Monday, August 18, 2008

Solzhenitsyn on evil

I'm a little surprised that with the death of Solzhenitsyn having occurred so recently, a death most politically aware people had to have noted, that neither Barack Obama nor John McCain thought to incorporate some of Solzhenitsyn's classic statement in the Gulag Archipelago when they answered Rick Warren on whether there is such a thing as evil:

If only it were all so simple! If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?

During the life of any heart this line keeps changing place; sometimes it is squeezed one way by exuberant evil and sometimes it shifts to allow enough space for good to flourish. One and the same human being is, at various ages, under various circumstances, a totally different human being. At times he is close to being a devil, at times to sainthood. But his name doesn't change, and to that name we ascribe the whole lot, good and evil.

Instead of acknowledging this likelihood, which as nearly as I can understand it is close to the heart of Christianity properly understood, they defined evil as something somebody else does -- and in McCain's case especially, as something to make one angry. But isn't anger itself at least a shortcoming?

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