The Artistry of Evil

by Max Andrews

It seems, by all evidences, that man is the only creature that can make evil artistic.  Not only can we be merely evil but we add artistry to it.  Consider this section from Fyodor Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov.

“By the way, a Bulgarian I met lately in Moscow,” Ivan went on, seeming not to hear his brother’s words (Alyosha), “told me about the crimes committed by Turks and Circassians in all parts of Bulgaria through fear of a general rising of the Slavs.  They burn villages, murder, outrage women and children, they nail their prisoners by the ears to fences, leave them so till morning, and in the morning they hang them–all sorts of things you can’t imagine.  People talk sometimes of bestial cruelty, but that’s a great injustice and insult to the beasts; a beast can never be so cruel as a man, so artistically cruel.  The tiger only tears and gnaws, that’s all he can do.  He would never think of nailing people by the ears, even if he were able to do it.  These Turks took a pleasure in torturing children, too; cutting the unborn child from the mother’s womb, and tossing babies up in the air and catching them on the points of their bayonets before their mother’s eyes.  Doing it before the mother’s eyes was  what gave zest to the amusement.  here is another scene that I thought very interesting.  Imagine a trembling mother with her baby in her arms, a circle of invading Turks around her.  They’ve planned a diversion; they pet the baby, laugh to make it laugh.  They succeed, the baby laughs.  At that moment a Turk points a pistol four inches from the baby’s face.  The baby laughs with glee, holds out its little hands to the pistol, and he pulls the trigger in the baby’s face and blows out its brains.  Artistic wasn’t it  By the way, Turks are particularly fond of sweet things, they say… I think if the devil doesn’t exist, but man has created him, he has created him in his own image and likeness.”

I hope this prompts questions about your own evil and the evil in the world.  Christians need to take the problem of evil seriously and should avoid laying down a quick answer with a trump card and dismiss it.  The problem of evil is a problem… but where does the problem really lie?

Recommended Read: Fyodor Dostoevsky’s Understanding of the Divine Telos


One Comment to “The Artistry of Evil”

  1. This reminded me of a book I’m reading “The raping of nanking.”
    Man is the only creature on Earth that has the intellect and depth to create such sick was to torture people and enjoy doing it.

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