It is no secret that the American polity today is divided as profoundly as it has been at any time since the Civil War. One side believes Trump is an evil collaborator with foreign governments who has limited competence and only became President for personal gain. These same people almost never criticized Obama and in many cases worshiped him as the utopian messiah. On the other side you have people who consider everything that Trump does as an application of the “Art of the Deal”. He is a brilliant strategist who is always at least three moves ahead of his opponents. To these people, Obama is a closet (or not) Communist whose utilitarianism justified illegal acts of domestic espionage and weaponization of government.
So which side is right? Which of these men is good and which is evil?
I used to watch James Bond movies all the time. In most of these movies (at least the older ones) there is a villain, like Dr. No or Goldfinger, who is diabolical. These villains are evil, and seemed to take pleasure in this attribute to the point of coming up with new ways daily to expand their resume of evil by tormenting new people in new ways.
Because of this cultural legacy, it is easy for us fall into the trap of believing the people who do not share our world view are diabolical like Goldfinger. The reality is quite different. Neither Trump nor Obama see themselves as evil. Their beliefs and actions are a direct result of their world views. No doubt they are doing what they believe is best to support and promote their world views, not what is most effective to torment and oppress opponents. This has to be our starting point when evaluating human actions.
History has been unkind to men like Hitler, Mao, and Stalin because they were responsible for the deaths of millions of people. Yet they did not see themselves as evil. They made compromises and forced sacrifices that they felt were necessary to achieve their visions of a better world. We judge them harshly because in our estimation the benefit was not worth the sacrifice.
Today there are world views that assert, like the evil men above, that the ends justify the means. Some sacrifices are necessary, they say, to achieve the utopia envisioned in these world views. Soldiers must die to defend the freedoms of a nation. Freedoms must be sacrificed so the safety and provision of people can be guaranteed.
A fundamental conclusion that must be be drawn is, while men are never irretrievably evil, some world views are. Any world view that requires the death of other human beings as a necessity for the achievement of its ultimate end is evil. Any world view that places one group of human beings in a superior position over another group is evil. Stalin and Mao believed dissent was an obstacle to the full implementation of their utopia, so dissenters needed to be removed. Hitler believed genetic impurities were preventing the human race from being all it could be. If you examine modern belief systems you will find the same flaws because human nature has not changed. The human heart is capable of justifying anything.
There is a world view that is superior to all of these because it does not require sacrificing people on its altar. In Romans 12:1 Paul said “…present your bodies as a living sacrifice…”. The Bible is not saying we are to pass a law that requires other people to sacrifice so the needs and wants of better people can be satisfied. We are to sacrifice our own interests voluntarily for the benefit of others.
The Bible also states in 1Timothy 2:1-4:
“First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. “
This passage speaks of peace and quiet as the environment that is most desirable for the human condition. This is in direct opposition to the present environment. While at times political leaders make it impossible for their people to live in peace, that is not true in the United States. Nevertheless, there is no respect for people in positions of authority and it is now acceptable to wish death to political opponents and their families.
Verse 4 says that God wants all people to be saved. As evil as we perceive leaders in our world to be, God wants them to have a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. Even Hitler and Stalin. Even Trump and Obama.
I once met a man who was a prison guard in the prison where Jeffrey Dahmer was being incarcerated. You may remember Dahmer as the serial killer who baited young people to his home and killed them before eating them. My acquaintance was quite convinced that Dahmer had sincerely professed faith in Christ in prison before his death. If this is true (and we can’t know for sure), it gives us hope that nobody, whether a political opponent or a serial killer, is beyond the power of being changed by God. No person, no matter how evil their acts may be, is beyond redemption.