Every month or so I venture to my long-time, golfing buddy, dear pastor friend’s church for what I call my dose of “Dr. Bill”. He speaks to the common parishioner with a simple elegance and understanding for even those that typically absorb Bible-based preaching on a Sunday morning rather slowly…like me.
Last Sunday, the “Dr. Bill dose” spoke of knowing evil. His sermon was based on Mark 1:21-28. Many times Bill’s sermons hit home with me for reasons I might share in another post, but this sermon struck the house, rattled the windows, and flickered the lights causing a re-reading of the passage multiple times. Here’s my take (not Bill’s words mind you, and maybe not even his point) on the message given by Bill to his congregation last Sunday.
Dr. Bill remarked he could relate to this Gospel, noting this particular morning we would not need to leave the first chapter without Mark having talked about evil. Now with this post, and Bill in his sermon as well, evil is not definitviely qualifed. Evil can come in many different forms, most of us know when it come knocking, and we define evil in our own way. Dr. Bill also suggested we, as a society, have accepted tolerance – including a tolerance of evil - in our daily religion. Our religious tolerance is being confused with religious respect. It is two different things. We are too afraid of conflict, debate, insult, and argument if we dare become vocal disciples in our own way, in our every day life – folks, that is nothing more than tolerance camouflaged as respect. The attitude of not wanting to upset others in our conversations - the non-believers or those of other religious beliefs – continues to give an air of stagnated tolerance that now surrounds most of us (whether its realized or not). With tolerance, evil becomes acceptable. If evil is not recognized for what it is and looks like to each of us in our lives, then perhaps one’s life just might be at risk of religious unfulfillment.
As he always does, Dr. Bill relates his point to everyday events. “Walt Disney knew of evil” – just look at, Bill suggests, the Snow White story with the evil witch; Cinderella with her evil step sisters. Then consider J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series of books, Bill continues. She knows evil having written in the nemesis “Dark Lord”, the “He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named” Voldermort character. As I correlate my interpretation of Bill’s sermon to the literary examples he referenced, I realize Walt Disney was not personally evil for writing his good vs. evil stories, but he knew of evil’s existence in life, and the need for it to be recognized so it could be rebuked. The same holds true with Rowling and her stories of Harry Potter. That, I’m sure, is Dr. Bill paraphrased about as bad as I can say it.
The two careers of Disney and Rowling did not, have not, or will not create bad society or influence on our youth if their works are read or watched (no need to protest movie theaters or burn books on the library lawn here gang). Kids want to “see” evil (Disney and Rowling book and movie popularity case in point) and know it exists; and they must realize it can be defeated…much like Jesus did in Mark 1:23-25 seeing the man in the synagogue with an “unclean spirit”, and then rebuking the evil by saying “Be quiet, and come out of him”. If you read further through verse 28, you will see what the outspoken and intolerant religious leadership and the example lead can do for us…if people are allowed see and know evil, they can triumphantly combat evil.
Most of you know I’ve never been one to “thump a Bible”. In fact my journey through the Bible is still kid-like and not until I fully understand the teachings can I even hope to converse theologically with Dr. Bill or anyone else. But I’ve watched all the Disney movies and read the books…I’ve watched every Harry Potter movie knowing I struggle to read those books. I think I have turned out to be an OK kind of guy in so doing, thus far. I know evil exists in this world and people (just like story book characters) should be ready and willing to be confrontational at any time. Knowing most cannot quote Bible chapter and verse without reference is not near as important as being able to nurture fellowship and promote discipleship amongst friends, family, and acquaintances. That is religious respect, exercised to point of intolerance.
Let’s treat ourselves and our kids to the Disney movies and read them the Rowling books – they allow us a Bible-teaching opportunity and a way to perhaps break our habit and acceptance of religious tolerance. Now that wouldn’t be so “evil”, would it?