The Hierarchy of Evil

Tires squealing, the getaway car jerks from the curb and accelerates to 35 mph.

“What are you doing?” a bank robber roars from the back seat, ripping off his ski mask. “Get this thing moving!”

His partner raises a finger, slowing as the stoplight ahead turns yellow. “That’s the speed limit here.”

“Oh!” the thief exclaims, sticking his revolver out the window to fire at a trailing police cruiser. “My mistake.”

There have been many thousands of robberies in human history, but none like this, and we all know why. There is a hierarchy of evil, just as there is a hierarchy of good.

The man who commits big crimes will commit small crimes. If he is willing to kill, then he is also willing to steal because killing is a terrible theft. And if he is willing to steal, then he is also willing to lie because claiming what belongs to someone else is a lie.

It works the other way, too. “Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much.”

We know this in our bones, but it is a dangerous thing to know. Our culture is teetering toward the opposite idea, that there is no logic to right or wrong. Killing may be kind, and honesty cruel, and hatred a very great beauty.

The great lies of our day are not hidden in shadow, because they are too proud for the shadows. They are shouted as truth, and we are dared to disbelieve.

We manage this tension with dissonance, which is to say we don’t manage it at all. We are daily tempted to lay aside what we know and, instead, say something we don’t know – something safer and more rewarding, and so become liars ourselves. It’s a slippery slope, and down we slide, further and further from reality.

I don’t know if there is hope for this culture, but if there is, this is how it will begin. We will dare to disbelieve. We will say without apology what we know to be true. A man is a man. A woman is a woman. The innocence of children must be protected.

There is a hierarchy of evil. The person who feels free to kill a child will feel free to steal a ballot. The official who steals power by ignoring the law will always be willing to lie. A culture that tolerates such lies from its leaders will soon have no room for freedom.

I would say that our lives are at stake, but it’s much worse than that: Because even the innocent person who goes along with evil becomes evil.

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