If you had been a citizen in Nazi Germany, would you have contributed to the holocaust or would you have resisted?
If you had been a soldier in Vietnam, would you have joined everyone around you in killing women, young children and the elderly at My Lai or would you have been one of the heroic resisters that went against the crowd?
Why do people do evil things? Are some people just essentially bad? Are they different than we are? A social psychologist named Philip Zimbardo documented a lot of research on evil entitled, The Lucifer Effect; Understanding How Good People Turn Evil. He looks at why people do evil things. After decades of research, he has concluded that all of us are vulnerable to do evil when placed in certain circumstances. He also draws conclusions about things we can do to make ourselves less vulnerable to evil.
This weekend in worship, I want to talk with you about evil and how we as Christians are to think about good and evil. What is evil? I especially want to challenge all of us to give some serious thought as to how we can minimize our vulnerability to evil.
As an example, we will look at how easily a schoolteacher in Iowa transformed her students into Nazi style abusers just by telling her that students with brown eyes were inferior. We will also talk about the Bible’s depiction of the devil, noting that there is not one image but several that developed over time within the Bible.
My hope is that thinking about these things will better prepare us (and those we love) to face evil when we confront it.
I look forward to worshipping with you this weekend.