When Evil is Good

Most parents seek to protect their children from evil. We don’t want our children to be frightened, harmed, or attracted by it. But is a parent’s protective instinct always right? Is there a time we should expose our children to evil for their good?

Imagine Frodo on his quest to reach Mount Doom, but without orcs, Gollum, ring Wraiths, or Sauron’s eye. That’s not a quest. It’s a business trip trip.

Imagine James Bond sitting in his London flat with no one to hunt down and a license to kill but no reason to use it.

Imagine the Pevensie children entering Narnia and meeting Aslan except without Edmund’s betrayal, the stabbing on the stone table, and the battle with the White Witch. Aslan would be a nice kitty, and it would end with a happy picnic.

There wouldn’t be a S.H.I.E.L.D. or The Avengers without Hydra and ancient invaders from other worlds. Captain America would have done his bond tours. Thor would have stayed in Asgard. Tony Stark would have sold hi Iron Man technology to the military. The Hulk would have – well, the Hulk would have been basically the same just caged up somewhere. And we would have totally missed Tom Hiddleston’s excellent portrayal of Loki.

Imagine Harry Potter heading off to Hogwarts to learn wizardry, but never encountering Voldemort or any of his minions. We’d have ended up with 7 books about pubescent crushes, mythical creatures, and quidditch. Come to think of it, that sounds a lot like Twilight on broomsticks.

In the greatest stories it is evil that crystalizes and congeals the good. The evil makes the story. Only in the face of evil does character, quality, and morality step forth and play the hero. Without evil we are left with nebulous characters of ambiguous depth and uncertain morals. Without evil there is no real decision to be made as to which character we resonate with and which we would want to be.

A child ought to be scared of the scary, horrified at the horror, saddened by the tragic, but most of all delighted by the delightful and gladdened by the good. If we keep evil, the safe kind, the story kind, from our children then the good loses its luster. Evil is the backdrop against which good shines brightest, whether it be courage, sacrifice, fidelity, friendship, love, perseverance or any other truly good quality.

What is more, if we remove the evil, the good might cease to exist altogether. Without evil Frodo never would have left the Shire, the stone table never would have broken, and Harry never would have had the fortitude to sacrifice himself for the greater good. And this is true in every great story, including the greatest one. What need would there have been for a savior without a serpent?

Our children need evil. Without it they may miss the truly good.

I live in the Nashville area and spend my days helping churches with leadership development. My nights are spent writing and rooting for Minnesota sports teams. I also podcast a bit. I'm the author of The Pastor's Kid: Finding Your Own Faith and Identity, Help My Unbelief: Why Doubt is Not the Enemy of Faith, and The Curious Christian: How Discovering Wonder Enriches Every Part of Life