Horror in Las Vegas polarises the world of religion

Source: The Economist

SINCE the horrific massacre in Las Vegas, the word “evil” has been heard with unusual frequency, on the lips of political leaders as well as clerics. This evil-talk is not just a reflex response or a banal statement of the obvious. It has philosophical implications, and often places the speaker in a particular corner of the debate about guns.

In the first minute of his response to the killing spree, Donald Trump termed it “an act of pure evil”. Striking an unusually scriptural tone, he went on to quote a verse from the Psalms, proclaiming that “The Lord is close to the broken-hearted, He rescues those whose spirits are crushed.” Even in that comforting passage, talk of evil is in the background. It comes a couple of lines after the declaration that “The Lord turns his face against those who do evil, He will erase their memory from the earth.”

Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House spokeswoman, in an emotional statement about the killings that included further scriptural reference, began by reminding people that this was an episode “which the president has rightly called an act of pure evil.”

What is meant by emphasising that point? Albert Mohler, a seminary president and influential figure in the religious conservative camp, offered a characteristic explanation. As he argued in a response to the killings, evil is a Biblical category. It can only be fully understood from a spiritual perspective which accepts both a loving God and the existence of forces ranged in opposition that will ultimately be defeated.

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