I got to thinking again about how much we benefit from evil during a recent NPR story on the controversy surrounding the Olympic torch relay. The reporter mentioned that this tradition of having the torch criss cross the globe on the way to the games started with Nazi self-promotion. Check out this quote on wikipedia (and we all know that a wiki is always true, right? :))
The relay, captured in Leni Riefenstahl’s film Olympia, was part of the Nazi propaganda machine’s attempt to add myth and mystique to Adolf Hitler’s regime. Hitler saw the link with the ancient Games as the perfect way to illustrate his belief that classical Greece was an Aryan forerunner of the modern German Reich.[
So, you’re probably wondering how you benefit from a torch race. You don’t. But, my point is this, good things sometimes have their roots in evil intent.
Can you think of some ways you personally benefit from evil? How about your Hi-def TV or DVD player? Your high speed Internet? Most of our technological advances in electronic media have been in some part devised in an effort to advance pornographic imagery and make it readily accessible.
What about white privilege? We white folk benefit, albeit without any effort, from not having to answer questions about our race. Though much has been done to decrease racism, its a stretch to say in 2008 that white privilege no longer exists. And so we benefit from historic and current evil. What about the fact that we live on land taken from Native Americans?
Like cheap prices at Walmart? It comes on the backs of sweatshop workers in Asia and other 3rd world countries.
Let me get personal for a moment. My wife and I are/were infertile. We decided to adopt. While adoption is a good and beautiful thing, it is possible ONLY when evil has done its work (e.g., death, abuse, rape, drugs, teen sex, poverty, etc.). And so we benefit from evil in that we can raise two beautiful boys not from our own loins.
So, how should we respond to these benefits? End the torch relay because it refers back to Nazi-ism? Boycott new electronic technology? Continue some form of affirmative action? Stop buying at Walmart? Keep kids in foster homes? Of course not for most of these examples (though affirmative action and boycotting Walmart are possible and maybe even probable answers). Instead, I think we ought to:
- Remain vigilant about the subtle ways we benefit from evil so we are not blind (1 Thess 5:6)
- Make sure that those being actively hurt (e.g., sweatshop workers) are helped by our stand for justice (Eze. 22:29)
- Being willing to suffer for the benefit of the vulnerable (e.g., higher prices; jobs going to qualified minorities that might not be as easily noticed). (Phil. 2)
- Reclaiming for God’s glory what was intended for evil (e.g., using electronic media to spread the Gospel) (Gen 50:20; Acts 11:19f)