Some Observations on Doing Bad Things

homerOkay, forget the theological jargon. Here are a few observations about doing bad things that most people should be able to agree with:

1) Everyone makes mistakes throughout their life. Some seem more prone to this than others. Some of these mistakes are harmless, others cause relatively mild harm.

2) Everyone does something bad at some point in their life—something truly harmful, whether intentionally or otherwise. Most people do several of these bad things in their lifetime. Some seem to do them frequently.

3) Some people—thankfully very few—do something really bad at some point in their life. One might even call this “evil”—we’re talking intentionally malicious with great damage done.

These three observations are true whether you’re talking about Christians or Muslims or Jews or Hindus or Buddhists or atheists or any other religion or non-religion. They are true whether you’re talking about North Americans or South Americans or Africans or Asians or Europeans or any other region. They are true whether you’re talking about refugees or immigrants or settlers or indigenous people or citizens or any other land-status. They are true whether you’re talking about people of European or African or Asian descent or any other ethnic category. They are true whether you’re talking about men or women, gay or straight, or any other orientation or gender. They are true whether you’re talking about rich or poor or middle-class or any economic status.

These things are true of humans—all humans, everywhere.

This might seem so obvious as to be trivial. But if these things are true, then they have some significant implications.

Yes, some refugees will do bad things. At some point a refugee will even do a truly evil thing. But so do native-born citizens—probably at a higher rate, actually, since these aren’t “vetted” at all.

Yes, some Muslims will do bad things, even a very few will do thoroughly evil things. But so will Christians, and atheists, and even peace-loving Buddhists. We Christians, in fact, have our own set of favourite bad things—self-righteousness being arguably top of the list.

Yes, some African Americans or Indigenous Canadians will do bad things. Sometimes one will even do an evil thing. But so do white Americans and Canadians—in fact, white folks commit certain crimes at far higher rates.

Yes, some gay people will do bad things, even occasionally a truly evil thing. But so do straight men and women—men in particular, as most violent crimes are committed by men, by far.

Yes, some poor people will do bad things. Every once in a while one will even do an evil thing. But so do the rich and the middle-class—and they have the resources to hide it or to evade the punishment.

Most importantly, if we all make mistakes, if we all sometimes do bad things, even occasionally evil things—if this is a human problem, not a problem confined to any particular religion, ethnicity, culture, gender, or class—then we should be able to look deep into the disorder of our own hearts, and find empathy and compassion and forgiveness and a desire for the other’s wholeness and wellbeing, regardless of what they have done. We should also be able to come together as human beings and find better ways to nurture the good among us while reducing the bad.

Are we up for the challenge? Each of us? All of us together?

(By the way, Christians, this is Sin and Salvation 101. We should be leading the way in empathy and compassion and forgiveness and seeking the wellbeing of others and nurturing the good among us. Faith, hope, and love, you know?)