I have reached a point in my life where it has become necessary to provide history for some references. While I do not consider myself to be “past it,” I have never been the best source of information relating to pop culture.
For example, Flip Wilson, the late actor and comedian from the late 60s and early 70s, has been credited with bringing at least two phrases into popular vernacular. One is “what you see is what you get” and the other is “the devil made me do it.”
The second phrase is what I have heard most often described in terms of human behavior, and to be fair, it predates Wilson by several thousands of years. It is at the center of the blame game that goes back to the third chapter of Genesis.
When God confronted Adam about the only thing He told Adam not to do, Adam said it was Eve’s fault. When God turned his attention to Eve, she said it was the serpent’s fault — “the devil made me do it.” It appears what some refer to as the fallen nature of man has a default position: to find a reason for bad behavior and preferably find someone else responsible for it.
It’s not surprising then there is no end to the explanations people give behind the “why” for what they do. “I had a terrible home life. I fell in with the wrong crowd. It’s the drugs,” are just some that are routinely heard. Even some religious folks might even add it was “the demon” of something or other has taken control.
But what is often missing from the discussion is the capacity for personal evil that flows from our ability to make choices. Some might refer to it as our free agency.
It is worth noting that immediately after the discussion of blame in Genesis chapter three, the next chapter deals with the picture of human evil. It begins with a young man named Cain, who was angry that he received an unfavorable response for an offering he had presented. Rather than misquoting, here’s chapter and verse: “Then the Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it.” Genesis 4:6,7 NIV.
There is no mention of the old serpent hanging around, no suggestion that it was his brother’s fault the sacrifice was unacceptable. There is only the fact that Cain had a choice to make, and if he made the wrong one, there would be consequences.
Many perhaps are familiar with Cain’s decision and his solution was to kill his brother. In the aftermath of the terrible Las Vegas shooting, there were any number of reasons floated around about the why or the what was responsible for the tragedy. The fact the person was a shooter and had multiple weapons was sufficient for some; there were early reports that he recently became involved with ISIS.
There was a suggestion that the shooting was related to the fact he was a habitual high stakes gambler who had a problem with depression. Some might have even concluded the devil made him do it. I do not pretend to know, but I understand it is easier to look for places of blame than to have the discussion about the terrible nature of human evil. It may also be difficult for some to discuss God’s solution to the problem of evil. His name is Jesus.
Bill Upton is chaplain of the Tooele City Police Department.