Our "Evil" and Theirs

Rick Warren, who presides over a “mega” church in California, hosted a forum for the candidates on issues of faith. Much has been made about who got the bounce from the event. But the real issue is Warren’s emphatic pronouncement that although there is a clear division between religion and the State, there needs to be integration between faith and public life. No one seems to have paid attention to that statement as everyone takes for granted what he said. This is insidious and does little to alleviate the fear that most in the world have about the outlook and policies of the United States. One of the most instructive instances in this exchange was the question on “evil.” Obama’s answer was that he would “confront” evil, while McCain was ready to “defeat it.” In Obama’s mind, there is evil in actions that are damaging, from the genocide in Darfur to abuse of children at home. For McCain, it meant mostly terrorism, or the ilk of Osama bin Laden. Commentators had a great time deconstructing the statement. No one was clear on what really evil was, except that it contained actions that were harmful. After eight years of belligerent rhetoric of “rooting out evil,” there is still a major lack of rational thought in U.S. politics. We are still thinking that there are people who are willing to kill us because evil has possessed them. There is no connection between policies and its effects. Unimaginable as Darfur was, it was still a product of ages of negligence and systematic prioritization of international politics in favor of self-interests and preferred countries. It was evil as much as the neglect of that situation by the rest of the world. For a “citizen of a world,” it should be easier to note that there are other cultures and indeed, different “faiths” that have a different conception of evil and that it is not tied to politics. There are contexts and religions where the idea of “evil” does not matter; it is one of the embodiments in the play of nature (e. g. Hinduism). “Evil” does not figure into political strategies of many around the world. And yet, they too want a better world, without mentioning faith, politics or evil. August 22, 2008 

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