Anglicans Online banner More about the gryphon
Independent On the web since 1994 More than 200 000 readers More than 10 000 links Updated every Sunday

New This Week
Everything new is here.

News Centre
News archive
News flash: a summary of the top headlines
Start here
Anglicans believe . . .
The Prayer Book
The Bible

Read letters to AO
Write to us

Resources A to Z

World Anglicanism
Anglican Communion
In full communion
Not in the Communion

Dioceses and Parishes
New Zealand

Vacancies Centre
List a vacancy
Check openings worldwide

Add a site or link to AO
Add a site to AO
Link to AO

About Anglicans Online
Back issues
Awards and publicity
Beginnings, AO today
About our logo

Support AO
Shop for AO goods
Help support us!
Thanks to our friends

Our search engine


Hallo again to all on this last Sunday of the church year.

Those bad people over there. Yes, them. They're causing all of this. If only we could get them to go away, or stop being bad, then all manner of things will be well. Build a fence. Draw a line. And if we can't, then let's make sure everyone knows they are demonic, and we are pure.

We'll confess that we've sometimes caught ourselves thinking that way, and we suspect that you have, too. And we know we've had fingers pointed at us, announcing that we are the bad people: if only we would vanish, Good would triumph.

O, would that the world could be so simple. Yet we long for simple solutions to our problems, whether the 'our' means ourselves, our church, our neighbourhood, or our government.

Salome with the head of John the BaptistWe were recently reminded (in a good sermon) of the famous quotation from The Gulag Archipelago, by Nobel Laureate Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn:

Gradually it was disclosed to me that the line separating good and evil passes not through states, nor between classes, nor between political parties, either, but right through every human heart, and through all human hearts. This line shifts. Inside us, it oscillates with the years. Even within hearts overwhelmed by evil, one small bridgehead of good is retained; and even in the best of all hearts, there remains a small corner of evil.

As Solzhenitsyn tells us that we cannot be apart from evil, Martin Luther King insists that to excuse or ignore evil is to become its accomplice. Yet it seems that most attempts to identify evil result in finding it in those people over there. It's so convenient: we label our enemies, calling them gooks or ragheads or Tories or Liberals or Protestants or Catholics, and then use the label to separate ourselves from them, leaving the evil with them but not with us. Launch a Crusade to bring Christian good against infidel evil, rescuing the holy lands from those people over there.

It is so much easier to take a polar position. Ignore the complexity that is the essence of mortal humankind, ignore the mystery that is inseparably part of God, ignore the shifting, oscillating line between good and evil, placing ourselves so firmly on the good side of that line that we no longer need be vigilant, sleeping soundly in the knowledge that we, at least, choose good over evil. In the Gospels, the Pharisees are usually described as taking polar positions; Jesus bests them by using greater knowledge to find a more central but more complex position (e.g. Matt 12:1-8).

In our view, much of what it means to be Anglican is to walk the via media, recognizing that although evil exists, and must not be excused or ignored, but eschewing the simplistic belief that all of the evil is on one side of the road, knowing that education, vigilance, thought, and prayer continue to be needed in order to be in a position to be far enough away from evil to be able to do something about it. The line goes right through every human heart, even ours.

See you next week, in the new year.

Cynthia McFarland's signature
Brian Reid's signature
Cynthia McFarland
Brian Reid

Last updated: 21 November 2004

A thin blue line
This web site is independent. It is not official in any way. Our editorial staff is private and unaffiliated. Please contact about information on this page.
©2004 Society of Archbishop Justus