simply growing more aware of the cards he is playing. As I grow more aware of the piercing love of God which gives power to men like Dietrich Bonhoeffer to stand against the irresistible force of the Nazis, or like William Wilberforce to stand against the irresistible force of normalised slave-trading, I see that the devil has a fatal chink in its armor – named Jesus Christ – through which his life blood is seeping out. They believed, like so many other who have gone before them and come since, that obeying God – loving Him with heart, mind, strength and soul – is the only way to defeat evil. Perfect love casts out fear.
My prayer is that we grasp this great truth as we face daily demons.