NPR's Scott Simon, host of Weekend Edition Saturday, reflected in his weekly essay about the nature of evil and the terrorist attacks in Mumbai. He writes:
I get increasingly uncomfortable with the convention of journalism that requires us to say that so far, we don't know the motives of the people who carried out this week's attacks in Mumbai.
A word like "motive" seems to imply there was reason or purpose. It suggests that, however profane their actions, the terrorists had the incentive of some goal in mind.
But after covering too many killings, as a reporter or host, in Bosnia, Kosovo, Oklahoma City or Somalia, I've come to the conclusion that the perpetrators of such crimes might just be … evil.
Evil is a word that many people of my generation shrink from using. It seems so imprecise and uneducated — biblical, rather than cerebral and informed.
But there are times and crimes that remind me how often the Bible gets it right.
I wonder in the first place which part of the Bible he's talking about here. Is it this part?
“When you approach a city to fight against it, you shall offer it terms of peace. 11 “If it agrees to make peace with you and opens to you, then all the people who are found in it shall become your forced labor and shall serve you. 12 “However, if it does not make peace with you, but makes war against you, then you shall besiege it. 13 “When the LORD your God gives it into your hand, you shall strike all the men in it with the edge of the sword. 14 “Only the women and the children and the animals and all that is in the city, all its spoil, you shall take as booty for yourself; and you shall use the spoil of your enemies which the LORD your God has given you. 15 “Thus you shall do to all the cities that are very far from you, which are not of the cities of these nations nearby. 16 “Only in the cities of these peoples that the LORD your God is giving you as an inheritance, you shall not leave alive anything that breathes. 17 “But you shall utterly destroy them, the Hittite and the Amorite, the Canaanite and the Perizzite, the Hivite and the Jebusite, as the LORD your God has commanded you, 18 so that they may not teach you to do according to all their detestable things which they have done for their gods, so that you would sin against the LORD your God.
Beyond the mysterious reference to the Bible, Simon urges that we adopt that very Nine-Twelve understanding of the world. Don't bother understanding someone's motives and purposes, call them evil and be done with it. In my book, one is evil on account of one's motives and purposes (as well as of course one's actions). If one, for instance, lies, cheats, steals, or kills to glorify the purposes of the Lord, then that person is not evil, because his motives are pure. That's an important difference.