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Your Sky is the CeilingTethered between stone and sky. (photo: Enrico Marongiu/Flickr, cc by-nc-sa 2.0)

This week’s show has a theological term in its title that sounds obscure, even impenetrable: “Monsters We Love: TV’s Pop Culture Theodicy.” Depending on your view of an omnipotent God, it could be both. ”Theodicy” attempts to answer ancient questions like, “Why do bad things happen to good people?” and “If God is good, why does evil exist?”

The television shows mentioned in “Monsters We Love” are filled with “amoral zombies” and “loving vampires” and “righteous serial killers,” as Krista Tippett puts it. At the core of this theodicy is the question of what makes “good” people different from characters we can register instantly as “evil.”

The Greek philosopher Epicurus came up with his own twist on the problem of evil, the “Epicurean Paradox”:

“Is God willing to prevent evil but not able? Then he is impotent. Is he able but not willing? Then he is malevolent. Is he both able and willing? Whence, then, evil.”

Merriam-Webster describes theodicy as a “defense of God’s goodness and omnipotence in view of the existence of evil.” And on the free will of human beings, one explanation of free will theodicy suggests that God values good choices from humans only if we have the free will to make them. This leaves the possibility for a misuse of free will, and evil choices. For St. Augustine, evil results from the failure of humans to exercise moral responsibility, not God.

What is it about watching the moral failing of others that draws millions of viewers to these TV shows? Maybe it has nothing to do with their final choices or even their failings. For me, it’s empathy for seeing someone else struggle between choices of good and evil in situations where it’s not clear to me how free their will actually is.


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6 Comments

I am suprised no one has made a comment. From my Lutheran perspective, I have been taught (and forgive me if I am explaining this incorrectly) that evil entered the world when Adam and Eve ate the apple. They were in paradise, but wanted knowledge, and with acess to knowledge came the ability of satan to enter our world.
God will help us fight Satan's desire to rule us, but God and Satan are always in a battle to rule us. When we pray or read holy texts we are protected from Satan. It's worked for me!

I agree with Agustine in passing the buck to humanity as ultimately being responsible for our moral choices. It is too easy to blame evil on things like demons, the devil, and even god... using something outside ourselves as scapegoats in order to make sense of atrocity. However, if evil does come from a failure to "exercise moral responsibility" then the power to overcome this lapse must come from humanity as well. "Good" is just as much of an act of will and this makes it that much more rewarding because it is something we DO rather than something that is given to us. Sartre says that "man (humanity) is condemned to be free," and maybe this is because we hold the keys to both good and evil and it is a tremendous burden to bare.

We solve the "problem of evil" by removing the "power of God". We can remove God's power because we gave it, so we can take it away. With a powerless God, evil is a function of "the void", the shadow we cast when we do not 'stand' directly under our 'light'. If we believe it is 'good' that we don't cast our shadow, then standing somewhat removed from the point directly under our 'light' and casting our shadow is somewhat less 'good', or the antonymous, more 'evil'. Our 'light', "the ideal reaction to the void", is "reaching out to the limits of our capacities, to others and to God." To the extent we "try to fill the void" which is determined by the length of the shadow we cast, we create 'evil'. Our freedom to choose where we stand is restricted by the shadow of humanity, the sum of our individual shadows. Today it is long. http://www.thelastwhy.ca/poem/

Saying evil comes from a failure of humans leaves God still
in the paradox. He created the system where we should make good choices, so
either he is malevolent or has made himself impotent. I watch the monsters
because I want to see what people do when they are confronted with evil and
constrained with limited options. Then wonder if I would have done better.

It's fine to speculate about why masses of people do something (or what they get from doing something) as long as one owns it as such. Without some serious research/fieldwork such speculative musings should not be offered as facts.

Theodicy, Bah!  That is language gone into outer space. Let's get down to real life here.  When someone in anguish says to me, "Why did God let my partner die?" I do not launch into this dubious chatter of theodicy. I LISTEN to her PAIN!  She turns to me because I represent part of hope the community nourishes for living life.  I turn to her with an embrace and gently mobilize the parish community to embrace her as she works through her pain. When she no longer feels the need to ask the question she has been healed within and within her community. I am being logical here, but not trapped into abstraction.

apples