Those who espouse “law and order” as a political imperative are very fond of quoting Edmund Burke, the 19th century nobleman and politicians, who famously said: “All it takes for evil to prevail is for good men to do nothing”. Hidden in this statement of “fact” are a multitude of little considered details. What did Burke imagine these good men should do?
What I think is overlooked is that the evil done by men who deem themselves good is actually no different from the evil done by men who we think know or should know themselves to be evil. If in responding as Burke suggests, these good men engage in counter evil- bodily violence, imprisonment, executions- how can they be differentiated from those they consider evil? Can an action by the one be legitimately righteous while the same action by the other is factually evil? Does the view or desire of the former supersede the view and desire of the latter?
Burke, like many who embrace him today, was immersed in the culture of Orthodox Christianity with its great emphasis on obedience, judgment, and conformity and its insistence in dividing humanity into the good Christians and the bad others. In that environment whatever the church people call evil is evil in fact and whatever church people do in demanding obedience or enacting judgment is good. The prevailing religion is the basis for deciding whose evil actions are uncalled for and whose are divinely ordained and the necessary response that Burke suggested.
Matching evil for evil has always been the reaction of humanity to evil in others. So Burke observed nothing new or suggested anything profound. He simply reinforced what mankind already practiced.
The church and those who call themselves Christians have to make a choice. Are they aligned with Edmund Burke or with Jesus? The one is proposing that evil be dealt with by oppression. The other says that counter evil as the answer to man’s sinfulness is futile. Law and Order or Love, which is the message of Jesus?