The World, the Flesh and the Devil.

Medieval painting of the Virgin Mary thumping the devil.

The Prophets in the Bible are generally ignored nowadays. It’s probably because they are concerned with social, institutional, national, or corporate evil and our participation in it. And make no mistake, we all participate in it to some level, especially when we believe – or pretend – that we don’t.

As one of my beloved teachers, Richard Rohr, explains in his lecture, Spiral of Violence (available from the Centre for Action and Contemplation), there are three levels of evil in our lives. Here’s a pocket guide to them.

1/ The World.

The World is the level which liberals attack – and with justification. The evils at this level are the social norms that we require to fit in with our tribe, make a living, eat and participate in life. Because we live in the World, it’s hard to see, let alone critique these evils. Sometimes, somebody comes along and makes a loud enough noise about them that we do wake up and we start to change but even so, we change at our own convenience.

Most of us are cutting back on our plastic but, let’s face it, we’re not going to stop buying that one vital thing that we require that is packaged in plastic, are we? (Maybe you are, in which case you have my great admiration). Whatever we or our tribe does at this level is seen as right and what ‘others’ do is wrong. The ego needs to believe that where we are in the World is right.

The World includes government, politics, medicine, the NHS, the NRA, business … all the things that make life as comfortable as it can be for us and our tribe. It’s ‘how things are.’ It’s the World that decides whether diversity is good or dangerous. The World will go to war to protect its territory and oil because we all want to feel safe and warm.

2/ The Flesh.

The Flesh is individual errors/sins. This is the level that conservatives attack. It makes a very easy target because fingers can be pointed at individuals without referring back to what made their alleged error a sin. Homosexuality and abortions are classic ‘sins of the Flesh’ and they are both only created by the sins of the World. In areas where the World has a mindset that homosexuality and abortion are not wrong, they cannot be made sins.

Take a look at what’s happening re. Jeffrey Epstein and Prince Andrew right now. The prince did an interview this week which the general view ruled was horribly arrogant and which has, probably justifiably, been called a car crash. However, in that World of the privileged white male, it would still be perceived that anything the prince is accused of doing was perfectly all right and wasn’t even a sin of the flesh because it took place in that World. It’s probably almost impossible for anyone who lives in that World to see what all the fuss is about.

Most sins of the Flesh are sexual. It has often been said that if men could get pregnant, abortion would be a sacrament. The World is – thank God – changing (in places) its view of women as chattels you can do what you like with … which situation we women ourselves have often perpetuated and condoned. My mother taught me that anything a man wants, he has a right to expect and it would be wrong to deny it to him. It almost certainly never occurred to her that, in the era of the pill, I would believe that included sex. Her World didn’t have the pill so it generally took more care about pre-marital sex than mine did, but the old rules about giving men what they wanted were paramount and taught onwards.

It’s a no-brainer to realise that abortions would be non-existent if men and women said no to sex. They would almost certainly be rarer if men and women didn’t have pre-secure-partnered sex. They would still happen of course – as they have for the whole of humanity’s existence; they were just hidden and considered women’s business and nobody else’s. Nowadays, in the World of the Christian, abortion appears to be everybody else’s business. More on that in a minute.

Why do men and women have pre-marital sex? Because (most of) the World now accepts this as the norm – and, let’s face it, 80% of marketing uses sex to sell. Sex is presented as glamorous, good and fun. And yes, as someone who had a lot of unmarried sex back in the day, it can be a lot of fun. That is, it’s fun if it’s not happening because you were taught you weren’t allowed to say ‘no.’ But the more sex you have, the more likely you’re going to hit the wrong end of the percentage of contraceptive failures. Therefore, the increase in the abortion rate is a problem dictated by the mores of the World and without changing the World, we won’t stop that ‘sin’ of the Flesh.

The Devil is pretty much where we are now in politics. The Devil is when you make the rules of the World virtuous.

It’s the Devil if you’re a Jew, a Christian or a Muslim who follows the Bible and/or Koran and you believe that makes you virtuous and anyone who doesn’t, bad. That’s a big Devil and it hides very well in fundamentalist Worlds.

It’s the Devil when you laud the virtues of heterosexuality, claiming that the Bible condemns homosexuality. Actually the Bible doesn’t condemn homosexuality; it condemns the rape of male children but the World believes that it does condemn it. And Jesus, who really, really is the person we should to looking to in such matters, doesn’t say a word about it. Or about abortion. He did say ‘judge not, or you will be judged.’

It’s the Devil when you say you are pro-life but are happy to send armies to kill other people’s children. Life is life. If you are pro-life, you are pro all life.

It’s the Devil when you call soldiers, who were sent to kill other people and their children, ‘heroes.’ Yes, they did their job and it was necessary but it should be something we and they sorrow over, not a cause for medals even if they did save a few lives of people on their own side.

It’s the Devil when you tell people you are protecting them and making their life safer when you turn away refugees ‘in case’ there are terrorists in the boats. Yes, there may be terrorists in the boats but it is a sorrow, not a virtue to reject people because of that.

It’s the Devil when you make vaccines mandatory because everyone who can have them must have them to ensure those who can’t are covered too. That looks really good, doesn’t it? And it is, until you realise that there is evidence that vaccines have harmed some children and that there is also evidence that clean water might have as much effect as a vaccine. And when you realise that vaccination research is funded by Big Pharma and therefore (basic quantum mechanics) the one who organises the research affects the outcome of the research.

I think vaccines are good, even though I had one that actually harmed me – and gave me repeat doses of the disease I was trying to avoid. I don’t think they are as good as they are presented to be. You only have to Google ‘anti-vax’ in images to see how anti-vaxxers are demonised. Nearly all anti-vaxxers have direct experience of harm which they truly believe came from a vaccine. That is a sorrow which needs to be seen and grieved over. When you discount the other and make a virtue of what you are insisting on, you are the devil.

You can find the Devil level of evil everywhere nowadays. It eats the World and the Flesh constantly and spits out spurious virtue. The Devil leads genuine witch hunts and preaches the common good for its own benefit.

How do we heal this? We understand it, for a start. And, most importantly, we stop demonising the other for anything. We may report the other to the police, we may walk away from the other, we may even fight the other. But we learn to understand that the reasons behind our need to demonise are ours and ours alone. Worlds collide; they always will. This is a cause for sorrow and healing, not for hate.

Physician, heal thyself.