Vail Daily columnist Jack Van Ens: Evil rises |

Vail Daily columnist Jack Van Ens: Evil rises

Do police possess clear mug shots of Evil? No artist has definitively sketched Evil’s face. Theologians can’t provide Evil’s birth certificate because its origin is mysterious.

Sometimes Evil likes to masquerade at public showings of movies. While a crowd watches for someone sinister on the screen, Evil outfoxes them. It (he) strides on stage, rolls a canister of gas into the crowd and then unloads his guns, killing some and wounding more.

At first sight, Evil looked like a SWAT team member protecting movie-goers who viewed “The Dark Knight Rises.” Evil wore a gas mask and body armor head to foot, like SWAT teams do.

Evil strikes unpredictably, is rarely controlled and walks up and down our lives looking like a quiet, smart university student who grew up in San Diego. We are shocked when Evil’s carnage strikes.

It happened at the Batman screening prior to the London Olympic Games. During the Olympics, athleticism keys on goodness, drive and perfect scores. It bolsters us with the ecstasy of victory amid the agony of defeat. The Games personify humankind’s ascent. Our spirits thrive when we key on what’s heroic in life rather than dwell on what’s horrific.

Evil didn’t disappear 40 years ago after its deadly mayhem during the Munich Olympics. Here post-war Germany showcased itself. No more Hitler. No more Dachau concentration camp outside Munich. No more twisting the Games into a political rivalry that American sprinter Jesse Owens won in 1936.

Life felt good before Evil intruded. Then Palestinian terrorists murdered 11 Israeli athletes and coaches. Legendary sportscaster Jim McKay of ABC News sounded more like a distraught father comforting grieving children or a preacher who has to tell the family — the nations of the world — that the Israelis were slaughtered.

“Our worst fears have been realized tonight,” announced McKay with a voice ready to crack. “They’ve now said that there were 11 hostages. Two were killed in their rooms yesterday morning. Nine were killed at the airport tonight. They’re all gone.”

We still lurch along with Evil and good, don’t we?

Jesus spun a story about how humanity is suspended between good and Evil. Servants alerted their master that Evil had planted weeds among the wheat. Should they uproot the prickly devils? “No,” cautioned the wise land owner. “Lest in gathering the weeds you root up the wheat along with them” (Matthew 13:29).

Wait for the harvest before you pull weeds in the field, instructs the master. That is, evil and good jockey for position throughout history.

In contrast, many of us wish life would unfold as an unending Olympic Games with splendid opening ceremonies, gold medals and athletic excellence.

The Wall Street Journal, the morning after Evil’s shooting spree at the Midnight Madness screening of the Batman movie, repeated the biblical scenario. “The evil or insanity that filled James Holmes is easier to understand, in the sense that both have always stalked humanity. An especially virulent modern version is the anti-social man in early adulthood, the ‘loner’ who turns mass murderer: Cho Seung-Hui at Virginia Tech, Jared Lee Loughner in Tucson, Anders Breivek in Norway, and now it seems a neuroscience student in a Denver suburb who police say identified himself as an arch-villain from a comic book-movie series.”

Some have made Evil easy to understand by saying that we can hold it in check if we just get smarter or don’t become dour about life.

Thomas Jefferson believed our No. 1 problem is ignorance, which education remedies. Evil visited the Batman screening as a highly informed deranged student. Doesn’t Evil run deeper than on the level of becoming more educated?

Or we dismiss Evil as outworn religion that the Puritans practiced. We regard it as an anachronism from a superstitious, pre-scientific age.

Let’s use this killing spree as a wake-up call, alerting us to how sneaky and inventive Evil is. There are moments in life when we perceive what at other times we hardly noticed. A book unexpectedly offers a paragraph we needed to read. Or a person drops what initially we hear as an off-handed comment. Then we sift through it again and are alert to digging deeper into life’s meaning.

Don’t dodge Evil. It’s pervasive, persistent and sometimes deadens our senses to its nasty presence.

Life is complex as we lurch between good and evil. Perhaps the Batman movie has more of a biblical motif hidden in it than we surmise. God’s voice, so-to-speak, reverberates through Bruce Wayne’s (aka, Batman’s) wise butler, played superbly by Michael Caine. When his boss is forlorn and anxious, the butler urges him to start again, limber up his mind, refuel his spirit and get a life.

How? Combat Evil’s victories: Donate blood. Weep and grieve. Celebrate virtues of lives lost. Do not lose heart. Live confidently that life opens doors to goodness even after a mass slaying. Goodness, given time and our grit to checkmate Evil, will win.

The Rev. Jack R. Van Ens is a Presbyterian minister who heads the nonprofit, tax-exempt Creative Growth ( He writes weekly.

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