One of the most important acts of faith is deciding which world is real.
Sometimes I feel overwhelmed by the darkness. Not merely the many brutal crimes that exist in the world, but the justification of them. The human tolerance for vile exploitation. The blaming of the victim. The dismissal of violence that is even more deadly than the violence itself.
I have learned that I should avoid certain stories in the news, and I should definitely never read the comments. Anything involving sexual violence, for instance. The comments will excuse or justify the perpetrator, often with sweeping claims about the nature of men or the nature of women. The current stories about sexual harassment and threats in the gaming community is another. The sheer volume of threats posted to shut up women who protest is mind-numbing.
And it is tempting - even easy - to believe the basic lie that those comments claim: that this is the way of the world. The studied cynicism of the commenting hordes says that no one is good, no one is kind, and no one merits kindness. That vulnerability is an invitation to exploitation, and deserves it. That compassion is a fiction motivated by greed or lust, and the expectation of decency or courtesy is a pose and manipulation. There is a slavering in these comments and stories, a clawing eagerness to scratch out any assumption that we are more than our basest impulses.
One of the reasons I return to my Christian faith over and over again - and to Reformed theology in particular - is that it stands in direct contradiction to this furious baying. It asserts that the world is good, that humanity was made in the image of a good God, and cannot erase that image, however it claws at it. Creation has been corrupted, but will be redeemed. That the most powerful wickedness in existence is only the dying scrabble of a cornered rat.
There is more to the world than the darkness.
One of my favorite movie lines ever is from The Two Towers, when Sam must persuade Frodo not to despair in the face of overwhelming evil. The most inspiring line is not actually in the original book, but I think it reflects Tolkien's sentiments all the same. "There is some good in this world, Mr Frodo, and it's worth fighting for."
Fighting for the good in the world means refusing to believe that darkness is all there is. Kindness is real, and I will show it, and demand it. Love is real, and some men are good, and I will live here in this marriage with peace and trust, no matter what hate is hurled at the walls from the outside. My children - my daughters - will be cherished and believed in, no matter what screeds of one-handed typists someday say about them.
There is the world I believe in, and the world the haters believe in. Only one of them can last, because only one of them is real. "Evil is the privation of good," Augustine said, meaning that evil has no reality of its own, it is only the absence of good.
How we live, how we act is every day a declaration of which world we believe in.