After I left the ministry of the Anglican Church I had to train for a new career. As I was married with a family it was not automatic that I would be ordained as a Catholic priest.
So being interested in film and literature I decided to train as a screenwriter. What I learned in those studies have enlightened every other aspect of my life.
One of the sharpest memories was in a session on how to create a believable villain. The teacher said, “If you want to create a believable villain you must understand why he believes what he is doing is good.”
On this Spy Wednesday when our minds turn to history’s most nefarious villain it is worth remembering that no one gets up in the morning saying to himself, “Now what really BAD thing can I do today? What really wicked deed can I plan and carry out?”
The wicked believe they are doing something good….even if they need to do something distasteful to achieve their ends. After all, you can’t make an omelette without breaking eggs…
This is what I mean by “Hitler meant well.” Hitler and the Nazis were going to do something wonderful. They were going to purify the human race. They would breed a race of beautiful blond, heterosexual white people, and part of the plan was to get rid of the darkies, Slavs, gypsies and queers. To create a garden you have to pull the weeds. Vermin spread disease, they thought. They should be exterminated.
So it is with Judas. People have debated his actions for the last 2000 years, but I’m one who is convinced that he really did mean well, or at very least he convinced himself that he was doing a good action. I suspect he told himself that the 30 pieces of silver would go into the community chest to help the poor. Maybe–as so many think–he was trying to kickstart the chain reaction that would usher in the rebellion against the Romans.
By this I am not taking the current fashionable view of trying to renovate his reputation and cast him as a hero after all. Dante put him in the lowest chamber of hell and there I think he stays.
In saying Judas meant well I am taking a life lesson and reminding myself (and you dear reader) to avoid the temptation to believe that good intentions conquer all. Virtue requires more than meaning well. One of the biggest traps along these lines today is the desire not only to mean well, but to be well thought of. The contemporary Christian leader who takes a stand on an issue which consists of nothing more than being a nice guy and being kind to people is falling into the trap. Following Christ consists of more than being a nice guy. Flannery O’Connor wrote the riddle, “Tenderness leads to the gas chambers”. What she meant was a system of virtue which consists of nothing but tenderness–or one might add “nothing but nice intention” leads ultimately to murder.
Why? Because if being nice to people is all that matters, then the dynamic of evil (which I explore in my book Immortal Combat) reveals that those who value nothing but kindness believe themselves to be good and as “good” people it is their job to rid the world of badness and these “good people” invariably seek out those who they deem to be “the problem” and if they want to get rid of the problem they should get rid of the people who are causing the problem.
We see this played out in the inexorable drama of Holy Week, and in countless echoes down through history and we are seeing the same demonic dynamic spiraling into our own day and society in the actions of the woke brigade and cancel culture. I know these people mean well.
That’s what is so terrifying.