Whatever happened to evil? There was a time—when I was being reared in a conservative, evangelical, Republican household—that certain kinds of behavior were considered evil. And not all of them took place in the bedroom. Some of the most blatant acts of evil included using others for your own advantage, putting yourself first, and valuing things above people. Somewhere in the decades that I’ve been alive, all of that has changed—from a politician’s eye-view, anyway. Now that we’re in what’s passing for winter, some days are decidedly chilly. Seeing the homeless hunkered down in the Port Authority Bus Terminal (where there is even an organized, charitable group that tries to help them out), or sitting on subway vents to catch some of the warm air, or shivering on a street corner day after day, I wonder where the evil has gone.
In the neo-evangelical world of cheap prosperity and cheap family values, the name of Jesus gets bandied about like an over-inflated beach-ball. Many who utter his name obviously don’t read his life story. According to the Gospels, Jesus spent his adult life as a homeless wanderer who was particularly sympathetic to the poor. He doesn’t refer to them as evil, but he does have very harsh words for the privileged establishment. Such words harsh the euphoria built upon our own self-importance. As I see the homeless in the winter’s chill, it occurs to me that their lifestyle is much closer to that of Jesus than is the that of the executive who works 33 floors above them. Their demands on life are minimal. Their stares should make us uncomfortable.
And yet, look at those running for office. The amount of money they spend to make each other look bad is obscene. They try to make themselves look righteous for the Tea Party crowd, but their assets weigh them down. I shiver for the homeless. I shiver when I see the news about the ultra-wealthy bragging about who can dig up the most mud. Most of them would have no idea which end of the shovel to use. I’m afraid that having grown up in a modest setting has forever biased me against posers and average guy wannabes. I’ve had jobs that have involved shovels, sledgehammers, and hard scrubbing. The average person struggles and shivers sometimes. The average person spends some time on his or her knees and sometimes ends up on the ground. And even though the average person falls down more than our shining leaders, we never get quite so dirty. Politicians don’t sling the mud at us. To be honest, I think they don’t even see us.