I was born in South Africa when the world was crying out for justice against the racial segregation caused by apartheid (Afrikaans word meaning “the state of being apart”) enforced through legislation by the National Party. As a boy, I witnessed hateful and abusive behavior, both verbal and physical. The racial tension was externally volatile, an atmosphere that can only be described as evil. This is not how a country ought to treat its own people. I still remember the global sigh of relief after Nelson Mandela was elected 1994; I was ten years old at the time. It seemed that everything, that was undone for so long, was finally on the mend; however, it would take many years and tremendous effort to soften the hearts of the people – the hearts of those that have become so cold, so broken. How can a human heart, I wondered, become so dysfunctional and so disconnected?
Apartheid was not just evil to its own victims, and it left more than a stain on its own nation; apartheid was atrocious to all of humanity. No wonder the world was up in arms, fervently protesting apartheid. This global uproar demonstrates rather well, I think, how evil really is transcendent. That is to say that, evil is objective and not simply subjective. If evil is only your, subjective, opinion then we can eliminate evil tomorrow by changing your opinion. And if evil is subjective then it would only seem evil to you and not to others. It’s clear that apartheid was objectively evil, given the global anti-apartheid banner waving.
How the understanding of evil becomes complex is: if something is objectively evil, does it come from within us or from some outside agency? When asked about evil, president Obama stated “evil is in the streets of America (Q&A, TV interview with Senator McCain, 2008-08).” This would somehow entail that science can measure evil if it truly did exist outside of us.
“Science is about the facts not the norms; it might tell us how we are, but it couldn’t tell us what is wrong with how we are. There couldn’t be a science of the human condition.” – Jerry A. Fodor
But, according to Jerry Fodor, science cannot tell us how things ought to be, only how they are. That might have something to do with the fact that we only have moral obligations to person’s not to inanimate objects. No person is morally obligated to a phone, or a car, or a building; but, a person is morally obligated to another person. That would suggest that evil comes from inside a person. That we are cold and dysfunctional in our own hearts, that your heart and my heart are broken. Our proclivity, with a broken heart, is to break relationships with people and with God. This is what complicates our understanding of evil, our outcry for justice, and our need for it ourselves, our longing for right relationships and our unwillingness to develop them.
“If only it were all so simple! If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?” ― Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago 1918-1956
The heart of apartheid is man’s separation from mankind, and God. How is it humanly possible to pass this test?