28th April 2021

For the last twenty or more years a great injustice has been happening. Local sub-postmasters in their hundreds have been criminalised, prosecuted, sometimes imprisoned, often forced into financial and reputational ruin. Now it is clear that what they were saying all along was true; they had done nothing wrong.

It seems extraordinary in hindsight, and quite irrational, yet, all over, something truly evil was happening right in the heart of England.

Hannah Arendt famously, in reflecting on the Holocaust, coined the phrase ‘the banality of evil’. There are, of course, lots of terrible things in the world; in India at the moment; perhaps supremely in the Holocaust itself.

Still, the ‘banality of evil’; often evil does not appear to be horrific. Sometimes it’s happening in the local town hall or planning office, or management meeting – or church? Institutional racism reports suggest so; the need for safeguarding policies suggests so. This kind of evil might just be personal prejudice writ large, wrong decisions compounded, perhaps a computer malfunction, trust misplaced. Often it doesn’t appear at all. Often there is delusion, cover-up, insincerity, over-zealous reporting.

Maybe there is something in the Bible’s description of the devil disguising himself as an angel of light – evil in ordinary, indeed.

Sometimes overcoming evil means building transparent systems, effective systems of justice and avoiding the rush to judgement. Always it involves humility and a willingness to admit to mistakes and frailty. Thank goodness for the understanding of God’s grace in Jesus words from the cross, or else we would all be lost, ‘Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing’.

Michael Docker