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Does shame = evil? What is evil?






If shame is the experience of lost glory, then is shame the same as evil (or sin)?


The short answer is “no.”


Shame is one way we know that evil and brokenness exists, but shame is not the same as evil.


We can experience shame because of what we have done, but we can also experience it because of something that’s been done to us, or something that’s happened to someone else in our community. It’s a complex emotion, and an important part of a healthy emotional response to evil and brokenness. Far from being evil, shame is an indicator that evil is not all there is, that something in us knows and longs for what Tim Gombis calls “public justice.”


So what is evil then?


Ultimately, evil is a mystery. Just as we cannot know the endless depth of God’s goodness and love, so we cannot comprehend the depth of evil. It’s too far away from our true nature to be comprehended. (And we might say the full glory of God is too close to our true nature to be comprehended.) And yet, both of these realities are part of us. In the end, we cannot comprehend ourselves.


That being said, I will try to take a stab at it.


As with everything else, we begin our account of evil with Original Glory. Evil and brokenness is never the truest thing about us. One of the reasons I like to use the word “brokenness” so much, is that it says that there was wholeness first. And it leaves open the possibility of repair and healing.


God is the Source of all Life at the center of the universe. He is the ground of all being, consciousness, and bliss. To be alive is to be in movement. When we are moving toward the Creator, we are moving toward greater being, consciousness, and bliss. We are oriented to receive Life and Glory.


But if we turn away from our Source, we begin to move away from Life and Glory. The lack of these things are death and evil, which leave great pain and the experience of shame in their wake. The further we move from Life, the harder we will find it to move or live at all. The gravity of Goodness will constantly be pulling us back, and we will find the struggle against it hard.


This is one way to explain not only evil, but also what some people call “the wrath of God.” In one sense, it’s the inertia against evil built in to the universe. And it’s also a manifestation of the Creator’s unrelenting commitment to reconcile all things to himself, and to resist the descent of his creatures into evil.


One of the many great mysteries of evil is that the fear of pain, and shame, and death gets used to pull us headlong into those very things. We come to believe that life must be fought for, must be earned, must be merited. Because we have turned away from the Way of abundance, we come to believe that life is a limited good. We actually believe that we must steal the present from others to secure a future for ourselves. And in fact, it is that very future we imperil through our endless greed and competition. In fact, our violence only ever breeds more violence.


Who knows where our capacity to pull against Goodness and into evil finally ends? There are those who say that because we have an eternal soul, God has given us the freedom to eternally choose evil, and so to eternally experience the pain of life without goodness and consciousness without bliss. For most of history’s great tyrants, the capacity for evil seems to end only through death. For many more, the cycle of violence feels like a trap that can never be escaped. Those suffering from addiction of various kinds will know this feeling.


But right here, in the worst place, is where things get really good.


Because even if we turn away from Life with all our might, and plunge headlong into Death and Evil—no matter how broken we are by it, or how much we are breaking others—our Life gets in front of us. He goes down to evil’s greatest depths, down beneath the weight of religious, state, and imperial oppression, underneath the curse of mob violence, inside the sting of betrayal, inside humiliation and abuse and torture. He goes all the way to Death itself, and gets in front of the worst of us with all of his Goodness.


When we come face to face with Death, our Life faces us. “Between God and the oppressed, there lies no veil.”


Our Source does not stay still. Our Creator does not give up, nor does he sit simply waiting. Our Life comes for us, and he faces us with his Goodness yet again. He shows us that the gift of Life is neither earned nor competed for. He shows us that his Love is boundless. “For even if I make my bed in hell, still there You would find me.”


And this, dear friends, is what the story of Jesus is about. This is how he reveals the Truth of the universe and the glory of what it means to be human. And this is how he begins to recreate humanity in himself—and with us, all things.

 

 

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