An article that I read recently in The New York Times asked the question, “Where’s the line between ‘normal’ and ‘monster?’” It cited the infamous study that had been done at Stanford University back in 1971 in which researchers simulated a prison, randomly assigning 24 students to be either guards or prisoners for two weeks. Shockingly, “Within days the ‘guards’ had become swaggering and sadistic …placing bags over the prisoners’ heads, forcing them to strip naked” and perform humiliating acts.
Why did this happen? How could these otherwise “normal” people so quickly become such “abnormal” monsters? Maybe the reason is that our normally “acceptable” behavior is generally, only a thin veil of socially-engineered “goodness.” In other words, our behavior is often only as deep as our social setting. Change the setting and the socially acceptable people suddenly become socially deviant. This, of course, means that the line between the good people and the evil people is thinner than we would like to admit.
Interestingly, the article went on to quote Hannah Arendt’s phrase the “banality of evil,” which she used to describe the very averageness of the Nazi leader Adolf Eichmann. You see, it is easy to put ourselves in a different moral category from the worst of the Nazis. If all that separates me from Eichmann is socialization, however, then before God we’re all in the same boat.
Something to think about from “The Kingdom Perspective.”
“The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick; who can understand it?”
~ Jeremiah 17:9