Deliver Us From Evil

I find ideas about the nature of evil interesting, particularly the social dyanmics that factor into the ways that groups of people think and behave. Ain’t Too Proud to Beg includes this quote about how we are socially influenced.

“We’re all motivated, and I certainly include myself here, far more than we want to admit, by group expectations.” – Tom Wolfe

The book also deals with some of M. Scott Peck’s ideas about evil and group behavior.

Evil is a quintessential form of scapegoating, using power to destroy the spiritual growth of others for the purpose of defending and preserving the integrity of a sick self.

Peck extends his account of evil beyond the personal level to the group, which he regards as an analogous organism whose status as a group depends on unity and cohesiveness. Because groups tend to distribute their collective conscience among their members, evil manifests itself as

  • moral fragmentation
  • the narcissism and false consciousness of group pride
  • regression to childlike dependence on authority
  • construction of others as enemies
  • and intolerance for group self-criticism

In other words, community gone bad.

Brother Maynard has written some about the Lucifer Effect which also describes how group dynamics play into corporate expressions of evil.

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8 thoughts on “Deliver Us From Evil

  1. I’ve always been very challenged by Peck. Thanks for sharing this here.

    “Regression to childlike dependence to authority” is a very real one. What makes it difficult is when you are part of a community people who genuinely need the safety of security leadership for a season because they truly are dependent. Navigating that alongside those described in the quote has been tricky for us.

    Another reason to check out the book!

    Peace,
    Jamie

  2. …I loaned my copy of “People of the Lie” by Peck to someone many years ago … looks like I’m going to have to get another one. What a great reminder in an interesting (pathetic?) context of processing toxic church. :(

    Construction of others as enemies and intolerance for group self-criticism are also powerful clues. Reminds me of my post yesterday about loving our enemies….

    Blessings!

    Abi

  3. ” Evil is a quintessential form of scapegoating, using power to destroy the spiritual growth of others for the purpose of defending and preserving the integrity of a sick self.”

    Yep … I been on the receiving end of this … still recovering. It’s hard to see it in writing. But that’s about the most cogent description I’ve ever seen.

  4. Jamie,
    I haven’t read much of Peck, however it looks like I would enjoy his writing.

    sonja,
    Yes, I find myself struggling with another level of recovery, not sure if I’ll make it through to the other side.

    peggy,
    Your post about enemies was amazing. I need to go back and re-read it.

  5. ” Evil is a quintessential form of scapegoating, using power to destroy the spiritual growth of others for the purpose of defending and preserving the integrity of a sick self.”

    Thomas Merton said something like that in almost the same way. I’ll try and find it.

    Grace, these last two post of yours have been good and challenging. Especially helpful (on the personal level) was the link to Wayne Jacobsen’s comments. The concept of “organic” is something that our brothers and sisters discussed and struggled with last night in our get-together. It can be difficult to not think mechanistically about “church” and instead think and act (relate !) “biologically” as an “embodiment” or family.

    Tom

  6. Grace,

    I have found Peck to be foundational in many areas. His book “The Different Drum” on community making should be required reading, IMHO. And his book, “The Road Less Traveled… and Beyond is worth the price just for his chapter on Thinking! Oh my!

    And you and Sonja hang in there…Papa will bring you through to the other side!

    Blessings….

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