Thursday, August 12, 2010

Finding Evil Where None Exists

One very distinct trait of fundamentalists is the penchant for reading evil into a situation where no evil is really present. It's, in my estimation, a side effect of the tendency among fundamentalists to dwell on the old, sin nature, rather than embrace the nature of Christ - the tendency to live life as if the veil is still in place. So much emphasis on ceremony, on superficiality, and on appearance, while failing to see the enormously wide birth given to evil to spring up in those things themselves. In fundamentalist movements like patriarchy, quiverfull, et cetera, the ideas of the movement, which are usually based on next to nothing of scriptural substance, are paramount, so any collateral damage suffered in it's defense, including the labeling of good things as evil, is a price they're willing to pay. Anything which gives it a leg up in the cultural war, such as labeling that which is good as evil, is worth it.

The first thing the adversary ever did to thwart man's relationship with God was to call that which was truly evil good. A lie - which man believed. The fruit of this lie, and man's belief of it, is that man shifts the paradigm and begins to call that which is truly good evil - another lie, which man promotes. It's the foundation of legalism, making everybody a miserable meddler just like Jesus intended, right? Having as miserable a time as possible in Jesus name, right?

Far too many measure their Christianity by the exclusion of things with superficial, arbitrary attachments to what certain segments consider to be "evil", but not by the inclusion of Christ. The reality is, you can live a squeaky clean life, devoid of even "the appearance of evil", follow the rules and laws and formulas to the letter, but if you don't have a relationship with Christ...Ouch.

In the last couple of years, I've heard a lot about the appearance of evil. Usually, it's been applied to completely innocent things. That's disheartening. It's also something I don't accept. I'm not interested in the manipulative guilt someone else would cast upon me, particularly when I've nothing to feel guilty about. In my relationship with my ex, I heard "the appearance of evil" applied to us being alone together, to ANY display of affection, to us being out from under her father's "protection", among many other things. All madness. The happiest times of my natural life were the moments where she and I were alone together, enjoying each other, embracing, kissing, being sweet and stupid and goofy like people in love are prone to do; complete innocence, completely beautiful, completely wholesome, completely something only God could author - and someone would tell me it was evil or appeared evil? No thanks. I'll pass on the guilt. 

I always refer to "The Appearance of Evil" as the juke-joint next to the Wal-Mart between Samaria and Jerusalem that Christ used to drop into and hang out with hookers and tax collectors and all sorts of scoundrels. He may have even knocked back a cold one or two with them *gasp!* *blasphemy!* It's almost as if He actually preferred these people as His closest friends. Why wouldn't He? They accepted Him. The fundamentalists of His day didn't. They were too busy with their takanots, correcting the Law where God had screwed up and such. They were fighting a culture war, looking for a political and militant Messiah who would come and prove them right and holy in their cultural war. Christ didn't care about any of that. He cared about the souls of men. He cared about those whom distorted religious practices had wounded...those who sought refuge at "The Appearance of Evil."

These truly evil men even sought to find "the appearance of evil" in Him...

John 9
13 They brought him who formerly was blind to the Pharisees. 14 Now it was a Sabbath when Jesus made the clay and opened his eyes. 15 Then the Pharisees also asked him again how he had received his sight. He said to them, “He put clay on my eyes, and I washed, and I see.” 16 Therefore some of the Pharisees said, “This Man is not from God, because He does not keep the Sabbath.”
Others said, “How can a man who is a sinner do such signs?” And there was a division among them. 
17 They said to the blind man again, “What do you say about Him because He opened your eyes?”
He said, “He is a prophet.” 
18 But the Jews did not believe concerning him, that he had been blind and received his sight, until they called the parents of him who had received his sight. 19 And they asked them, saying, “Is this your son, who you say was born blind? How then does he now see?” 20 His parents answered them and said, “We know that this is our son, and that he was born blind; 21 but by what means he now sees we do not know, or who opened his eyes we do not know. He is of age; ask him. He will speak for himself.” 22 His parents said these things because they feared the Jews, for the Jews had agreed already that if anyone confessed that He was Christ, he would be put out of the synagogue. 23Therefore his parents said, “He is of age; ask him.” 24 So they again called the man who was blind, and said to him, “Give God the glory! We know that this Man is a sinner.” 25 He answered and said, “Whether He is a sinner or not I do not know. One thing I know: that though I was blind, now I see.” 26 Then they said to him again, “What did He do to you? How did He open your eyes?” 27 He answered them, “I told you already, and you did not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you also want to become His disciples?” 28 Then they reviled him and said, “You are His disciple, but we are Moses’ disciples. 29 We know that God spoke to Moses; as for this fellow, we do not know where He is from.” 30 The man answered and said to them, “Why, this is a marvelous thing, that you do not know where He is from; yet He has opened my eyes! 31 Now we know that God does not hear sinners; but if anyone is a worshiper of God and does His will, He hears him. 32 Since the world began it has been unheard of that anyone opened the eyes of one who was born blind. 33 If this Man were not from God, He could do nothing.” 34 They answered and said to him, “You were completely born in sins, and are you teaching us?” And they cast him out.

And He was and is the absolute standard of purity, in heart and life.

Satan lies to man, convinces him that evil is good, and man perverts the message even more by turning it completely around to call that which is good evil...and in doing so, carries out the greatest evil ever perpetrated on the body of Christ, placing shackles of iron and fear on the hearts and minds of men.

Whereas Christ offers a simple truth - if we abide in Him, His truth will make us free. Define your Christianity by His inclusion. Any "evil" that was or is a part of your life was nailed to the cross 2000 years ago. Leave it there, and trust the Holy Spirit to lead you into all truth. If not, men will try to corral you into a legalistic bubble by resurrecting those evils, giving them CPR, with each breath and compression building their own base of power and influence over you, and in the process suck the joy and spirit right out of your life.

"This man is not from God...We know that he is a for this fellow, we don't know where he is from."

I can't help but wonder how many fundamentalists are saying these words with their lives, regardless of what their mouths are saying.


  1. I really like this post, but I'll bring up one point: Often times, fundamentalists (used in the same context as above) are actually quite willing to "hang out with hookers and tax collectors and all sorts of scoundrels." I'm not sure if Matt. 23:15-16 is directly applicable. However, there is in some sense tolerance for convertible non-Christians that isn't there for Christians holding different views. Perfection is demanded only of other Christians. And when those other Christians fall short of that man-made standard of perfection, they are accused of evil.

  2. Jenny, that is so true! Back when my family was immersed in the patriarchal life style, I found that non-Christians were so much more pleasant to be around that the fundies. Of course, when I mentioned that one time, I was told it was because when I was around the Christians, it wasn't pleasant because God was convicting me. ugh.

    Even now, in main stream Christian circles, I still find that it's often more pleasant to be around non-Christians.

  3. Lewis,

    There's a saying I came up with that is helpful to me on the appearance of evil issue. It is this: "evil has to actually appear for there to be an appearance of evil." For all the times I heard 1 Thess 5:22 (KJV) quoted, "abstain from all appearance of evil" I never once heard "do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment." John 7:24.

    The extent that some people will go to press upon others' consciences every minute detail... wait... there is no extent. Trying to live every second wondering whether anything and everything could possibly give somebody else a reason to doubt your true spirituality is spirit killing.

  4. Jenny...True. It's like the old joke in Baptist circles...

    "If you go fishing with Baptists, make sure you take two. If you take just one, he'll drink all your beer."

    Erika..."Even now, in main stream Christian circles, I still find that it's often more pleasant to be around non-Christians."

    True. In my line of work, I'm sorry to say that the secular artists I've worked with are much better and easier to work with than the gospel artists. That's not the case across the entire board by any means, but more often than not it applies.

    Steve..."There's a saying I came up with that is helpful to me on the appearance of evil issue. It is this: "evil has to actually appear for there to be an appearance of evil.""

    I like that one. Might borrow it if you don't mind.

  5. Good thoughts.

    One extra thing to throw into the mix.

    Sometimes people project the evil in their own hearts onto someone else.
    For example, a man who is engaged in an affair, often accuses his wife of having one.

    Wish I could remember who told this story and give them credit. But I heard of one girl who was in choir. For the sake of taking a picture or microphones or something, the student were required to stand very close together, and the choir director may even have positioned them closer together to get the effect she wanted. But this choir director then accused the girl who told the story of rubbing her chest up against the back of the boys in the choir.
    This girl was embarrassed and shamed for something she never thought of.
    It was the evil within the choir director's heart the saw evil where there was none.
    Fortunately for this girl, her parents didn't believe the accusations and allowed her to quit choir.

    A projection that patriarchy puts on scripture is where when God is telling Eve that her desire will be for her husband, these men claim that means it's a desire to rule her husband. This is read into the text by men who, in their heart, want to rule. The text does not imply that the desire that the woman has is to rule. It's men projecting the sins in their own hearts onto women.

  6. I was going to say something much like Mara said, but she said it so much better. :) This was a great post, and a wonderful point. I can't even tell you how many times I've heard that said - even in more "mainstream" christian churches.

    When I was in Bible college is was a really, really big deal. We weren't allowed to do anything but hold hands with significant others on campus (among a host of other legalistic rules) and instead of just admitting that these rules were for appearance's sake (whether there was evil or not) and based on legalism and just for a season, they tried to say that they were to protect students from engaging in "even the appearance of evil." I understand needing rules in school settings or whatever, but the problem with using that verse then is they infer/imply that anything past what they allow is evil or at the very least the beginning of a slippery slope.

  7. As a followup, combining what I said about evil appearing and a twist on Mara's "Sometimes people project the evil in their own hearts onto someone else," another thing comes to mind. If the "appearance" of evil (i.e. fornication) is seen by somebody seeing that you are alone with somebody of the opposite sex, and no fornication is actually taking place, then the only appearance of evil is in the heart of the one who suspects foul play. They are creating the fornication in their own imagination.

    What does this way of judging others say about our belief that the Spirit is working in others who claim to be Christians? If love "believes all things" (1 Cor 13:7), as in Christians are sanctified, etc., then why is there such a rush among the legalists to suspect the most horrible things in people simply based on the way they see things?

  8. Great point Steve! Although from experience, most people would say that they are just concerned for the other person's witness and looking at it like the "world" would. :-/

    Great post. Love the inclusion of the passage about the man born's in my book too. And something I always found intriguing was that once the man received sight, he was cast out.

    Sometimes that's what happens when you're touched by Jesus.

  9. Rachel, in my Bible College we had to be at least six inches apart from the opposite sex.

    Lewis, this post reminds me of the most silly thing that happened to us.

    My hubby buys Stewart's root beer on special occassions. There was an extrememly legalistic couple that came to visit us.

    DH asked the man if he would like a root beer. The guy said "sure"

    DH grabbed an ice cold brown bottled and the guy stopped him and asked for a glass to pour it, because he stated, "I avoid the appearance of all evil"


  10. Hillary wrote: "Although from experience, most people would say that they are just concerned for the other person's witness and looking at it like the 'world' would."

    It's funny, but I never looked at the majority of things this way before I became a Christian.

    Also, it should be pointed out that avoiding doing something because it may look a certain way to others isn't wrong. We all do it all the time. It's just when some people take a consistent view that when certain things (an almost infinite list for some) ARE done, it necessarily gives an appearance of evil.

  11. I can relate to Rachel and Denimjumpers about the college comments! I graduated from a christian college and we weren't allowed to go on single dates. By that, I mean you had to have a chaperone to go on a date off campus! Juniors and Seniors could double date. You could not hold hands on campus as people in the community could ride through and they might see couples holding hands and that would be a bad testimony! They had a dating parlor there on campus and it was a huge room with a bunch of sofas and you could sit there and talk but you could not sit very close or put your arms around each other. You had to sit about a Bible's length apart. Heaven forbid if someone in the community rode by and looked in that huge glass window and saw college students are cozy there sitting on a sofa and just talking. I could go on and on about the extremes the college went to in order to abstain from the appearance of evil.

    Good post Lewis.

    Linda Reynolds

  12. Denim and Linda -

    Not sure whether to laugh that so many Bible Colleges are the same or cry because they are the same! Right now we still live on the campus (going to the same seminary) and it's under an even more legalistic Dean than the one who was here when we went.

    The seminary is rather legalistic as well. The Dean there asked a chef who is attending NOT to keep a bottle of cooking wine in the house. To avoid all appearance of evil. :P Because dishes with the alcohol cooked out are evil.

    Hey, you never know, you might be tempted to run into your kitchen one night and down the whole bottle of cooking wine!

    And Denim - totally funny story about the root beer. OH my word, I know people just like that. :)

  13. Ohhh yes. The appearance of evil. LOL. I used to hear that one ALLLLL the time. We were in churches that said Christians shouldn't go to the theater because what if someone saw you walking into the theater, how would they know you weren't going to see a rated R movie?? It would be an appearance of evil!! :-P :-P