The Boy in the Striped Pajamas: The Problem of Evil

"...even Satan masquerades as an angel of light.."-2 Corinthians 11:14
Evil is rarely able to operate in our world without disguise. This is due to the ugly nature of evil itself, which is such that most thinking people would reject it outright if presented in all its hideousness. Instead evil often uses the will to do good as a foundation upon which to builds its edifice in culture, and abuses that very will to do good. It often hides behind Man's desire to impact his world for the better. Such is the lesson behind the film “The Boy in the Striped Pajamas”. In the film we are introduced to the young boy Bruno, an innocent child growing up in a very unfortunate circumstance-Nazi Germany. Like most boys he looks up to his father and would be hard pressed to believe his father would be capable of anything evil. And to look upon Ralf (Bruno's father) as if he were somehow evil incarnate is both problematic and unfair; it is an error driven by emotion and a lack of careful consideration. Ralf is a man of principle, pride, ethic and duty. He loves his country, serves it proudly and is a model soldier. He explains to Bruno, “Look, the thing is, Bruno, the thing about being a soldier, is that life is not so much about choice, it's more about duty, so if your country needs you to go somewhere, you go.” Ralf isn't inherently evil, but he is susceptible to the same defects all of us are. That is, he is infected with Inherited Depravity, that inner inclination to sin and rebellion that renders all of us capable of horrific abuses of our fellow man. The Nazi brand of Nationalism wasn't anything unique to them. In the United States we too have produced such Nationalism, such zeal for the defense of our nation. Please don't get me wrong. I'm not saying patriotism is an evil in and of itself, but it can certainly be distorted and abused by the forces of evil for nefarious ends. Much like Nazi Germany and their internment of Jews and other “undesirables”, the extreme Nationalism of the American government during World War II led our government to intern the Japanese and many Germans, most of whom were just as loyal and just as patriotic as the men fighting oversees. Granted, these internment camps weren't anything like those in Nazi Germany, but the principle of dehumanizing someone based on ethnic identity was still there as the pretext. And lest anyone think to absolve themselves of such identitatrianism, the Left throughout Europe and the United States are engaging in the same racial discrimination today, targeting those of Western European heritage as enemies of minorities. It is the same playbook the Nazis and others have used throughout history; evil hiding behind a perceived good.

When young Bruno is curious about the people on what he thinks is a farm (in reality a concentration camp), Ralf tells his son,“All you need to know about my work here, Bruno, is that it's very important to our country and to you. We're working very hard to make this world a better place for you to grow up in.” His reply reveals two things. 

First, he states his firm belief that doing his duty at the camp will make his country a better place for his child. In this particular comment we can easily see the will to do good in his desire to make a better place for his children to grow up and live in. There is nothing evil in such a desire of itself. However, evil has abused Ralf's will to do good by making the imprisonment, torture, enslavement, and holocaust of others a condition of that desire. 

This brings me to my second point, which is that implicit in his first words in response to his son's curiosity is the fact that he realizes there is indeed an evil in his work from which he seeks to protect his son. Ralf is a man of conscience, but he has allowed his conscience to be numbed to his culpability by National Socialist propaganda telling him that he isn't responsible, and that such things are justified in a war. He is a man willfully ensnared by evil in his sincere desire to do good. He knows in his conscience that what he is doing is wrong, just as those today who engage in racial hatred know deep inside that what they're saying and doing is wrong. That inner voice has been there since childhood, and we all instinctively comprehend that some acts are objectively evil and immoral.

Contemporary Comparisons
We face similar situations today, though perhaps not to the same degree. Our world today is increasingly Leftist, and as a result we witness a slowly advancing police state in nations all across Western Europe and right here in the United States. Since the terrorist attack on Sept. 11, 2001 our government has enacted a variety of legislation under the auspices of the Patriot Act. At first presented as a desire to protect Americans from further acts of terror (a good), it has grown to such proportions that the individual freedoms guaranteed under the Constitution and the rights provided for in the Bill of Rights are under constant fire and some have been effectively annulled. For example, the government now controls how much money you can transfer from bank account to bank account, the government searches us as if we are all criminals at airports, the government is now able to wiretap your phones without warrant, collect personal information and store email and text messages, log in to your computer and watch you on your camera without your knowledge, hold you indefinitely without charges or presenting cause in a court of law, and even assassinate you (if you are perceived as a traitor and "enemy combatant") on the word of the president and his advisers alone, completely ignoring the right to a trial afforded even traitors. It can fairly be said that the will to do good has been turned to evil, and we are witnessing the erection of a potential totalitarian state. And while the election of President Donald Trump has slowed some of the rot, Christians today are still attacked by the forces of the Left, and even in government counter-terrorism training manuals have been referred to as “terrorists".

Governments are turning a blind eye to the systematic extermination of Christians throughout the Middle East, where in some places Christian communities going back to the 1st and 2nd centuries have been completely exterminated. Why do these governments and the United Nations turn a blind eye? There are many reasons, none of which are justifiable, but all of which undoubtedly boil down to a perceived good. In this case a desire to blind the masses to the dangers of Islam, and thus to keep them from panic regarding the overwhelming Islamic immigration into Western Europe. Even as Muslims engage in acts of terror in each of these Western nations, the powers that be deny again and again that such acts are inherent to Islam, when in fact they are at the very heart of the religion; all this to prove how compassionate these Western European nations are by welcoming the downtrodden "refugee". Again, evil hiding behind the will to do good.

In the U.K., local police are used to harass people who use social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook, threatening conservatives with arrest if they don't change their stated opinions about Islam, gays, lesbians, and transgender issues, or at the very least told to keep silent. 

All of these perceived "goods" have led to objective evils.

Like little Bruno, we often find ourselves blind to evil at work behind the scenes of our governments and of social justice organizations. And once we awaken to the reality of the situation we can be confused by the apparent dichotomy. Bruno is told of the Jews in the camps, “They're not in there because they're good, silly. They're no good at anything. They're in there because they're evil. They're the enemy.”

In today's socio-political climate, Christians and conservatives are the enemy, and as far as the Left is concerned, we're not good, we are the evil ones.

The Solution to the Problem of Evil
With such messages being promoted today about Christians and those who fight to preserve their cultures, confronting evil and recognizing its disguises is never easy. 

As Alexsandr Solzhenitsyn (1918-2008) wrote:

If only it were all so simple! If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?” (The Gulag Archipelago

Indeed, for fallen humanity the seemingly dualistic war within manifests in the external world of politics, society, culture, and sadly war. The only way to make sense of this struggle is to embrace the absolute good-God. We have to recognize that if objective morals and values exist (and they do), then they must come from a Supreme Objective Source. This Source can only be an omnipotent, omniscient God.

Some might counter that if God is good, He wouldn't permit such evils. This is really to misunderstand both the character of God and the character of Man. God didn't create Man to be an automaton, but with the ability to choose his path freely. We're beings of volition and will, and as such the presence of evil in the world is often of our own making. It is our own disordered desires, our distorted view of what is good for us and humanity as a whole that permits evil a foothold in our world. Evil, without an agent, wouldn't exist. The agent of evil is often us. We bear the responsibility for it, not God.

Only when we accept the Word of the transcendent and Absolute Source of Truth can the ability to discern good from evil be found, and the highest good for humanity be realized. Only in this Source is the objective good understood and given expression. Let us work toward the return to God, and thus of order, beauty, and truth.