If evil and stupidity were in a UFC cage match, like the one coming up this weekend, who would win? According to Bonhoeffer, Couture would be stupidity and Minotauro would be evil. In other words, stupidity is more dangerous than evil.
From Bonhoeffer’s Ethics:
Stupidity is a more dangerous enemy of the good than evil is. Against evil, one can protest; it can be exposed and, if necessary, stopped with force. Evil always carries the seed of its own self-destruction, because it at least leaves people with a feeling of uneasiness. But against stupidity, we are defenseless. Neither with protest nor with force can we do anything here; reasons have no effect…Therefore, more care must be taken in regard to stupidity than to evil…
This is today’s selection from my ‘Year with Bonhoeffer’ devotional. It is the kind of daily reading that makes many of the more tedious ones worth while. To put it bluntly, I think Bonhoeffer is still right. Of course, his point is all the more poignant because he died in the active opposition to evil.
Interesting note, here he is blunt that there are times when evil must be opposed with force. Contrary to contemporary Christian pacifists like Hauerwas who have tried to make him a hero of nonviolence, here he seems clear (like Augustine against the Donatists) that force is a moral imperative.
We live in an age of stupidity. Cynicism passes for analysis (Jon Stewart). Nihilism may be the ideology of the day (tragically on the rise in academia and popular culture. Joel Osteen passes for a preacher. MTV passes for entertainment. ‘Reality TV’ simply is not. Stupidity. I say again, stupidity. As the author of Ecclesiastes put it, “Vanity, vanity, all is vanity.”
How is it opposed? In the unity of truth and love, as Benedict recently reiterated it. If stupidity is the order of the day, intelligence consists in coming into a life-giving relationship with the Father of Lights, the Son of God, and the Spirit of Truth, and being a part of a community that lives into that Trinitarian life with each breath. No, this is not easy. Nor is this a dismissive answer. In an age of bullet points, Twitter, and headlines, Christians must stand for the truth of the eternal, uncreated, simple and unknowable, mysterious, awesome, loving God who is revealed as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. In comparison, all else is at best evil and at worst, stupid.
Side note: I do hope, when this match occurs, that “Big John” McCarthy is the ref. Otherwise it is likely to end prematurely or controversially.