A Basis for fighting social and structural evil

In my last two blog entries, I addressed the statement “all people are sinners.” This statement also has noteworthy sociopolitical and political significance.

The statement means that we, as Christians, do not see all sorts of social problems only as structural problems which can solely be combated with enlightenment, (re-) education, and political programs.

Behind torture, racism, hyper-capitalism, the oppression of women, and child sexual abuse – to name only a few social problems – lies the reality of sin, and as much as we might want to battle the consequences of sin locally, as much as we also want to address structural evil politically and from an overall societal standpoint, behind this is an eerie commonality which – even if it is in a suppressed form – forces its way into public view. Too many people intentionally do not use the possible ways whereby we could all do better. Rather, they attempt to obtain an advantage for themselves, even if they have to sometimes act as if they are concerned for the common good. (In Luke 22:25 Jesus said, “… and those who exercise authority over them call themselves Benefactors.”)

Forms of evil such as envy, greed, hatred, and Schadenfreude (pleasure from the misfortune of others) repeatedly show their hideous face in greater and lesser matters. Without a view of the entire picture, every individual who champions sociopolitical causes remains unrealistic in his estimation of the opportunities. We have to soberly realize that the root of great social maladies is evil, i.e., sin – which dwells within many individuals as well as within social structures.

Without hatred, envy, pride, and lies, there is no racism. Without greed, addiction, and deceit, there is no exploitation. Without a lust for power and a lack of self-control, there is no abuse and sexual violence.

It is as Jesus said: It is not that which comes from without which makes us evil. Rather, it is that which comes from within us (Matthew 15:18–20, Mark 7:18–23). (Naturally, the evil which comes out of us is then malice for others that does come from outside. We are also affected by evil coming out from others individually or as structural, socially solidified sin from without.) It is not only people living after Sigmund Freud who know what sort of abyss can open up within themselves.

It is not only the claim that all people are made by God in his image that provides the foundation for public policies founded on the basis of a Christian idea of humankind. Rather, it also includes the idea that every individual can fall into temptation. Every person has to deal with the possibility that a person can surprisingly and suddenly fall from heights into severe depths. Exemplary politicians can suddenly be bribed, peaceful citizens can suddenly turn to violence, or they convert and become religious terrorists.

Christians should never say: “I would never have thought that was possible,” or “That could never have happened to me.” Indeed, everything is possible, and good politics takes this into account and makes provisions for it in order to prevent the worst. The church, using good New Testament judgment, knows that their own leaders can become a danger (e.g., Acts 20:30)! Everyone is capable of misusing power, priests with the power they hold over children, parents with the power they have over their sweet little ones, and anti-corruption agents with the power they have over their co-workers.

There are people who want to utilize radioactive materials against others. One does not have to wait until there is a reasonable concrete suspicion or discuss whether this or that individual will really strike. Rather, one has to plan now and make provisions. This is due to the fact that the evil which one can think and plan can also be carried out. Where the misjudgment led that thought Hitler would not act as evilly as he spoke and wrote is visible for all to see (comp. the introduction to my book Hitler’s _Kriegsreligion [English title translation of the title: Hitler’s War Religion]).

To be continued …



  1. […] Sünder sind, hat gesellschaftliche Auswirkungen. Dies beschreibt Thomas Schirrmacher in einer Artikelserie: So bedeutet sie etwa, dass wir als Christen gesellschaftliche Probleme aller Art nicht nur als […]

  2. wir Menschen – leider auch wir Christen – neigen dazu, unser eigenes Verhalten immer noch als besser anzusehen als das der anderen. Trotz Berufung auf die Bibel haben wir doch unsere eigenen Maßstäbe, nach denen wir unser Verhalten und das der anderen messen. Wir rechtfertigen unser eigenes Tun und verurteilen das der anderen. Daher stehen wir auch in der Gefahr, manches sündhafte Verhalten nicht für möglich zu halten (weil wir es nicht tun würden), aber dafür erwarten wir Barmherzigkeit gegenüber unserem sündhaften tun. Das Menschenbild der Bibel aber bringt Objektivität hinein und stellt uns alle unter das gleiche Urteil. Das erschreckt, aber befreit auch.
    Viel Blauäugigkeit und Fehleinschätzung, aber auch Enttäuschungen können uns daher erspart bleiben.

    Danke für diese Artikelserie !

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *