If there were a vote on which story from this week’s news was most disturbing, two would be neck-and-neck, stories that all too clearly demonstrate the existence of pure evil in our supposedly enlightened century.
The first is the story of Nxivm (Nexium) the cult in Upstate New York where an egomaniac convinced a group of women that he was someone special, and together they would “build a better world.” But, as too many of these guru stories go, he brainwashed his underlings, convincing them to lure other women into sexual slavery, creating a personal harem for himself replete with the branded initials of the “grandmaster” on the victims’ bodies.
What were these women thinking? Their delusions were derived from the basic human need for connections and to make sense of life. This universal need can be transformative, transcendent—the Sacrament of the Group I call it–but this cult demonstrates how easily it can be shanghaied to the Dark Side, abusing another sacrament, Sexual Union, at the same time.
The second story is from Alaska. There a young woman, Denali Brehmer, suggested a hike to her best friend, Cynthia Hoffman, and along with four other friends, took off in a pick-up truck. When they got to a designated spot, they grabbed Cynthia, put a bag over her head, and one of the young men shot her in the head. Why would they do this? Because Denali believed a millionaire in Kansas she had met on the internet was going to pay her 9 million dollars for the murder. At his insistence she filmed it so he could watch. But that’s not all: he then blackmailed Denali into filming the rape of two young girls, threatening to disclose her role in the murder if she did not comply. The police unraveled the plot, and it turns out there was no millionaire, he was just some 21-year old deviant in Indiana, duping stupid, greedy people. This is a crime against two other sacraments, the Sacrament of Friends and the Sacrament of Death, turning what is sacred into the diabolical.
There may not be a horned guy running around with a pitchfork, but there is pure, unadulterated Evil, when we take our highest virtues– friendship, trust, companionship, sexual intimacy–and twist them into a torture chamber, a nightmare of pain and suffering.
How do we guard against this? Reason. But more than that, Wisdom. Wisdom would teach about virtue, our nobler selves, combatting greed and selfishness. But it has to be taught. The Book of Proverbs says it all in chapter one:
Wisdom crieth without; she uttereth her voice in the streets:
She crieth in the chief place of concourse, in the openings of the gates: in the city she uttereth her words, saying,
How long, ye simple ones, will ye love simplicity? and the scorners delight in their scorning, and fools hate knowledge?
Proverbs also has a warning that applies to the Alaska case:
My son, if sinners entice thee, consent thou not.
If they say, Come with us, let us lay wait for blood, let us lurk privily for the innocent without cause:…
Cast in thy lot among us; let us all have one purse:
My son, walk not thou in the way with them; refrain thy foot from their path:
For their feet run to evil, and make haste to shed blood. …
And they lay wait for their own blood; they lurk privily for their own lives.
So are the ways of every one that is greedy of gain; which taketh away the life of the owners thereof.