Cicero, Aristotle, Plutarch and Chaucer and others all said words to this effect. A humorous gloss comes from the movie Klondike Annie where Mae West says when given the choice of two evils, “I'll choose the one I never tried before.”

1 Thessalonians 5:22
Avoid every kind of evil.
abstain from every form of evil.

These isolated words from Paul's letter appear to directly contradict the notion that one must choose between two evils. While seeking what is good, we are to flee evil in all its forms. Yet life is not always so simple. For instance, if we want to buy soap and we have some soap companies that exploit labor and others that hurt the environment and still others that harm animals in testing, are we then required to make our own soap or are we able to study the companies and choose the one that causes the least harm in making its soap? While I could offer about 50 or more scriptures that point to this kind of “all or nothing” approach to good and evil, it is interesting that the conservative technology guru and blogger, Rod Martin, offers a challenge to such thinking. He talks about the elections of Absalom, David and Solomon as Kings of Israel, and the crowning of Rehoboam, as examples where abstract perfectionism is overcome by limited choices and the need for pragmatism. Abstain from every evil in theory? And choose the least evil in practice? Perhaps this is a common ground that holds together the hopes and desires we share with the realities we all face.

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Comment by Forrest Curo on 2nd mo. 2, 2017 at 11:19pm

The solution to this dilemma is: "Just wash yourself; you've got bigger questions to deal with."

When the evils involved truly are evil, ie a Trump/Clinton bad-cop/good-cop scam, maybe we just shouldn't be playing this game...

Comment by Glenn Morison on 2nd mo. 2, 2017 at 11:26pm

Forrest, you are in good company siding with Paul on this one!  Curious, by this you are declaring that you did not vote? Or did you vote for another candidate?

Comment by James C Schultz on 2nd mo. 3, 2017 at 1:51pm

I think the problem is defining EVIL.  Evil should not be easily equated to wrong doing.  Liars and thieves are not necessarily evil.  People intent on furthering their own agenda are not necessarily evil.  By making that link one under rates true Evil.  Evil enjoys the harm it does.  It takes the time to savor the pain it puts another through.  It relishes the ravages of war.  You can actually feel it when you are in its presence just as you can feel love when you are blessed with it.

Comment by Glenn Morison on 2nd mo. 3, 2017 at 8:45pm

I would agree James.  Two writings I have liked are chapter 2, of Scott Peck's People of The Lie and almost anything by Ernest Becker, but The Structure of Evil in particular.  And while I think these two writers go a long way to defining evil, I agree that experience is a great teacher in this realm.

Comment by Forrest Curo on 2nd mo. 4, 2017 at 10:08am

As many people refused to notice, it was perfectly possible to vote for no evil at all. Jill Stein was available, as well as any write-in candidate one might prefer.


James, you seem to mean malice. 'Evil' as in "deliver us from evil" means simply 'harm'. What the King James version put as the demand "that ye resist not evil" -- is more clearly rendered in the New English Bible as "Do not set yourself against a man who would harm you."

Malice is an ugly human trait, but so far as I understand it, it looks like an emotional conclusion that "If he's suffering, I must be winning." Ultimately, then, it's a sign of fear: 'If we can't torture them, they'll do awful things to our mothers & significant others.'

"People intent on furthering their own agenda" are not 'evil'; but that orientation inflicts great evils on others, whether or not such people directly harm anyone, or intend any harm at all.

Comment by James C Schultz on 2nd mo. 4, 2017 at 8:37pm

I will agree to disagree.  I just don't know of a better word for anyone who enjoys inflicting harm for the pure sake of inflicting harm.  I think Malice is generally directed at a particular person and results from a personal resentment whether real or imagined.  Semantics were never my best suit so I can't win a discussion on linguistics so I'll just be stubborn and say I know it when I feel it and evil is the best word I can come up with for it.  But as you can probably guess I don't think either of the major political candidates are evil to my way of thinking.  There is enough hyperbole around without going that far.


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