Overcoming Evil with Good

  Sher Singh was born in India and has lived in the United States for two years. On Wednesday, when his train from Boston to Washington, D.C. stopped in Providence, Rhode Island, he was arrested -- suspected of involvement in the terrorism that rocked the country on Tuesday. Alerted by television reports, a crowd gathered outside the train station. As police led Mr. Singh from the station the crowd whooped and jeered. "Kill him!" yelled one man. "You killed my brother," shrieked another. Mr. Singh, who had absolutely no connection with the terrorism, is a Sikh and wears a turban, a long beard, and a ceremonial dagger strapped to his shoulder. Sadly, this is not an isolated incident. In Chicago a crowd marched on a local mosque shouting, "U.S.A.! U.S.A.!" Someone threw a fire bomb at an Arab- American community center in Texas. Arab Americans have been assaulted and harassed across the country. A nineteen year old in Chicago commented, "I'm proud to be American and I hate Arabs and I always have." Evil, in this world, begets more evil. It's self- perpetuating. And we're already seeing that in the rage against Mr. Singh and people like him. By sharp contrast, Paul wrote to the Romans: "overcome evil with good" [Romans 12:21]. One of the reasons I believe the Christian Gospel couldn't be a made-up religion as some people think, is that it tells us to do that which is contrary to our human nature. When evil is done to us, the human instinct is to respond with evil. The result is that evil triumphs. In this case, if we responded to the terrorist attacks with evil, the terrorists would win. But the Gospel tells us to act exactly contrary to our own nature, to respond to evil with good. The most powerful example of this principle I know is Fr. Jerzy Popieluszko, a Catholic priest in Poland in the early 1980s. The pale, gaunt priest had a two- fold message: Defend the truth, and overcome evil with good. People responded and overflowed his church. The secret police followed him everywhere. He began to receive threats and, finally, one night after celebrating Mass and preaching, Fr. Jerzy disappeared. About ten days later, as 50,000 people came to Mass and to listen to a tape of his last sermon, they heard that his body had been found in the Vistula River -- badly mutilated by torture. The secret police braced for an uprising. But on the day of Fr. Jerzy's funeral, the huge crowd that walked past their headquarters bore a banner and shouted what it said, "We forgive." Fr. Jerzy taught them well. Only Christians, men and women who are touched by and understand the present reality of the Cross, can possibly overcome evil with good. And if we don't, no one else will. Rage and anger will carry the day and the terrorists will have won. This doesn't obviate the government's use of the sword, of military force to swiftly and proportionately respond to these terrorist attacks. We must do that, and our government will. But, as the nation's anger rises, there is a great test for American Christians: Can we live by the Gospel? Will we love our neighbors -- even those who look, sound, or seem like those who so ruthlessly attacked us. For further reference: "Arab-Americans Attacked, Threatened. The Washington Post Online, 13 September 2001. ( Colson, Charles with Ellen Santilli Vaughn. The Body: Being Light in Darkness. Dallas: Word Publishing, 1992 (pages 211-214). "Providence Police Detain Amtrak Passenger." The Providence Journal, 13 September 2001. (


Chuck Colson


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