What is the source of evil acts? I’ve been thinking about this today–basing my thoughts on things I’ve read and seen on television.
I recently resumed my reading of Joan of Arcadia, Season 3. As many of you know, Joan of Arcadia only lasted for two seasons, and the second season had a huge cliffhanger. Consequently, excellent writers have decided to continue the series online, with a virtual Season 3. For the two versions, see here and here.
At the end of Season 2, we meet Ryan Hunter, a rich guy who (like Joan) has encountered God. His main difference from Joan is that he hates the Almighty.
How did he get to be this way? In the first version, God gave Ryan assignments to help people when he was younger, and the assignments interfered with his life and relationships. Ryan didn’t feel he could tell his friends about his experiences with God, since even his religious friend deemed such a scenario to be evidence of mental illness. As a result, Ryan became bitter and turned against God.
In the second version, God gives Ryan assignments in his youth, but Ryan turns against God when his girlfriend decides to become a nun. Ryan concludes that God has stolen his girl, and he resolves from that point on to undermine the Almighty. Ryan still has good in him, but he does bad things (i.e., destroying houses of worship).
I didn’t see the first scenario as significant enough by itself to turn Ryan against God. After all, Ryan had free will. He didn’t have to do the assignments that God gave him. He could have simply stopped carrying them out, without becoming bitter against God.
At first, the second scenario didn’t appeal to me either. “Why do writers today have to root everything in romance?,” I thought. But, as I contemplated the matter further, I realized that there may be a profound insight about evil here. A Christian thinker once said that evil is making something or someone other than God the object of our worship, and that something or someone may be good.
Take Revenge of the Sith, which is Episode III of Star Wars. Anakin Skywalker becomes Darth Vader in an attempt to prevent his wife’s death. His evil began as a pursuit of good.
I was also thinking about evil as I watched Desperate Housewives last night. Orson Hodge has been stealing because he feels emasculated by the success of his millionaire wife, Bree. Here, pride and a low self-image (which can actually co-exist) is the cause of Orson’s evil.
Eedie’s husband Dave is mad at Mike Delfino because he killed Dave’s family in an automobile accident. So Dave pretends to be Mike’s best friend and lures him and Mike’s girlfriend, Katherine, into the woods. Dave’s goal is to kill Katherine and put Mike through the same grief that he has endured. Here, a sense of justice is the root of Dave’s evil.
Carlos’ ex-girlfriend is the vice-president of his company, and she treats the employees pretty shabbily. She makes them work long hours, and she yells at Carlos’ kids, thinking they belong to a Latino cleaning lady. She feels she has to be ruthless to make the company compete. Here, ambition and stress are the causes of her evil.
What can lead to goodness? I’m not sure. In another sub-plot of last night’s episode, Susan has compassion on her lawyer ex-husband as he experiences what he put her through years earlier: his wife left him to raise a child on his own. Susan could have been happy at this “justice,” but she had moved on years before, plus she didn’t want anyone to have to endure that kind of pain. She saw her husband as human, so she felt bad for him. Moving on. Letting time heal. Using pain as a means to become compassionate. Take from this what you will!
In the case of Ryan Hunter, I can understand why he is upset–in both versions of Season 3! Perhaps he should’ve focused on the fact that his assignments from God were helping people.