After the bombs exploded during the Boston Marathon, Patton Oswalt (from television sitcom the King of Queens) wrote a Facebook post that was quickly recopied and reposted around the world. He said,
“The good outnumber you, and we always will.”
This is a wonderful sentiment because Oswalt has already noticed that many people were running toward the explosion and not away from it. People were not afraid as much as they were motivated to help those who had been hurt. Finding this spirit and attitude in the American people is noteworthy and worthwhile. I’m proud that we are not easily intimidated. But after thinking about this, I realized that there was something bothering me. Over time, I realized that ‘something’ was this: The good may outnumber the bad, but evil is never as far away as we would hope.
I don’t mean to say that every human being is evil, but most of us are not as good as we like to imagine ourselves. As hundreds of law enforcement officers were hunting down the bomber who was hiding in a boat stored in someone’s back yard, Patton Oswalt declares that most of us are good. But are we? After the bomber’s photograph had been discovered on surveillance tapes and distributed all around the world, what if he had been discovered sitting in a neighborhood bar or in some other public place? I don’t mean, what would happen if the police discovered him, I mean, what would have happened if you or I were sitting at our neighborhood watering hole watching television and realized that the guy sitting next to us was the bomber we just saw on the news?
Today, more than a month after the bombing, the chances are good that we would detain him until the police could arrive. However, if he had been discovered in a public place the day after the bombing, it may well have been to coroner that came to get him instead of the police.
Last month when Amanda Berry and the other girls were discovered in Cleveland, their rescuer, Charles Ramsey said something like, ‘It’s a good thing I didn’t know what he was doing next door or I would have gone over there with a baseball bat and it would be me the police were taking to jail.’
I am a teacher of mercy, grace and forgiveness but if someone were to rape or murder a member of my family, they would probably be safer with the police. That wouldn’t be the most Christian reaction, but I’m not sure how well I could control myself under those circumstances.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m just as inspired as you are by police, firefighters and others who run toward danger instead of away from it. I’m glad that there are good people in the world who will rush to help a neighbor and that we come together as communities to help one another.
All I’m saying is this: We are not all good.
There is darkness inside every one of us.
More often than not, the distance between good and evil is not nearly as great as we think.