It’s one thing to read about evil in the news. It’s another thing when it, literally, hits close to home.
What causes someone to become wicked? I’ve often asked children “What do you want to be when you grow up?” Not one of them has ever said, “I want to be evil!”
Evil first slunk into someone’s backyard in the Garden of Eden. Sin, the devil points out, is attractive, like a delicious fruit. And now there is that inclination toward evil in all of us, that scar from Original Sin on our souls that Baptism doesn’t wipe away.
What causes an innocent baby to grow up into an evil person?
I’m convinced it’s an infection of the deadliest of the deadly sins: pride.
When you think about it, all sins are the sin of pride. Like a sinister underground root, this one nourishes the other sins. Any sin is a decision to place oneself higher than God, whether it is theft, adultery, lying, or cheating.
This was brought home to me one day when my husband and I came back from dropping the kids at school. I happened to notice one of our bathroom windows was open halfway, and since I like it either opened all the way or closed, I flung it open the rest of the way.
What I didn’t know was that someone, armed with a sharpened screwdriver, was right on the other side of the wall, in our backyard. Because the window is high, I couldn’t see that he had already partially cut the screen. Fortunately, flinging the window open convinced him someone was home, and he took off over the fence, hitting the trashcans and dropping his screwdriver.
Evil in my own backyard. A prideful decision on one man’s part that he was entitled to my belongings.
It hit close again when my husband and I were driving my mother-in-law home from the hospital. Suddenly scores of red and blue lights flashed in our rear view mirror, and several police cars zoomed by.
“I’ll bet that has something to do with Chris Dorner,” I said.
Turned out I was right. In case you don’t remember, Chris Dorner was going around southern California shooting people, including police, against whom he had a grudge. That’s an example of pride in full flower. He placed himself so far above others that he figured he had a right to kill them for the crime of insulting him.
Unfortunately, Dorner’s pride took the life of one of the cops who was rushing to the cabin where he was hiding out—which happened to be a few miles from my mother-in-law’s house. Evil in her backyard.
But we were in for a far worse.
You see, I live in San Bernardino.
My husband and I spent December 2 holed up in our house with the doors and windows locked. The school where my daughter teaches, in a nearby city, went into lockdown on just the rumor that a black SUV had been spotted on a freeway close by.
What causes a married couple to drop their baby off at Grandma’s, then don bullet-proof vests and ski masks, drive to the husband’s place of work, and shoot the very people who had given them a baby shower? What makes them feel so superior to others that they figure they have the right to take their lives?
An infant doesn’t grow up to spread poison like that without having first been poisoned himself. And the poisoner was also once poisoned. And that person who poisoned him was also infected.
You can trace it all the way through history to the poison we received in that first backyard intrusion.
Pride. “You will be like gods,” the serpent tells us (Genesis 3:5).
Unfortunately, we still too often believe the lie.