The Defeat of Evil and the Persistence of Evidentiary Suffering

After reading an online essay and the comments on the essay by two people disagreeing with each other about the author’s intent in a particular sentence, I tried a paraphrase of the line in question, which was from a hymn quoted in the essay as a way of interjecting an olive branch into the online conversation. The opposing opinions had to do with the efficacy of Christ’s sacrifice in the “complete and total” defeat of evil. One reader affirmed this and the other opposed it because horrible suffering is evidentiary in all of life:

In suffering, dying and in the gift to his disciples of the experience of his risen presence, Christ defeated the power of evil to extinguish faith, hope and love in the midst of the sufferings of the creation. As the root of the word patience is “the quality of suffering,” we “wait with patience (suffering in many forms) our adoption as the children of God.” This is done in faith, hope and love. We wait, we suffer, for the culmination while experiencing the “fist fruits” of God’s eternal love and because of the experience of those “first fruits” we are enabled and empowered and commissioned to enter into the suffering of others knowing that the existential power of evil ultimately to destroy love, indeed, has been defeated.

The Half Back Doc

The patient, running out
of patience, suffering from
understandable impatience,
stood at the open door
of the exam room
A half an hour late,
the physician
gave a high-five sign
in the hallway
and charged into the
room avoiding
a collision with
the door frame like
Gail Sayers dodging
three-hundred pound
linemen, then sliding
into his chair and
rolling up to the now
sitting impatient patient
to within an inch
of his face, to
which the patient
reflexively put up
his hand like a Sayer’s
stiff arm to the
secondary. And that
was the start of the
exam which ended
almost before it
began without a touchdown.
“What’s wrong?”
“You’re a half hour late
and I’m paying for this
and you just went from
lost in outer space to
ground zero in a nano
second and I’m just
trying to get some
personal space and
breathing room.”
Did he really say that
to the physician?
Yup. The rest of the
exam didn’t go any
better but the patient
did get the smidgen
of information from
the physician that
he came for in the
first place — yes,
he would live,
at least until the
next time he would
encounter the
half back doc.

Old Rockin’ Chair’s Got Me

Rollin’, rollin’, rollin’,
clickety clack, clickety clack —
One’s about movin’ cattle,
the other a song ‘bout a railroad track.

These lines
from his youth
stick in his mind.
They formed his teenage truth

— one a folk trio
the other a cowboy show.
So he got a guitar
and an old banjo.

Practiced, practiced, practiced
chords and arpeggios,
cowboy boots and hat
on the stage he would go.

Years, years and more years
have gone by.
The fingers have arthritis
and there’s dimming of the eye.

Musical instruments are gone
but from the rockin’ chair, he’s havin’ fun.
He  still sings with the Kingston Trio
and punches doggies on Rawhide reruns.

Laying Waste

The Attorney General’s white-washed summary
Resulted in presidential insanity unleashed
And heightened incoherent buffoonery.
Let’s get this malevolent narcissist impeached.
Please, please before it’s too late,
Let’s read Mueller’s report in its entirety
Before we descend into chaos and a police state
Laying waste our dear representative democracy.

A Severe Dilemma

The priest wrote, “…your beloved-
ness preceded your birth….You are
the beloved because you belong to
God from all eternity. God loved you

before you were born, and God will
love you after you die.” And the
“therefore” comes into focus, and
so the lines are drawn and here the

internecine battle is fought. “But
the womb is mine.” “But what is in
the womb is not. Cutting, therefore,
is murder.” But there are those who

do not believe any of that and make
choices based on what they believe to
be their right by law and there are
those of faith who see it in different

terms. There are those who see that
we live in a world of ethical choices,
choices which come hard and with
consequences for those who know

that in the spring, to live, to survive,
to thrive, sometimes, one must cut no
matter the pain….and who trust, that
through all the severe dilemma and all

the suffering that God waits patiently,
sufferingly so, with the affirmation that
“[y]ou are the beloved because you be-
long to God from all eternity.”

Keeping Personal Space Away from Evil

Perhaps because of her ethnicity,
the journalist wrote of a little
known, little documented horror
of the death, rape and mutilation
of thousands upon thousands
of her forbearers. Her book
became a best seller. She
researched another book of
the horrors of war and it wore
her down, down, down. The
evil of humanity crept into her
life, her existence, her being
and it brought her down so
far, so low that the only thing
to which she could look up
was a hangman’s noose.

A Tragic Irony

The man came across a
quote from a poet obsess-
ed with school buses and
has used the image many
times in his poetry, “It is
associated, at least for me,
with the first time you give
your children over to the
state.”* In that moment, the
moment the man read those
two words, words that have
taken on a cold, ominous,
faceless, dystopian, bureau-
cratic image in America
since the post war days
of the fifties and the rise
of the nation’s perceived
ultimate enemy Communism —
“the state,” — the evil state,
yes, in that moment, the man
knew, ironically, why those
who today most represent the
state are trying to destroy
universal, public education.
The new state can’t let go of
their children and give them
over to the cold, heartless
state where they will exper-
ience life outside of the
white, evangelical womb.
They can’t let go and let God….
Ironically, they have become
the new face of the Godless,
dystopian state.

*Russell Banks, quoted
in The Writer’s Almanac,
March 28, 2019

In the Midst of It All

The man loves science, the necessary
questions related to the task at hand
and the testing, over and over and over
again, to help determine the validity of
the hypothesis. The man loves the “how”
of the task — how does this or that work?
But as much as he loves the hows of
life, if life were only left to hows and
the why’s were never addressed, the
man believes the life might be like
the hamster on the wheel and then he
thought that perhaps humans need to be
like that hamster on the wheel going
nowhere to even begin to ask why. He
wonders if perhaps the dark night of
the soul is a prerequisite to any type
of personal resolution in answering the
question why. Maybe not. Maybe there
is that rare character who resolves
and finds meaning without closing in
on the despair that lurks in the folds
of the brain and between the beats of the
heart. Therein lies the rub he thinks to
himself. There is no guarantee of meaning
when the irrepressible “why” comes knock-
ing. There might only be, he knows from a
family experience, the resolve that brings
a sense of peace to the meaninglessness of
it all — the nihilistic urge — suicide. But there
are testimonies to the contrary — emerging
at what some call “the second half of life”
when status, accumulations, adoration fall
away and hope and peace come to stay. And
he affirms that it is a mystery, but not a nihil-
istic nightmare, much like Macbeth’s philosophy
of life: a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and
fury, signifying nothing… but rather, the man
affirms in faith, the glorious mystery of love
eternal in the midst of it all. And then his eyes
close after staring at the cross.