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.
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?
–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.
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.
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.
Queries for Contemplation
What follows from Eckhart’s insight that “God is the denial of denial?”
How can we resist succumbing to denial?
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.