Have you ever given much thought to how certain people can commit unspeakably evil deeds? Most of us assume they are mentally deranged and sick, and in some instances they are. But that is not necessarily always the case.
I recently encountered some interesting words about human wickedness in the Psalms. In Psalms 94 it speaks of the wicked who crush people’s lives, they slay widows and murder unprotected orphans. And then we are given some real insight into their lives; these wicked people say to themselves: “The Lord does not see, neither does the God of Jacob notice it.”
I am reminded of the words of Jeffrey Dahmer, arguably one of the most evil serial killers ever to live, not only because he killed so many innocent victims but also because he cannibalized those he had murdered. Shortly before his death, he gave an interview from prison that was aired on ABC News. This is what he said:
“When I was in high school, I found within myself the desire to torture animals. I did not believe in God, I did not believe we were here for a purpose…Given that I was not here for a purpose and I am going to die and that is the end of me, I could not find sufficient reason to deny the satisfactions of my desires.”
Then, he tells us that as he got older, he eventually reached the point where torturing animals no longer satisfied him, saying, “At that point, I decided I’ll torture human beings.” Based on his view of life and morality, he plainly admitted, “I could not think of a reason why I shouldn’t, given my view of reality.”
In listening to this interview, I was amazed at how calm and collected Dahmer was. He seemed so normal. In one sense Dahmer was saying that he did not believe in a God that was watching. A God who would one day judge his life. So why not follow his desires? In his mind there was no reason not to.
It should cause us to wonder how much our belief in a God who sees is actually a deterrent to evil.
Lord Acton, the great English historian, believed a person’s spiritual underpinnings created an invisible yoke that keeps us from evil deeds. However, it was quite evident, based on history, that if we abandon our spiritual roots, “duty loses it’s hold on our hearts. Crime and lawlessness are then unleashed.”
I know a man who runs a very successful organization. He has no ownership in the company but he is very well compensated. I have heard him say that he has so much authority and so much latitude within the organization that he could easily divert money to himself, through deception, and no one would ever know. Not even the accountants. However, he said as a Christian, he would never take a penny that was not due him. The reason he explains, “God would know, because God is watching.” He says the foundation of his Christian life is to fear God in a healthy way, and to seek to live a life that is pleasing to Him. This is an example of the “invisible yoke” that Lord Acton was referring to.
I think the words that best summarize the theme of this blog comes from Dr. Peter Kreeft, the great philosophy professor at Boston College, who clearly has the credentials to make a statement like this:
“No society has ever survived or will ever survive without morality, and no morality has ever survived without a transcendent source.”
Richard E Simmons III is the founder and Executive Director of The Center for Executive Leadership and a best-selling author.