When I look at evil, I believe that it is closely linked to a kind of tragic ignorance of our own identities. I see sin as that which leads us away from "God" (to use the easiest term) To deny yourSELF is a deep sin in my thinking since we are all a unique manifestation of the Divine's urge to know Itself. I will not exist again in this precise manifestation nor can any other creature learn about the Universe as I do. This does not make me any better or worse than the angels or the insects but it does make me unique and therefore responsible. To conform is to waste this chance to serve.
A deeper sin still is to lead another human being away from his or her true gifts and calling. I do not know much about the rich or the powerful. I cannot understand their motivations. l do know the folks around here who are working people and farmers. Despite the fact that they are generally decent people whose love for each other is apparent to me whenever I am in their company, many are dedicated to distorted ideas of patriotism and fundamentalist religion and/or are racists or sexists or otherwise bitterly misanthropic toward those they conceive as outsiders. They are not, as I view them, greedy or sinister but they continue to choose to follow greedy and sinister leaders. I cannot reconcile the kindness of my neighbors with the cruelty of their politics except to believe that they have been led away from themselves.
To see them ignorantly defending the politics of the very people who abuse them outright breaks my heart. Their land and their futures and their bodies are ruined by the politics of greed. Worse, the "redneck" who blindly agrees with fascist rhetoric saddens me because s/he shows the symptoms of a stunted spirit. Deprive people of education and love and joy and fill their minds with fear of difference and fear of learning and you create the disposable slaves you need to labor in whatever unethical venture you devise. Send them to the mines and the factories. Send them to war. Convince them to waste their money on plastic and poisons then dispose of them when you are done.
I do not know if there is hope. As a historian, I am aware that this is not the first time that a culture has driven itself to the brink then pulled itself back just in time. Maybe we'll pull something out of a hat. I do know that the world is worth saving and I am pinning my hope on the belief that whatever pain distorts the soul, it is not easily broken. The Waterloo Congregational Friends rejected the supreme authority of all temporal leaders. They rejected even the supreme authority of the Bible believing that such thoughtless faith in any body or text was merely a form idolatry. Instead, they declared that the inner light is the "beginning and end of all religion."
I am afraid and I am tired. But I still sense more goodness in the world than evil. It is an a spiritual feminist that I face the world, doing at least what I can do now and learning every day what more can be done. I am afraid but not helpless. I am tired but I am not giving up. As a mother, I see that the stakes are too high.
"We need not expect the concessions demanded by women will be peaceably granted;" said Matilda Joslyn Gage over a hundred years ago, "there will be a long moral warfare, before the citadel yields; in the meantime, let us take possession of the outposts.".