The Reality of Evil
I have long been an opponent of the death penalty. My wife is not. Nor are many of my friends. I have, however, stuck to my guns because I have not felt it is our place on Earth to deprive people, however badly they have behaved, of their right to find redemption. My faith says that anyone can find their way to the Lord, and repentence is an important part of that.
Since my daughter was born, my wife has often asked me, whenever a horrible crime occured, how I would feel if someone did that to Helen. I have clung to my belief nevertheless and did so even after 9/11, although I have had no problem with the idea that the fanatics who conspired in that outrage would probably die rather than be captured.
Then the other day I watched a documentary on TLC about Ivan Milat
, the Australian serial killer who kidnapped backpackers and then tortured them experimentally, having stabbed their spines to paralyze them before experimenting. He beheaded one of his victims in the manner of the executioners of old. The head has never been found. Both my mother and my grandmother, gentle souls both, had read widely on the deeds of British serial killers, and so I was used to tales of genuine horror. Each of Milat's deeds was worse than anything I had heard before. I had trouble getting to sleep. Kristen's question rang in my mind.
This morning I read the details of Daniel Pearl's murder. The beheading, the humiliation, the lack of humanity stood out. There is plainly no difference between these evil men and Ivan Milat. I can no longer hold to my belief in redemption. For people such as these, I cannot imagine any way that they could be redeemed. These are people who leave no other cheek to turn. I find it difficult even to describe them as people, but their awful rationality precludes me from calling them animals.
I have been forced to confront the reality of evil. Evil, as I now understand it, is the absence of the possibility of redemption. That is what the Devil does. With their complicity, he strips people of their humanity. This is not madness. It is a choice, and a rational one. It is the deliberate turning away, once and for all, from humanity's inherent capacity for goodness.
I can therefore no longer oppose the death penalty for those who are truly evil. In the past, my anger has been tempered by pity. Now it shall be tempered only by regret for what was lost. I do not view that as a bad thing.