The Banality of Evil

When I was doing graduate work in philosophy, I was fortunate to take some courses with Hannah Arendt. Prof. Arendt became known for, among other things, her phrase, “the banality of evil.” She was referring to the phenomenon during the Holocaust where terrible events like the death camps and tyranny were so common that evil became banal–ordinary.

It’s hard not to think similar thoughts these days, following many mass shootings and terrorist acts at home and abroad.

Our Men’s Group last night looked at the presence of evil and how its existence might be reconciled with the Christian belief in a loving and omnipotent God. The key component of any defense of the Christian position is the necessity of human freedom in order to fulfill the purposes of God. We can’t grow in love and service to others unless we have the option of being unloving. And a world in which accidents never occurred would similarly preclude human freedom. Justice further requires life after death so that wrongs in this life can be made right.

Nevertheless, we agreed that many mysteries surrounding the phenomenon of evil remain. In the words of the Psalmist: “Out of the depths we cry out unto thee. O Lord, hear our prayer.” —J. Douglas Ousley

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