People of the Lie

I’m reading the book, “People of the Lie” by M. Scott Peck, M.D.  A fascinating book told from a christian psychiatrist about human evil.

A section that I was just reading and was struck by is talking about “projecting.”  Now, we have a clear visual image for projecting light: a flash light.  But Dr. Peck discusses that people with an evil heart project darkness.  Quick note: he is not using the word evil lightly.  These are not people who sin from time to time but try to do better and to follow the light.  These are people who have decided in their heart to reject the notion that they are sinful whether fully of their own or through the influence of demons.  These are people who may acknowledge God loudly with their words but who deny their own wrongs and, as such, do not need the salvation of Christ and, as such, cannot accept Him into their hearts.  What they do, they do on their own, not with the power of the spirit, although they may use the names and words.

Let me plant the seed first, then you can read a synopsis of what Dr Peck writes.  We have been discussing this week God’s plan and purpose to bring all things under Christ.  Every knee shall bow and every tongue confess – Jew, Gentile, every knee.  So, what does satan plan and purpose?  To keep any knee possible from bowing for as long as possible.

According to the book:

Since the evil (evil people – those with an evil heart), deep down, feel themselves to be faultless, it is inevitable that when they are in conflict with the world they will perceive the conflict as the world’s fault.  To deny their own badness they must perceive others as bad.  They project their own evil onto the world.  By not seeing evil in themselves, the full burden shifts to the shoulders of others.  An evil father who hears his son cuss projects all of the burden onto the son and takes action to cleanse his son’s filthiness, often accompanied by language far worse than what the son said.  The father projects his own filth onto the son and then punishes him in the name of good parenting.

The evil attack others rather than face their own failures.  Strangely enough, evil people are often destructive because they are attempting to destroy evil.  The problem is that they misplace the locus of the evil.  As life often threatens their self-image of perfection (or “being good enough”), they are often busily engaged in hating and destroying that life – usually in the name of righteousness and too often carrying the banner of the church.  The fault, however, may not be so much that they hate life as that they do not hate the sinful part of their own life.

The evil are dedicated to preserving their self-image of perfection/goodness.  They worry about this a great deal.  They are acutely sensitive to social norms and what others think of them.  They dress well, go to work on time, pay their taxes, attend church regularly (if that is the social norm of their area) and live lives that are above reproach.  While they seem to lack any motivation to be good, they intensely desire to appear good.  Their goodness is all on a level of pretense.  It is a lie.  But the lie is not designed so much to deceive others as to deceive themselves.

The essential component of evil is not the absence of a sense of sin or imperfection but the unwillingness to tolerate that sense.  At one and the same time the evil are aware of their evil and desperately trying to avoid the awareness.  They are continually engaged in efforts to project the wrongs onto others or sweep them under the rug.  Everything they do has a rationalization.  They are not lazy or unengaged, in fact they are likely to exert themselves more than most in their continuing efforts to obtain and maintain an image of high respectability.  They may be willing, even eager, to undergo hardship and pain, particularly to strike out at the evil they clearly see in others and in the world.  There is only one pain they cannot tolerate: the pain of their own sinfulness and imperfection.

I think we can see this action in the “righteous” jews who tortured Paul.  We see it in the hateful words spoken by “defenders of the faith.”  And, painfully, we see it in our churches in those who step into leadership to right the wrongs of others without transparency of their own sinful nature.  I am not proposing that it is right to keep quiet about the wrongs in the world or to not take action – but the lessons we are learning through the word of the bible is before you open your mouth you should drop to your knees in submission to the Lord.  Today is a good day to pray for knees that bow and hearts that confess.