Thought for the Day - 23/06/2014 - Rev Dr Jane Leach
The baptismal liturgy of the Church of England is in the news again. After consultation it seems that evil will not be disappearing after all. To many, this controversy may be a side show, but it does raise a central question for any family and any culture: what kind of promises do we want to make to our children about the world they will grow up in, and what kind of people will we strive to be in order to help create that world?
Evil is a strong word. And not at first sight, perhaps, one that seems to belong in a celebration of the life of a new baby. Rather it is precisely evil things and evil people that we want to keep away from a precious new life.
In some strands of Christian thought though, evil is conceived as having no existence in itself, but as the privation of good – the destruction and corruption of the abundant life that God has made. When we look at the evils from which we want to protect our children: the violence of gang culture or of the bullying of the internet, or the misery of drug addiction, we can see clearly that these are evils that destroy and corrupt life, but beyond these obvious manifestations there are other, perhaps more hidden forces at work, that might also be considered evil because they eat away at the abundant life we want for our children.
Recently I attended an education conference about peace, human rights and reconciliation. One of the themes that came through was the link between peace and justice, or in other language, the way in which gross inequality can fuel violent conflict. A strong recommendation made from the platform, was that western nations should encourage our children to have at least one in depth experience of life in a poor part of the world, and an American contributor spoke powerfully of the effect on his son’s career ambitions of three months spent in sub-Saharan Africa, that helped him to realise both the deprivation in which so many people live, and the fact that his own life can have a meaning and impact beyond the acquisition of the latest smart phone upgrades.
The New Testament describes the root of all evil as the love of money. Money itself and the things it can buy – even smart phones - are not considered evil, but a family life or a cultural life which becomes about nothing more than our own convenience, ambitions and entertainment, runs the risk of the twin evils of depriving others of what is good – and so contributing to the world’s instability – and of depriving our own children of a life worth investing in.
In such a cultural context, having a language of goodness and evil at our disposal is not a marginal matter but one of critical importance. So, although I am though not a member of the Church of England, I am glad to see the language of evil back in their baptismal liturgy. And I would value a more broad ranging public discussion about how we identify the evils against which we, in the west, need to turn our faces, if we are to create a safer, more sustainable and more inspiring world for our children.
Available since: Mon 23 Jun 2014
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