My Brother's Keeper?
My older brother was Evil. Not garden-variety evil, but Evil in the sense of a palpable malevolence that is devoted to the destruction of all that lives and breathes. Ever been pinned to the floor by someone laughing maniacally with a genuine replica of a Nazi stormtrooper dagger a quarter-inch from your eye? Not an experience for the weak of heart, or weak of bowels for that matter.
My brother and his neo-Nazi friends would cruise the back roads of Virginia for victims to taunt and harass. Jews and blacks were preferred, but anyone would do in a pinch. He was even learning German – I guess so he could read Mein Kampf in the original.
After his life fell into the gutter, he accepted Jesus Christ as his savior, and became for the most part, a decent human being. Everyone breathed a sigh of relief, me most of all.
It became a ritual at family gatherings to have a debate between the born-again Christian and the born-again and again and again Witch.
I would scan my old Bible for ammunition for the debate. Ha, how about Mark 2:25? Jesus is talking to the Pharisees about the Old Testament story of David taking holy bread from the temple.
Have ye never read what David did, when he had need, and was a-hungered, he, and they that were with him? How he went into the house of God in the days of Abiathar the high priest, and did eat the shewbread, which is not lawful to eat but for the priests, and gave also to them which were with him?
The problem with this passage is that Abiathar was not high priest at the time. In 1 Samuel 21:1 it states that Ahimelech was the priest, not Abiathar. Abiathar was the son of Ahimelech. Mark confused the two when he wrote his gospel. That’ll get him!
I waited and watched until we had enough of an audience and sprung my trap. He thought for a moment and said, "It’s obvious, God changed the name of Ahimelech to Abiathar. He often changes the names of His servants."
"Ah, um…" I was befuddled by his lack of logic, and for a moment the brain shut down.
"You’re saying that God changed the name of the father to the name of the son and just didn’t bother to mention the fact."
"Right," he replied, with that smug Christian smile on his face.
Finally I asked if he ever, just for a moment, considered whether I could be right.
He replied simply "Nothing you say can be true. You’re a servant of Satan, the father of lies."
His words stunned me. I remembered myself as a young Christian, on fire for the Lord. I remembered the comfort and security that my faith provided. And I realized that he is, as I was, beyond reason, beyond debate, beyond reach.
Then the real lesson hit. What was the point of our debates? For me it was intellectual vanity, to show everyone that I was no longer the little brother, that I could hold my own in a debate. What to me was an amusing exercise of no real importance was to him the very foundation of his life and sanity. His motives, however strange, were pure. He wanted to save his little brother from an eternity of damnation to hell.
What would I gain by destroying his faith? The knives, beatings and terror from my childhood danced before my eyes. If I won, if I destroyed his faith, it would condemn his children to a life of being raised by a bitter, broken and possibly evil man. We may not be close friends, but he is a good father to his kids, and he hasn’t terrorized anyone in over twenty years.
For some of us, our morality is defined within. We decide right and wrong, good and evil for ourselves, and our lives show the results of our choices. If we are successful, our lives are surrounded by friends of honor and character, and we enrich each other’s lives beyond measure.
But some, like my brother, fall into a chasm of nihilism and hate. For them morality is scoffed at as weak and pathetic. They want, and desperately need, the faith, the morality, the authority that comes from outside themselves. Christianity provides it for them. Take away that surety, that comfort, take away their faith, and their lives will fall apart.
Witchcraft has some of the highest demands for personal responsibility, for personal morality, of any religion, but it doesn’t provide a hierarchy of authority and power to enforce it. That is for each of us to decide, to design and enforce internally. Witchcraft is not, cannot be, for everybody.
I look forward to our next debate. If we avoid religion, there is always politics. I am, of course, liberal. He is, of course, conservative. I am sure I will learn more about Bill Clinton, molar massages and cigars than I ever wanted to know. So be it.
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