When Joe Biden visited the Kremlin in 2011, he reportedly said to Putin: “Mr Prime Minister, I’m looking into your eyes, and I don’t think you have a soul.” According to Biden, Putin smiled and replied, “We understand each other.”
Many of those who choose to overlook the well-documented egregious acts of Trump seem to think of evil as a generic term to define societal ills, that evil itself has no singular identity. The Evangelicals inexplicable support of Trump supports the notion that one is to believe that the goodness of God now embraces man’s evil. It is ok to commit adultery, lie, cheat, etc. Modern Evangelicals have re-created God. In the past, there existed a dualistic world-view within religious groups; good and evil were separate forces. Not now. I grew up in that environment, taught that good would prevail over evil because of a holy God. So, you can understand my confusion when I see people who say they embrace that God, yet shout that in this modern age it’s okay to be evil.
It is not new. David Cesarani wrote in his book Eichmann: His Life and Crimes that Eichmann took part in the Holocaust because he wanted to do so. In this he was no different from many others, though his crimes were larger in scale. Until it was clear that the war was lost, Nazism was extremely popular. William Shirer reported in his eyewitness account of the rise of Hitler, The Nightmare Years:
“Most Germans, so far as I could see, did not seem to mind that their personal freedom had been taken away, that so much of their splendid culture was being destroyed and replaced with a mindless barbarism, or that their life and work were being regimented to a degree never before experienced even by a people accustomed for generations to a great deal of regimentation … On the whole, people did not seem to feel that they were being cowed and held down by an unscrupulous tyranny. On the contrary, they appeared to support it with genuine enthusiasm.”
Freud suggested that human beings are ruled by impulses or instincts, impelling them towards life and creation or destruction and death. He cautioned against thinking that these forces embodied good and evil in any simple way. Whether they worked together or in opposition, both were necessary. The fragility of civilization reflected the divided nature of the human animal itself. This seems to be the path Evangelicals and many others who embrace God travel. Good and evil are two sides of the same coin, both are choices. And therein lies the problem that must be resolved. Is there truly evil or is it simply a bad choice. If simply a choice, then what is God’s role? If as Freud suggests, we are slaves to our impulses, where is God? Those Evangelicals with their new God would have us believe that God not withstanding, when we feel threatened it is just fine to have feelings of anti-Semitism, ethnic nationalism, hatred of gay people, immigrants, etc. God is with us.
One of my fears is that Trump’s acts aren’t rejected because many of his supporters endorse them. They admire one who acts tyrannically, much as did the Germans with Hitler. And this becomes much easier with their re-created God.