Events of the past twenty years have awakened many to the question of evil and what, if anything, we can do about it.  Columbine killings and 9/11 and their aftermaths and news items that headline evil goings on stare us in the face on a regular basis. 

Book cover for Matthew Fox‘s forthcoming book on Thomas Aquinas. Pre-order book today!

Yet denial is also at work and one must never underestimate the power of denial.   The great theologian St Thomas Aquinas spoke of “voluntary ignorance of what we ought to know as a ‘mortal,” that is deadly, sin.  Deadly to the individual soul and deadly to society. 

In the same thrust, Meister Eckhart noted that “God is the denial of denial.”  In other words, as long as we or our leaders wallow in denial, God is dammed up and cannot flow.  God needs truth in which to operate.

Recent headlines show the effects of denial as nothing less than deadly, both to the life of the planet and to innocent human lives:

–Could any denial be more blatant – and disastrous – than the denial of climate crisis among fossil fuel industries and their politician pawns, as they continue to rake in profits and bribes while seas rise and fires and droughts ravage the planet? 

Pope Francis, speaking at the 2019 Climate Change Summit

–A governor of Florida ordered excised from all state documents the very phrase “climate change”—and this where low-lying areas of Miami see “slimy green seawater” bubble up from the gutters and water rising onto streets in south Miami Beach at high tide.  

Pope Francis’ encyclical “Laudato Si” spoke of the “grave sin” of abusing Mother Earth and how the profound implications of climate change has the power to awaken many out of their slumber and denial. 

YouTube video from ABC News on predatory priests
in the United States including individuals speaking out about
their experiences.

Will the fossil fuel industries and politicians wake up?  Will Australian politicians wake up to the causes of their wildfire emergency?

Scarcely less blatant has been the denial (or cover up) of pedophilia in sports and the Church, in an effort to protect the image of these institutions. 

There are the much-publicized cases of coaches and doctors overseeing college football and gymnastic teams where college leaders were stuck deep in denial about ongoing pedophilia.

Protest against corruption and for democracy. Photo by Fred Moon on Unsplash

The staggering denial by the hierarchy of the clerical pedophile crisis has set off a stampede of bankruptcies in dioceses the country over. 

It has also cost the church millions of adherents who have abandoned the ecclesial mother ship on learning of the multiple scandals and their cover up by prelates in high places including the Vatican.  And untold damage to the souls of the victims.

The corruption of Democracy brought about by the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision and its claim that “corporations are people” eats away at the very ground of democracy. 

Cutting through denial seems like a sacred act.

Adapted from Matthew Fox, Sins of the Spirit, Blessings of the Flesh: Transforming Evil in Soul and Society, pp. xxiv-xxviii.

Banner Image: The denial of affection & affirmation. Photo originally posted to Flickr by Dano Rau.

Queries for Contemplation

What follows from Eckhart’s insight that “God is the denial of denial?” 

How can we resist succumbing to denial?

Recommended Reading

Fox makes the point that religion has so often oversold the concept of “sin” that it has left us without language or power to combat evil. Through comparing the Eastern tradition of the 7 chakras to the Western tradition of the 7 capital sins, Fox allows us to think creatively about our capacity for personal and institutional evil and what we can do about them.

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5 thoughts on “Evil and Denial”

  1. Carol Kilby

    Love this: “God is the denial of denial”
    What follows is freedom! Freedom to rise into our own divine potential. What follows is freedom from the idea of God as judge and punisher. What follows is the promise that divinity is the strength to break through fear into the holy power and light of our potential to face death. Thanks, Matt, for bringing Eckhart back to life when, in the valley of the shadow, we need the god’ness to face our own denial.

  2. Avatar

    We must continue to practice being awake, as painful as that is sometimes, and to show up to work for truth and justice.

    1. Gail Sofia Ransom

      Dear Sue,
      Thank you for writing and reminding us of our simple, but crucial practice of noticing, staying awake when we would rather pursue our own enjoyment s and wants. It is a choice to be uncomfortable. I noticed how long it took me to begin reading this meditation. Another drink of water. Another side comment to my daughter. I know that evil is there, but it does take courage to face it, fell the pain, and do what needs to be done.
      May we all be brave and awake.
      Gail Sofia Ransom
      For the Daily Meditation Team

  3. Avatar

    Thanks. I would add to these great denials, the greatest denial of all is capitalism itself which operates in denial of the seven deadly sins. Greed, envy, pride, sloth, lust, wrath, and gluttony!

    1. Gail Sofia Ransom

      Dear Ed,
      Yes. What an important point to make. We are living in a culture that feeds on those seven deadly sins. Each one of them. Those who can perceive this are like fish in the sea trying to bail out the ocean they swim in – except, somehow, people do step up and call out the greedy, the lustful, the prideful, and those whose gluttony feeds on the neediness of others. And yet, there is something in us that still knows what good is and acts upon it – despite lifelong proddings to the contrary!
      Gail Sofia Ransom
      For the Daily Meditation Team

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