Evil Triumphs Only If We Do Nothing

scrubbrushOn my walk home from work today I came across the depressing sight of chalk-scrawled symbols of hate. It took me a few minutes to gather my thoughts about what to do next. After a few minutes, I filled a pitcher of water, grabbed a scrub brush and off I went to wash away the signs of hate and evil from the sidewalk.

It was a small thing, but when doing it, I thought about what might have been on the heart of the one who drew such evil symbols? I prayed for them.

Surely, this washing away was a small thing. It didn’t require much effort, but it was the right thing to do.

As I continued my walk, I thought about Umpqua Community College, and the community of Roseburg, Oregon. If you haven’t heard by now, this was the site of another senseless mass-murder, the result of a school shooting. I have sadly written about shootings such as this many times before (like here, here, and here). I wonder, how much longer must we bury our heads in the sand and say that there is nothing we can do?

I’m not the only one. President Obama has said as much.

I’m tired of hearing the same worn out responses of “keeping people in our thoughts and prayers.” If we are holding people in our thoughts and prayers, that should eventually spur us to action. If it doesn’t, how shallow of a faith do we have?

Martin Luther writes that at the very least, “We should have heartfelt sympathy.” This is the bare bones response. But often, we can (and should) go further.

I believe that God calls us all into vocations- places where our gifts, passions, hopes, and dreams meet the needs of our neighbors, communities, and the world. Wrapped up in this for me, is the sense that these vocations involve action. A vocation is not a stagnant thing. Faith is not a stagnant thing. Leadership is not a stagnant thing. If our faith and understanding of the gospel doesn’t propel us to get up and do, what’s the point? Just to make us feel better? I’m fairly certain that Bonhoeffer, for example, would call that “Cheap Grace.”

That’s why I went out and did the small but important thing of washing the evil signs off the sidewalk. Coming up with a solution to gun violence is far greater a task. But it’s about time that we try. The first time there was a school shooting, Columbine being the first I remember from when I was growing up, was one time too many. Now we are so numb to them, we just assume that these shootings will happen.

What’s wrong with us? We should not be assuming this. We should be fighting to make schools safer. We should be working for common sense gun control, and doing everything we can humanly do. Will it prevent all such tragedies? Of course not. But to use that logic that it won’t “prevent all tragedies” from trying to do anything reminds me of the old adage, “evil triumphs only when people do nothing.”

It’s time to do something. 

What do you think?


Image Credit: Scrub brush

Post-script: The adage shared above is of course a slight variation on the famous Edmund Burke quote, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” 

4 thoughts on “Evil Triumphs Only If We Do Nothing

  1. im so curious… While I’m not arguing with you, merely trying to understand, what would you propose be done? How would you control the guns? How would you decide who gets guns and who doesn’t? Does this mean families who hunt for most of their meat for the year would have to ASK to keep their guns and continue to do this? I’m sincerely curious on how the gun “control” is controlled.

    1. Joy, that’s a great question. I’m not naive enough to think that there’s any easy solution, nor do I have a good and obvious answer as for a place to begin. For whatever reason, obviously, this is such a divisive topic. But I do think for starters there could be limits on the type of guns that people could own, and perhaps limits at the very least on the quantity as well. (I think the question should be asked, what’s the purpose of this gun? To hunt? To defend? Etc.) I’m struck by the fact that more people have died in the last 10 years from guns in the United States than in all of WWII.

      A couple of pieces that I have found helpful lately are: https://www.elca.org/JLE/Articles/65 and http://download.elca.org/ELCA%20Resource%20Repository/Community_ViolenceSM.pdf. They have been good food for thought for me as part of this topic and discussion.

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