Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Some Philosophy

Something has been on my mind lately, concerning human nature and evil in the world.

I know - heavy, right?

Anyway, I am a big Sufjan Stevens fan. He is amazing. I know that he is a Christian but his music is thoughtful and subtle enough so that it's not in-your-face obnoxious like other musicians. Non-Christians could easily listen to it and not get a single God reference if they aren't looking for one.

One of my favorite Sufjan songs is "John Wayne Gacy Jr." I never really got what it was about but it is beautiful. While reading last week, I came across a reference to Gacy, who was apparently a serial killer. I decided to look him up and found his story on Wikipedia.

After reading the story - which was pretty troubling - I listened to the song again and all of the lyrics became crystal clear. A song I once found calming started to sound eerie. I went searching for an interview with Sufjan to find out why he wrote the song. He talked about human nature and how he believes we are all capable of such evil. In fact, the lyrics go, "And in my best behavior / I am really just like him."

While I cannot judge his brand of Christianity or hold the whole religion up to a standard of one man's personal belief, he does have some basis for this in his faith. The Bible is clear that we are all sinful and wicked, and can only be redeemed by God's grace.

I have been thinking about it and I just cannot get myself to agree. While I know that most of us make mistakes, have evil thoughts, hurt others, etc. I cannot easily lump us in with people like Gacy or Hitler. I am capable of bad things - yes, I will admit it. But I highly doubt that I am capable of raping and killing children, then burying them in my basement, then joking about it at my trial. I mean, somewhere there is a line that is crossed, no??

I know that mental illness plays a factor but there has to be a distinction between crazy and evil. You can do crazy things without really harming people. Somewhere lurking underneath the surface of these kinds of criminals is a strong desire to hurt. I think this is what horrifies us more than the mental illness itself.

Besides, dissection of Gacy's brain did not show any physical abnormalities. This means that it was not physical - it was psychological or spiritual. I can't say exactly what it was that turned this man into a monster but it was something much more intangible than brain matter.

I remember C.S. Lewis talking about how every choice, every decision we make in life pushes us either towards heaven or hell. We don't go to heaven or hell for one action or the other, but in every action we are choosing what kind of souls to become. Once our souls become engrossed in either sin or holiness, they have no choice but to go to their appropriate place after death. So did a series of seemingly small choices lead individuals like this towards becoming maniacs?

I don't have any answers. I just needed to get some of this crap out of my brain.

1 comment:

fp said...

"God, infinitely perfect and blessed in himself, in a plan of sheer goodness freely created man to make him share in his own blessed life. For this reason, at every time and in every place, God draws close to man. He calls man to seek him, to know him, to love him with all his strength. He calls together all men, scattered and divided by sin, into the unity of his family, the Church. To accomplish this, when the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son as Redeemer and Saviour. In his Son and through him, he invites men to become, in the Holy Spirit, his adopted children and thus heirs of his blessed life."

More on your topic can be found in the Catechism of the Catholic Church (an awesome document available at all bookstores and for free online)