Naming Evil

The Anarchist’s coming is all Satan’s work. All his power and signs and miracles are fake, evil sleight of hand that plays to the gallery of those who hate the truth that could save them. – 2 Thessalonians 2:9-10 (MSG)

In the days following the passing of civil rights icon Congressman John Lewis, one op-ed shared that “John Lewis taught us to tell uncomfortable truths” and charged readers to this same truth-telling:

“As we honor Congressman Lewis upon his passing, we must do more than mourn. We must also do more than symbolic acts, like changing names of bridges, streets, sports teams and political titles. We must stand up to challenge the underlying system of structural racism that the symbols represent as he did and tell the truth – even when, especially when it’s uncomfortable.” (Ryan Haygood)

We often don’t like to talk about Satan in the progressive church. We often leave “that kind of talk” to the more evangelical traditions. Fact is, no matter the name we give it – in the words of artist and freedom fighter Kendrick Lamar – “the evil of Lucy [are] all around [us.]”

Refusing to name evil does not and will not make it go away.

When we do not name evil, we give it unleashed power to prevail.

When we refuse to expose the evil behind policies that separate families, allow police to murder with impunity, put profit before people – we are more than a bit complicit in the harm these policies cause our siblings.

The scars Rep. Lewis bore on his face reflected the risk that too often comes with truth-telling. Yet he lived, served, and fought against the even greater risks we all face if we keep silent, play it safe, and engage in respectability politics.

Jesus declared it and Rep. Lewis embodied a “truth that sets us free” (John 8:32).

God, we give you thanks for ancestors that taught us to “tell the truth and shame the devil.” We say their names. Ashé.

About the Author
Rev. Dr. Marilyn Pagán-Banks (she/her/ella) is a queer womanist freedom fighter gratefully (though not always gracefully) serving as executive director of A Just Harvest, Senior Pastor at San Lucas UCC, and adjunct professor at McCormick Theological Seminary. She is a joyful contributor to The Words of Her Mouth.