|In Paul it is clear that the second level of sin, “the flesh,” is individual sin, personal naughtiness, personal mistakes; and there is no denying that plenty of this evil exists in the world. When we point our finger at the second level of the spiral, blaming individuals, punishing this person or that person, making people feel guilty because they are “bad,” we are mostly wasting our time. History will never change by such a “one shot at a time” approach. The underlying “agreements” are still in place. There is no point in telling a teenage girl she should not be vain, or a young boy he should not be greedy, when we all admire and agree upon these very things as a culture.
Up to now there has been little attention paid to the systems that we uncritically accept—and the evil things they do. One of the great favors John Paul ll did was to introduce into Catholic theology the terms “structural evil,” “institutionalized sin,” and “corporate evil.” In that he was very prophetic, because that is the primary way that the Biblical prophets spoke. Over 90% of their condemnations were of “Israel” itself, of wars, alliances, corrupt business practices, and a greedy priesthood in the temple. They first named systemic evil, and then hoped the individual person could “repent,” and the “devil” would have no way of taking over. Evil must be nipped in the bud, or it is always too late.
Adapted from Spiral of Violence (CD/MP3)
Prayer: Open my mind to discern good and evil.