This Christmas I received Star Wars III and while I was watching the documentaries George Lucas said something very interesting about Darth Vader's evilness. Before I go on, though, I want to say here and now that Hayden Christiansen absolutely ruined SWII and III. He made Anakin into a whiny little girl and it really annoys me that he took a series that I love and put a giant black mark on it. After all, did Mark Hamill turn Luke Skywalker into a whiny little girl? Ummmm, don't answer that.
Anyway, George's comment was that really Darth Vader was the victim, not the villain. This really got me to thinking about good and evil and why anybody does evil things, etc. Here is what I came up with. First of all, nobody ever actively thinks "I am going to do evil". They either think that what they are doing is the right thing, or they think that even though what they are doing is "bad" they, in this particular case, are justified for some reason - even if the reason is not a very good one. Take, for instance, our man Darth Vader. Vader was willing to kill people at the drop of a hat. But for him, his actions were justified because he was trying to bring peace to the galaxy. In fact bringing peace to the galaxy (a really good thing) became the only virtue that mattered to him.
To this end, I find that most of the great evils in the world are done because someone took a virtue and made it the only virtue. Let me give you some examples. Personal freedom is a virtue. It is what America is all about. But, when this virtue is esteemed to the exclusion of all others we find that people are willing to kill unborn babies in order to guarantee a mother's right to do what she wants with her body. So, we sacrifice life for personal freedoms.
OK, then what about life? Is it the ultimate "good" thing we should be striving for? The answer is no. When life is esteemed above all you end up as a pacifist who is unwilling to support a just war, or you are unwilling to concede that murderers should be put to death. Liberals say that war solves nothing. This has been proven wrong time and again.
There are conservatives who believe that liberty is the only virtue - so common sense gets thrown out the window and good laws are eschewed. As we can see these "pet virtues" get in the way of doing what is right. And not only in the "big" circumstances, but in the little ones as well. When raising your children, some parents think that strict obedience is the only good and they push it to the point of excluding any other spiritual discipline that your child needs. On the flip-side some parents feel that an open relationship is the ultimate. This obviously leads to disaster as well.
So, is there an ultimate virtue. In a sense there is. This will sound a bit trite, but the truth is that God himself is the ultimate virtue. Our lives need to have the goal of serving and pleasing Him, starting with accepting Jesus as our personal savior and from there growing in our relationship with God. You see, just as it is easy to make an idol out of something God created, it is also easy to make an idol out of the virtues that come from God. And that is what we do. We idolize our favorite virtue and we, in our minds, make God a slave to that virtue. When we do this we find ourselves telling God how it should be.
An example of this is the virtue of fairness. There is a saying that is used in Christian circles that goes something like this "If God does not bring judgment on America, then he owes Sodom and Gomorra an apology". This is wrong-headed thinking. I actually agree with the point that these people are trying to make (i.e. that if we need to turn things around as a nation lest God's judgment come upon us), but their idea that God is somehow bound to fairness is incorrect.
In short, we need to keep in mind that God is the source of all good and there is no formula to knowing what is right and wrong, but there is an instruction book. It is called the Bible and if you will immerse yourself in it you will find yourself a long way down the road to knowing what is right and wrong in most circumstances.