Word Magazine April 1993 Page 26


by John David Powell

During Orthodox church services on the Sunday, Monday and Tuesday before Easter, there is a passage that gives me the willies. It implores God to “heap more evils” on his servants. It’s not said once; it’s said lots of times.

I’m not sure I like this idea. It may serve as a reminder that faith is strengthened through trials, but I could do without a second heaping helping of the bad stuff.

God, as usual, did not consult me and, therefore, has his own ideas on this. As a result, the Big E is everywhere. A recent Sunday newspaper provided the following examples:

—A Texas man is accused of intentionally putting glass fragments in his infant son’s baby food;

—A Louisiana man admits to numerous sexual offenses against three teenage girls;

—A North Carolina day-care operator is convicted of 99 counts of sexual abuse of children who attended his facility; and

—A Louisiana jury recommends life in prison without parole for a woman who murdered a man who stopped to help her, the second man she shot that day.

I believe there are demons who wander around looking for nice temporary places to dwell. In time, after working their various mischiefs, they move on to other unsuspecting souls.

A man I knew — I’ll call him Ben was one such victim. I truly believe God and Satan waged a war within him.

Ben was a minister and had a family. But there was a dark and evil side seen only by those closest to him. He eventually sought psychiatric help, but not before he lost his family.

After a few years, he was given another church, a small congregation in a tiny Kentucky town. He met a woman and got married. But the demons had not finished.

He eventually separated from his new wife, and one night he almost tried to kill her. A few hours later, knowing the pull of evil was too strong, he hanged himself.

“I feel worthless and no good,” he wrote. “I’m tired of coping and struggling. My patience has worn thin, my mind is nearly broken, my self-love and self-esteem is nil.”

That night I lost a friend, children lost a father, and evil moved on to another unsuspecting victim.

Ben left Scriptures to be read at his memorial service. One was the story of Christ and the man with unclean spirits called Legion because they were so many which Christ cast into swine.

The existence of evil is nearly as old as time, but our sophisticated society refuses to see evil for what it is. The first two listings for evil in my thesaurus show affliction and ailment.

That’s not quite the way some early church fathers saw evil. St. Diadochos was born around the year 400 and was bishop of Photiki in northern Greece. He wrote that evil does not exist by nature and that man is not naturally evil “for God made nothing that was not good.”

In his “One Hundred Texts on Spiritual Knowledge and Discrimination” he wrote: “For good, which exists by nature, is more powerful than our inclination to evil. The one has existence, while the other has not, except when we give it existence through our actions.”

St. Anthony of Egypt (251-356) is credited for the work “On the Character of Man and on the Virtuous Life.”

He wrote: “But when the soul. . . separates itself from God, evil demons enter its thought processes and suggest unholy acts to it: adultery, murder, robbery, sacrilege and other such demonic acts.”

And later: “It is man’s negligence and indolence that give birth to evil passions. Evil clings closely to one’s nature, just as verdigris to copper and dirt to the body. But the coppersmith does not create the verdigris, nor do parents create the dirt. Likewise, it is not God who has created evil. He has given man knowledge and discrimination so that he may avoid evil.”

And how can one do that, with the heaping of more evils and the incredible nastiness found within the pages of the newspapers? In the end, Ben knew the answer and passed it along in his memorial service — a letter from the Apostle Paul to the church in Philippi: “Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”

John D. Powell is an Orthodox Christian from Ruston, Louisiana. He writes and edits a newspaper there.