Naked Evil and the Boston Bombings

storm-seas-sky-featured-480x300When trying to make sense of the recent bombing in Boston or the tragedies of Sandy Hook and the Aurora massacres, we are faced with mindless violence – an absurd, howling kind of insane violence. It seems like the devil himself is stalking the streets – seeking whom he may devour.

An exorcist told me one of the most disturbing and maddening things about exorcism is that one can rarely diagnose the problem completely. “You see,” he said, “the devil is a liar and the father of lies. Once you have identified the demon you don’t know if you really have or not. The demon lurks within. He will lie, lie, lie. He will pretend to respond to your commands, but then trick you. He is malicious beyond your imaginings.”

I have thought much about this over the years since I heard this and realize how true it is. The devil is a liar, and because he lies all the time dealing with him is like walking on quicksand or dancing in a minefield. When dealing with evil in the personality we are constantly confronted with false images, false diagnoses, confusing signals, distractions, distortions and disturbing evidence. Is the person really possessed or is it mental illness?

It there a medical and chemical disturbance, or is it a personality disorder or is the problem psychological? Is the person disturbed emotionally or are there deep relational problems? Is there abuse, addiction or psychiatric illness? It could be all these things or a mixture of them. All these things could be woven together like an intractable knot, and added to the disturbance could be demonic influences, sinful addictions or even full blown demonic possession.

Then the problem is compounded because the demon, if there really is a demon there, will hide and deceive. He will whine and be the coward one moment and be defiant and blasphemous the next. He’ll use every ruse and diabolical subterfuge – hiding behind all manner of illnesses and madness.

The intricacy of unraveling the problem is time consuming and constantly frustrating because woven in and through all of it is the absurdity of evil. Evil causes suffering for which there is no rational answer. Because the devil is the father of lies there is not truth. None. Nowhere. Therefore the suffering he causes is irrational and absurd. This is why the suffering hurts so much – because there is no answer. The Lord of Lies is the Lord of Flies he is the master of chaos for chaos masters him. He is locked in a swamp of darkness and burning sinking sands.

C.S.Lewis captures this relentless absurdity in his space fiction Perelandra in which the hero, Ransom, embarks on a life and death struggle with a demon infested human named Weston. At one point Weston keeps Ransom awake simply by taunting him by calling his name over and over again like a child-bully. Weston never sleeps, but prowls about torturing small animals for pleasure. He argues with Ransom endlessly – using reason when he wants to, and then simply laughing or uttering absurdities when Ransom wins the argument.

This puerile, absurd and horrifying aspect of evil is what makes so much of the current “state of argument” in our own society seem so pointless. How often has one entered into debate with an atheist or agnostic only to realize that they are seemingly incapable of reasoning. They seem intelligent on the one hand, but then spout the most outrageous and ridiculous statements that do not even pretend to be rational or informed. This absurdity is the spirit of the demon. It is evil personified for evil is absurd, and evil is full of rage.

This afternoon, pondering on these matters I had a picture in my mind of Satan, restless Satan, pacing up and down, pacing up and down, his mind always feverishly at work, thinking what he might have said, thinking what he might have done to avoid Christ’s triumph, thinking what he will do, scheming and planning and working his mind over and over again, never at rest, never at rest. Chasing his pointed tail in endless, pointless and absurd debate within his proud mind.

Then I thought of the times I have done the same – when my pride has been wounded, when I’ve lost an argument, when I’ve been hurt in some way. My mind goes over and over what I should have said and how I should have behaved and what I might have done. It is the devil in me too in a way–always restless and always raging in pride.

This is the final absurdity of evil – that it is fueled with rage. It bathes in rage. This is the rage you see in the mindless bombing of the Boston Marathon. Rage seethes like volcanic lava through the evil. You can always recognize the devil at work when you see rage, for rage, like evil itself is irrational. It is pure emotion that is the opposite and the enemy of love. It is foul where love is lovely. It is irrational where love is reasonable. It is beastly where love is beautiful. It is a lie where love is the truth of heaven.

This is the frightful absurdity of evil. This absurdity and rage is the demonic poison of hatred and pride, and the only antidote, I have come to accept – the only antidote for which I plead – is the Divine Mercy.

Fr. Dwight Longenecker is the author of “Listen My Son” – a commentary on the Rule of St Benedict for families. Visit Fr. Dwight’s website to buy a copy here.

Fr. Dwight Longenecker is the parish priest of Our Lady of the Rosary Church in Greenville, South Carolina. He is author of thirteen books on the Catholic faith. Praying the Rosary for Inner Healing is available in Catholic bookshops and through his website:

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About the Author

Fr. Dwight Longenecker is the parish priest of Our Lady of the Rosary Church in Greenville, South Carolina. He conducts parish missions, retreats and speaks at conferences across the USA.

His latest book is The Romance of Religion - Fighting for Truth, Goodness and Beauty. Visit his blog, listen to his radio show, and browse his books at

Catechesis teaches us what to believe and how to behave, but Catholics also need down to earth advice for putting their faith into action. For help in your practice of the Catholic faith sign up for FaithWorks! -- Fr Longenecker's free, weekly newsletter on the practical practice of the Catholic faith.

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Fr. Dwight Longenecker is an American who has spent most of his life living and working in England. Fr Dwight was brought up in an Evangelical home in Pennsylvania. After graduating from the fundamentalist Bob Jones University with a degree in Speech and English, he went to study theology at Oxford University. He was eventually ordained as an Anglican priest and served as a curate, a school chaplain in Cambridge and a country parson.

Realizing that he and the Anglican Church were on divergent paths, in 1995 Fr. Dwight and his family were received into the Catholic Church. He spent the next ten years working as a freelance Catholic writer, contributing to over twenty-five magazines, papers and journals in Britain, Ireland and the USA.

Fr. Dwight is the editor of a best-selling book of English conversion stories called The Path to Rome - Modern Journeys to the Catholic Faith. He has written Listen My Son - a daily Benedictine devotional book which applies the Rule of St Benedict to the task of modern parenting. St Benedict and St Thérèse is a study of the lives and thought of two of the most popular saints.

In the field of Catholic apologetics, Fr. Dwight wrote Challenging Catholics with John Martin, the former editor of the Church of England Newspaper. More Christianity is a straightforward and popular explanation of the Catholic faith for Evangelical Christians. Friendly and non-confrontational, it invites the reader to move from 'Mere Christianity' to 'More Christianity'. Mary-A Catholic Evangelical Debate is a debate with an old Bob Jones friend David Gustafson who is now an Evangelical Episcopalian.

Fr. Dwight’s Adventures in Orthodoxy is described as ‘a Chestertonian romp through the Apostles’ Creed.’ He wrote Christianity Pure&Simple which was published by the Catholic Truth Society in England and Sophia Institute Press in the USA. He has also published How to Be an Ordinary Hero and his book Praying the Rosary for Inner Healing was published by Our Sunday Visitor in May 2008. His latest books are The Gargoyle Code - a book in the tradition of Screwtape Letters and a book of poems called A Sudden Certainty, Adventures in Orthodoxy and The Romance of Religion.

Fr. Dwight has contributed a chapter to the third volume of the best selling Surprised by Truth series and is a regular contributor to Crisis Magazine, St Austin Review, This Rock, Our Sunday Visitor and National Catholic Register. Fr. Dwight has also written a couple of children’s books, had three of his screenplays produced, and is finishing his first novel. He’s working on a book on angels and his autobiography: There and Back Again.

In 2006 Fr. Dwight accepted a post as Chaplain to St Joseph’s Catholic School in Greenville, South Carolina. This brought him and his family back, not only to his hometown, but also to the American Bible belt, and hometown of Bob Jones University. In December 2006 he was ordained as a Catholic priest under the special pastoral provision for married former Anglican clergy. He is the Administrator of Our Lady of the Rosary Church in Greenville, South Carolina, and an oblate of Belmont Abbey.

Fr. Dwight enjoys movies, blogging, books, and visiting Benedictine monasteries. He’s married to Alison. They have four children, named Benedict, Madeleine, Theodore and Elias. They live in Greenville, South Carolina with a black Labrador named Anna, a chocolate lab called Felicity, cat named James and various other pets.

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