The Evil in our midst

I first wrote this article within days of the horrors of the Christchurch massacre when they were foremost in our minds. But I reflected that emotions and opinions were too raw so I held off to just now.

Since the Christchurch Massacre much has been said and written trying to make sense of how this horrific act of mass murder could have come about. There was much blame for one group or another but what became clear is that the murderer came from a very average Australian family. So the question continues to be asked  … how did this young boy grow up to be this monster?

Some have trod the low path and dragged “identity politics” into the mix, whether it is from a left leaning or right leaning perspective and I won’t give their arguments any further traction by repeating them here. But politics does not adequately explain the why and how.

In a post-Christian, post-modern society, objective truth and objective right and wrong values have been mostly thrust aside. And with it is the concept of “moral evil”.

When we try and digest Christchurch, we also need to digest the 15 women who have been murdered by their partner or former partner just this year in Australia (as at April 2019). Many try and explain this as a failure in upbringing, a failure in culture but when we consider the “why” that causes someone to commit murder (and murder someone they once claimed to love), the notion of “evil” needs to be also considered.

Jesus talked about this 2000+ years ago, when he said,

“For out of the heart come evil thoughts—murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander.”
‭‭Matthew‬ ‭15:19‬ ‭NIV‬‬

The evil of the Christchurch murderer is not just the influences of the world, it is something that comes from within. As a former Policeman, I saw this all too much, with unexplainable acts of evil in murders, rapes, savage beatings.

If we accept that evil comes from within, what is the answer to that evil?

From a Christian perspective, we understand this all too well as each of us have had “fallen short” of God’s standards for life and come to the place where we have “confessed our sins”, asked God for forgiveness and “surrender our lives to Christ”.

There is a well known scripture that speaks about this:

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”
‭‭John‬ ‭3:16‬ ‭NIV‬‬

Paul called himself the “worst of sinners” having stood by when the Apostle Stephen was stoned to death. (‭‭1 Timothy‬ ‭1:15‬ )

And like Paul, the words of the Psalmists talks about that salvation.

“Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.”
‭‭Psalm‬ ‭51:10‬ ‭NIV‬‬

And with that heart cry, we see the answer from the prophet Ezekiel.

“I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.”
‭‭Ezekiel‬ ‭36:26‬ ‭NIV‬‬

So in the face of the “evil in the heart”, the hope of the  Christian life points us back to Jesus Christ and his example.

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.”
‭‭Galatians‬ ‭5:22-24‬ ‭NIV‬‬

So for the evil in the heart, there is hope.

A look at the ideals of the Christian life

The Christian walk is based on love.

“Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”
‭‭Ephesians‬ ‭4:32‬ ‭NIV‬‬

““Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.””
‭‭Matthew‬ ‭22:36-40‬ ‭NIV‬‬

This love includes our enemies

““You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,”
‭‭Matthew‬ ‭5:43-44‬ ‭NIV‬‬

The Christian walk is based on forgiveness

“Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”
‭‭Ephesians‬ ‭4:32‬ ‭NIV‬‬

“Even if they sin against you seven times in a day and seven times come back to you saying ‘I repent,’ you must forgive them.””
‭‭Luke‬ ‭17:4‬ ‭NIV‬‬

Being a Christian doesn’t make us perfect and our old lives and old ways of thinking want to drag us back into the “sin” place. This is compounded by the internet world we are constantly bombarded with messages that want to drag us back into that place of temptation and evil. Pornography abounds. Violence abounds. Selfishness abounds. Online bullying, trolls and vindictive attacks are common place. The tribalism of left and right wants to puts us at war with each other and it is oh so easy to do.

Though written thousands of years before the internet was ever thought of, the ancient wisdom from scripture speaks into our current life experience and problems. Consider these warnings,

“Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.”
‭‭Romans‬ ‭12:9‬ ‭NIV‬‬

“Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.”
‭‭Proverbs‬ ‭4:23‬ ‭NIV‬‬

“reject every kind of evil.”
‭‭1 Thessalonians‬ ‭5:22‬ ‭NIV‬‬

“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”
‭‭Philippians‬ ‭4:8‬ ‭NIV‬‬

But there are those who reject the path of confession, cleansing and surrender to Christ. Those who choose instead the “evil”.

The Psalmist describes this human condition well

“In his arrogance the wicked man hunts down the weak, who are caught in the schemes he devises. He boasts about the cravings of his heart; he blesses the greedy and reviles the Lord. In his pride the wicked man does not seek him; in all his thoughts there is no room for God.”
‭‭Psalm‬ ‭10:2-4‬ ‭NIV‬‬

“They close up their callous hearts, and their mouths speak with arrogance.”
‭‭Psalm‬ ‭17:10‬ ‭NIV‬‬

So as we consider the “evil in our midst” know this:

“I the Lord search the heart and examine the mind, to reward each person according to their conduct, according to what their deeds deserve.””
‭‭Jeremiah‬ ‭17:9-10‬ ‭NIV‬‬

There is a God who is just and for those who walk the path of evil, a day of account will come … in this world … and in the next.

 

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E = Encouragement

As part of the Acronym for R.E.S.P.E.C.T let’s go to E = Encouragement

There are plenty of knockers in the world. One of the things that Aussies are noted for (and not in a good way) is we are the best at “cutting down the tall poppies”, pulling down anyone who dares to step out of the masses and declare their independence and differences.

In the family violence services and prevention space this appears in two forms. You must comply with the current orthodoxy on how to prevent family violence or you are virulently opposed to the “man haters” and attack! We see both at work on social media (and in mainstream media) and none of it is particularly edifying.

Which is why I am writing “The Real Men Challenge” which is taking a “strength based approach” to the problem of family violence. I don’t have any problem calling I out bad behaviour when I see it or challenge faulty logic or thinking. Correcting someone or offering a counter argument is a long way from the personal abuse and “labelling” that seems to be the primary weapon on social media.

Which is why “Encouragement” should be a central part of RESPECT.

When we deal with victims/survivors of family violence we want to encourage (and another E word, empower) them to make positive decisions to get out of their controlling relationship or to seek help. And stand with them and encourage them on the journey. Words like “you can do this” and “we support you” are so important (especially when they have been robbed of their self worth and confidence).

We also need to encourage friends and family to rally around the victim/survivor as they work it all out and support them.

We need to encourage the community to not give into “family violence fatigue” but instead maintain the determination to keep doing something about it. Hold White Ribbon Fund Raisers, education sessions, use music or art to get the message across.

We also want to encourage everyone to “Stand Up, Speak Out and Act” to prevent family violence.

And finally we want to encourage men.

Encourage men to use their God given positive qualities of courage, strength, justice, determination to call out bad behaviour when they see it. To call out their mates when they are just plain wrong. And for those men who recognise they need to change, to admit they need help and then get the help. We can create a better world by not pulling these men down but lifting them up to attain the higher qualities of manhood.

And, encourage men to be the positive role models to their children, to their families, in their workplaces, in the community.

Men, be a leader of good. People are watching and take notice.

 

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R = Red Flags

As part of the Acronym for R.E.S.P.E.C.T let’s start at R = Red Flags

At the core of family violence is power and control. There may not be violence present and the perpetrator may present as charming, affable and on the surface “a really nice guy” (or gal). There are no threats, no verbal abuse but under the surface, there is this sinister controlling behaviour at work. Behaviour that is not immediately obvious but the Red Flags are there.

Here is an example from a couple we know. The wife is away with a friend for a weekend end away. On the day they are to return, he uses the smart phone “Find my Phone” feature to track her journey and make sure she is home on time. He calls it “caring”, we call it a “Red Flag”. When my wife is away somewhere I might get a call to say she’s arrived safe or when she is leaving and when she expects to be home. I wouldn’t think about trying to track her journey. After all she is a smart, intelligent and self sufficient woman and a good driver in a safe car.

Here are some more “Red Flags” to think about.

The “Red Flag” of social isolation. Where the controlling partner decides who their partner can see and when.

The “Red Flag” of financial control. Where the controlling partner controls all of the finances.

The “Red Flag” of fear. I will have to ask “Bill” if that’s all right. “Bill” may not like that.

The “Red Flag” of guilt. “It’s your fault”. “You are such an idiot”. “Why do you do that all the time” and so it goes on.

What are some of the “Red Flags” that you have witnessed?

Have you called them out?

 

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12 Traits of The Man of God

Such a good list. Comments please.

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More conversation on “toxic masculinity”

Unfortunately to the average Aussie male (and males in other countries), the term “toxic masculinity” is heard as “masculinity is toxic”. This failure of communication brings such strident and strong resistance that those of us who are committed to reducing family violence need to rethink how we communicate this important message.

Men, we are with you.

But we are against your attitudes and behaviours that are just plain wrong.

But as we talk about the things that are wrong we also need to talk about the things in men that are good.

“Positive masculinity”

Which is why I am writing a book “Real Men Challenge” and encouraging this conversation … 

What is a good man?

What is positive masculinity?

Happy for your contributions.

(See the original post on FB)

 

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