I’m reading the book “Healthy Congregations” by Peter Steinke, who simultaneously is one of my favorite church health authors as well as the possessor of one of my favorite last names. He makes some systemic health observations in his book that I find extremely interesting and sometimes shockingly accurate. I guess that’s why he writes these great books.
I found this quote as I was flying back from Abilene yesterday and was actually quite frightened by it. It is sort of long, but I’d love to get your feedback on it.
Deceit is cover up, falsity, and darkness. The evil avoid anything that sheds light, anything that involves exposure. The evil, M. Scott Peck remarks, are “the people of the lie.” Where there is evil, there is a lie present. The evil are not truthful. It is the nature of evil to find a disguise. No wonder, then, Peck claims that “evil people tend to gravitate toward piety” and “one of the places evil people are most likely to be found is within the church.”
We can recognize “the people of the lie” in several ways. The evil are self-absorbed. never giving a second thought, they sacrifice other for their own purposes. In the presence of evil, you feel a sense of revulsion. You do not like being near these people. You recoil from their presence. You may also experience confusion. Something does not logically fit; something is not complete. Moreover, the evil are adept at scapegoating, placing blame “out there.” So often they appear to be on the side of righteousness. They are known too by their willfulness. They are stubborn and perverse, determined to have their own way.
The manifestation of evil I encounter most frequently in the church is the cunning, sly kind–subtle manipulation, winsome seductiveness, shrewd innocence. In fact, I dare to say that the cunning side of evil is even assisted, enabled, and welcomed in the church. It is as if the environment of the congregation itself encourages and cooperates with this type of virus.
What frightens me most about this quote is that there have been numerous times that I’ve noted something “wasn’t quite right” about someone, only to learn later about a serious evil they had been doing under the guise of their righteous work. Scary, very scary.