Last year, I expressed my consternation at those who think anyone who talks about fighting evil is relying on a conception of a force of evil, some even going as far as calling it dualist in the sense of good and evil being permanent, equal forces of reality that constantly war against each other. I gave several examples that show this is a normal way of talking that has pretty much no metaphysical assumption about what it means for something to be evil.
There's a tendency on the other side to assume that those who don't speak of evil must not understand it. See, for instance, the criticisms in the comments of Jim Lindgren's post about Barack Obama from about a month ago. Lindgren's argument is very interesting, and I think a lot of what he says is right. He read The Audacity of Hope and concluded that Obama really does think the United States is the best country in the world, rather than hating it as a number of people have pretended, but he thinks it's got some problems nonetheless and most of the time focuses on those problems rather than constantly praising all that's good about the U.S. Since it's my general personality tendency to do the same sort of thing, I have no criticism of that. It's good to point out problems, because otherwise you don't know they're there and thus can't do anything about them, and spending more time pointing out problems than recognizing what's good simply doesn't amount to not recognizing what's good.
On the other hand, Lindgren was looking for hints in the book that Obama has a deep grasp of the nature of evil rather than simply thinking everyone is basically good but misguided. Since I think no one is basically good, and everyone has downright awful motivations almost all of the time, short of the grace of God (which includes common grace and thus is not present just in Christians), I would have to disagree with such a stance. I realize that most people don't share this view. It's fairly extreme, in fact. I do contend that it is the Christian view, however, and if Obama does not think of default human motivational structure as deeply evil, then he does not accept the Christian view of human nature.
I'm not especially interesting in distinguishing between what I think is the biblical view and other, less extreme, views of deeply evil motivations. One might not think most human motivations (short of God's grace) ultimately stem from sin to think that there are deeply evil motivations. What I'm interested is whether Barack Obama admits to the reality of deep evil, not whether he holds the biblical view that takes this to be the default condition of all humanity (although if he's commented on that explicitly, I'd love to hear about it). There is one reason to question whether he does. Should we think someone who recognizes so many problems in the U.S. and points them out, despite having a positive view of the U.S., would also do the same with human beings if it comes to deeply evil motivations? Lindgren didn't recognize anything like that in Obama's book, and I can't remember ever hearing anything from Obama like that.
Has Obama has given any evidence that he believes in the depths of evil rather than just unfortunate structural problems in society and misguided motivations? A number of the commenters on Lindgren's post rightly pointed out that not using the word 'evil' doesn't amount to not believing in it. On the other hand, if Obama's autobiography presents him as a believer in mostly -misguided good at the heart of those who don't see the light as he does, then we probably should wonder if he admits to real evil in the hearts of human beings, short of strong evidence in his language for such a belief. I'm skeptical at this point. I'm curious if anyone can point me to anywhere that Obama does talk about evil in this way. It doesn't have to use the word 'evil' (and a Google search for "Obama evil" isn't going to turn up much that's helpful; I already tried it). My standards for this aren't as high as Lindgren's.