The Series

To Light a Fire in Liberal America

#11 Ideas that Can Make Liberal America Stronger: What Would You Call This, if Not an “Evil Force”?

Summary: At the center of our national crisis, I have argued, is this dangerous truth: The once-respectable Republican Party has become the instrument of an “evil force.” In past entries, I have sought to show the patterns of destructiveness that reveal the existence of this force.

One of the sources of the weakness of Liberal America in meeting the challenge of these times is the rejection, by many, of the idea that there is, or can be, any such thing as an “evil force.” Here, the idea of an “evil force” is defined in naturalistic terms– as a vast but subtle dynamic at work in the human world. Whatever name one chooses to give this phenomenon, what matters is that we perceive it, understand its destructive operations, and respond appropriately to protect those valuable structures such a force works to degrade and destroy.

If there is one single thing that my “Press the Battle” series seeks to persuade readers of, it’s this: We in America, in these times, are facing a most dangerous crisis because of the emergence in our power system of a phenomenon that is best understood as an “evil force.”

The better able people are to perceive this “evil force” that we are up against, the more they will be moved to respond with the power and passion required to fight and defeat it.

Making this case involves two main components:

1) Depicting this force so that it becomes visible to people. The main arm of this force in the power system is today’s Republican Party, and so I have tried to show the systematic pattern of destructiveness that this once-respectable party has manifested.

This has been the main point, or at least a subtext, in almost every entry in the series.

2) Addressing the objections of people who believe that the human world contains no such phenomenon as an “evil force.” And doing so by showing how not only is it visible right in front of us, but also by showing how such a force has emerged and operated in the dynamics of civilized societies.

This part of the task has not yet really begun, but it will be the purpose of many of the entries yet to come.

For now, let me describe the central characteristics of the phenomenon I’m calling an “evil force.” The name by which one calls it does not much matter– though I believe “evil” is the most apt term our language offers. But what does matter greatly is that we perceive the phenomenon.


In this “Press the Battle” series, I will attempt to demonstrate the existence of a phenomenon — in America today, but also visible in civilized history generally — that has these characteristics:

  • It is a force that shows a) coherence in its operation through time, b) an energy or thrust that works to expand its domain in the world, and c) a consistency in its impact on whatever it touches.
  • That consistency of impact is the imparting a pattern of “brokenness,” meaning that it consistently degrades the life-serving structures of good order– e.g. replacing justice with injustice, integrity with duplicity, peace with strife, ecological health with ecological breakdown, etc. (See What I Mean by “Brokenness”.)
  • It not only creates brokenness, but also utilizes -exploits – brokenness where it finds it in the human system. These forms of brokenness that it exploits include the anarchy in the intersocietal system, unjust social organization, and a lack of integration (or reconciliation among) the elements of the psyche and character of human beings (individually and collectively).
  • When it manifests itself in the world through the concrete actions of human beings, it “wears a human face” expressive of those human qualities that have historically been associated with evil – qualities like cruelty, deceit, greed, selfishness, and the lust for power.

If you perceived such a phenomenon, what would you call it?

As I see it, something with those four characteristics possesses the essence of what has traditionally been called evil. *

In this Series, I am trying to show that — given that definition of evil — it is meaningful and valid to declare: “Today’s Republican Party has become an instrument of an evil force.”

But what we choose to call it matters far less than that we see the phenomenon, in all its vastness and darkness and dangerousness.

There’s a saying in baseball that you can’t hit what you can’t see. To which it could be added: You can’t see what you don’t think exists.

It is important to understand that what we are up against in America today is an “evil force.” But it is also important to understand the nature of evil. This phenomenon is not about a malevolent supernatural being. And it’s not best perceived in terms of “evil people.”

Think of Evil as a force. Those people who serve the force of evil in the world might be considered channels through which the force works. Or as “carriers” of the pattern of brokenness. So one might also think of Evil is a disease — a disorder — that we fight.

That may mean that we need to stop the carriers from spreading the brokenness, but it is not ultimately those people — those “carriers” — whom we fight, but the destructive force.

When it comes to those human beings who serve the force of evil, I’m firmly of that Christian school of thought: “Hate the sin, but love the sinner.” (Not always easy, but that’s what I believe is right.)

So this is not about the demonization of one’s opponents. It’s about the recognition of a vast, subtle, but coherent force transmitting its patterns of brokenness by the naturalistic means of cause and effect.

It is a theory of evil that at one level could be called “social scientific,” while at another level it reveals a dimension to our world that could meaningfully be called “spiritual.” And that in our times has the potential to have an impact that is political.


* There is a symmetry here between good and evil. There is also discernible in the human system something that warrants being called a “force for good” that meet essentially the same criteria but with “wholeness” substituted for “brokenness,” and the opposite sorts of human traits – kindness instead of cruelty, honesty instead of deceptiveness, etc. — being visible in its workings.

In coming postings, I will try to show how these forces have arisen, how they operate, and how they have contended through the course of human history over which set of forces will shape the human world. My hope is not that those who have not believed that our world contains any dynamic that warrants being called “the battle between good and evil” be persuaded at this point, but only that they give me the chance to show this vital but subtle reality as this series unfolds.

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