Christmas thoughts from a Jewish blogger

I’m about to wade into theology here, so feel free to beat me around the head (politely, of course), if I’ve committed some egregious doctrinal sin.  Before you do, though, please follow my argument to its conclusion, to see whether I’m on the right track.

I got to thinking about evil today. In my earlier post, I took it upon myself to define what I believe constitutes good (as opposed to evil) at a societal level:  Maximum individual freedom within a framework of stable laws.  What I want to discuss in this post is the evil of the individual, whether it’s just a handful of individuals committing acts of great evil, or evil on the vast scale of Stalin, Hitler, Mao or Kim Jung-Il (as well as their minions, who kept the leaders’ hands free of actual blood).

As I contemplate evil men, what always strikes me is that they are distinguished from “merely” bad people by the way in which they view their fellow man.  Your ordinary bad guy is motivated by greed, fear, anger, jealously, etc.  His own feelings drive him.  He’s not thinking about the relative worth of the people against whom he acts.  He’s simply thinking about his own needs.

People who commit evil on a grand scale, whether their victims are small in number or large, may fall prey to these passions, but these all too human emotions are not what drive them.  Instead, they commit their evil acts because they feel separate from and above ordinary humanity.  In their own minds, they are a superior species, a pleasant fact that entitles them to starve the kulaks, kill the Jews and gypsies, or turn their own nation into a giant prison camp.  The root cause of evil isn’t an unloving mother or a bourgeois upbringing or a racist society.  Instead, it is the evildoer’s fundamental lack of humanity.

Which gets me to the birthday the Christian world celebrates on December 25.  Christ was not like other gods.  The Greek and Roman panoply of gods was filled with beings who, while they suffered from more than their fare share of human foibles, nevertheless were always aware of their separation from mankind, and treated mankind as pawns in the godly games.  Christ, however, embraced human-kind.  His passion was the human passion.  Rather than rejecting human-kind, he took upon himself human pain and, in return, gave grace.  By giving himself over to humanity, rather than holding himself above it, Jesus was the antithesis of evil.

(To those of you who are hoping I’ve converted, I haven’t.  If there is any religion in me, my allegiance is to the Jewish God, an abstract, overarching figure that created human-kind, embraces His creation, and judges human-kind with a creator’s loving objectivity.  To my mind, both good and evil are concepts too small to describe the enormity of the Jewish God.)

So, while I am not now, and probably never will be, a Christian, I join with all of you in celebrating Christmas — a holiday that truly celebrates the good in all of us.

Merry Christmas!

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  • Earl

    Good enough for this Christian, BW!
    If you’ve read The Last Battle, you’ll know why I have no question about where you will spend eternity.
    Much love to your and yours this Christmas season.

  • Ellen

    Thank you Book, and a very happy Hanukkah to you and your family.  Jesus did embrace all of humanity, the sinners as well as the righteous.  That was part of why he and the Pharisees clashed as they did.   And if you have not read The Last Battle by C.S. Lewis – do.  It and all the Narnia books are excellent, just excellent.

  • Danny Lemieux

    Thank you, Book…and a very Happy Hanukkah to you and your loved ones.

    You may be surprised to know that we Christians also pay allegiance to the Jewish God. We just perceive Him slightly differently.

    Your thoughts on the nature of evil in humans are very adequately addressed in the Jewish Bible, to which we Christians also adhere. I suspect that what you were trying to articulate is the situation when men (and/or women) forget/ignore the First Commandment and make of themselves…gods.

    This is one reason why malignant narcissists are so dangerous.


    Thank you, Ms. Bookworm, for your posts. May you and yours have a wonderful Christmas and Hanukkah.
    I think that Danny Lemieux is on to something. I think that the evils you wrote about are not so much different in kind as they are in degree. In each of these, one thinks that one’s own desires are more important than someone else’s. In may be over something small — “I should have that watch and the store won’t miss it” — or it may be grand — “I should be praised and other people don’t matter.”
    Yet you are on to something as well. One’s self-centeredness can be come so great that there is only Number One, no one else. Yet it’s the same root problem.

    Lord Acton was not quite correct. Power doesn’t corrupt: power allows one’s own internal corruption to have greater effect. And absolute power makes that absolutely clear.

  • Ymarsakar

    The Chinese consider education to be something that can be taken too far, causing a disruption in the social harmony. Considering the Left, I’m pretty much convinced already.


  • cuneiandro

    Merry Christmas to you, Bookworm.  Good post.
    Coming from parents that were either nominal (social…?) Christians or Unitarians (high-brow blue-bloods), my conversion to historical Christianity (I hold to a high view of the historicity and reliability of scripture) was something received by my parents with puzzled looks and maybe a little concern (he’s gone off the deep end, or sentiments like this).
    C.S. Lewis is a most capable apologist for Christianity, especially for the educated and/or skeptical crowd.
    Another is Tim Keller of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Manhattan (many of his sermons are easily accessed from the internet).
    I suspect both would find substantial agreement with your assessment of Christ with a, “yes, almost…”.
    The 4 Gospels and the New Testament are filled-to-the-brim and shot through with the nature and being of Christ (that he is the second person in the Godhead of Father, Son and Holy Spirit) who has/is/will exist for all eternity, and that the primary purpose of his coming to earth was to redeem mankind by suffering and dying for them/their sins.
    It is wildly popular for many to say they respect and like many of the moral teachings of Christ but they can’t come to the place of embracing that he is the one and only way, truth and life, and no man can come to the father but through him, rejecting this as being narrow-minded or the like.
    But it is intellectually and logically impossible to square the circle of this line of thought/reasoning.  That is, it is impossible to conduct an honest assessment of Christ and come to the conclusion that he was a simply a great moral teacher.  That is the one conclusion that simply cannot be held and remain logically consistent.
    Or to boil it down as some have, one’s 4 choices regarding Christ are “Liar, Lunatic, Legend or Lord”.
    Hopefully I haven’t become, as George Will recently said of Robert Reich, a “pyromaniac in a field of strawmen.”
    As Tim Keller would say:  if your premise leads to an unworkable/illogical conclusion, why the heck won’t you examine your premise?


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