Icky feelings in your tum-tum do not dictate what’s right

A few weeks ago a young feller was recalling an interweb exchange he had, in which he floored someone with a story that was meant to provide an airtight case for moral ambiguity. I don’t really remember the details of the story, but it was something to do with a man with cancer (or who had a kid with cancer?) deciding to rob a bank because he would either 1) get the money or 2) be killed and his kid would get his life insurance money. Something like that. The young feller told me, victory shining in his eyes, “So who’s wrong- the man, or the police officers who shot him?”

I can’t stand stories like this. They’re meant to guilt you out of condemning the bad action. “Wow,” we’re supposed to exclaim, “I never considered that people who do bad things may have a personal history that made them think they had no choice in the matter! Or that they could do bad for good reasons!” The Joaquin Phoenix Joker movie taps into this too. The movie gives you the context to the Joker’s background, which is so disturbing and sad that you almost cheer for him as he *SPOILER* murders all those meanies who bullied him.

But the thing is – you can understand the reasons behind someone’s evil actions.. or feel sorry for them… or see how the people they are murdering or stealing from or otherwise victimizing are also evil themselves… but that still doesn’t make their actions good or right.* Violence is violence, evil is evil, bad is bad. Other violence, other evil, and other bad doesn’t necessarily cancel it out. Even if you feel sympathetic towards them.

In the same vein – I wrote a blog post a while back begging women to not post public pictures of their bosoms while breastfeeding. I provided multiple excellent examples to demonstrate my point. Some of those examples were a little crude. They weren’t crude for crude’s sake- I used them to demonstrate points like “privacy doesn’t equal shame.” A few of my readers expressed dismay and disgust that I made those comparisons, saying things like, “Making that comparison is just.. ew.” Like a disgust reaction from them was enough to negate my entire argument. Poppycock! I’m not trying to be a jerk, seriously. But just because a comparison is upsetting, gross, weird, or triggering doesn’t mean the comparison doesn’t hold true.

tummyache
This cannot be your moral guidepost!

The point is, my fellas** and fellos, that sometimes what is right and true is upsetting, and sometimes what is wrong won’t be upsetting. I don’t like many truths, like Kesha removing the ‘$’ from her name. I’m not super bothered by other wrongs, like when a woman murders her cheating husband. Our degree of tum tum hurt, upsettedness, or anger is not an argument against.. anything. Our tummies are not our Truthometer. Just because some jerk blogger is using intentionally provocative examples to drive their point home does not mean they’re wrong.

— EDITORIAL NOTES —

*I’m talking on the level of personal morality not a nation or political system. I think the United States taking out Osama Bin Laden was justifiable and right.

**I just realized what a feminine sounding word “fellas” is, even though it traditionally refers to menfolk. From now on, I demand that men be “fellos” and women be “fellas” for the sake of continuity and parallelism in the English language!

 

 

Evil Triumphs When Men Do Bad, Stupid, or Ineffective Things

The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” ~Edmund Burke

This quote has begun to annoy me immensely. I’ve seen it used by conservatives and liberals alike as a rallying cry for political action. Yet usually the call for action of conservatives is to counteract whatever cause liberals want “good men” to act on. So who is good, and what is evil?

There are so many assumptions in this quote that are almost hardly ever true —  1) They, (the quoter) are good 2) Their followers / friend groups are good 3) They know what’s evil and what isn’t evil 4) action of any kind by good people can defeat evil.

Prob numero uno: what makes people good? Well… what they do!* So if good men are doing nothing, are they really good? And if good men do something with good intentions that has unintended consequences that end up producing bad, are those good men now bad? Ack, the circularity! Prob numero dos: If good men do “something” that is just all-round ineffective and ends up changing nothing, wouldn’t evil still triumph? Ack, the incompleteness!

Let’s put some of this in more concrete terms and use gun control activists and 2nd amendment supporters as a relevant example. Pro-gunners say “Rise up good men and defend our 2nd amendment rights so we can protect ourselves against the tyranny of government and rando criminals!” and anti-gunnerssay “Rise up good people** and add constraints to the 2nd amendment so the government can protect us from rando criminals!” Both of these groups think they know what the greater evil is, and both of these groups think they are the “good” ones.

Let’s be as generous as possible, and agree that the majority of people that belong to either group truly want a safe society. So who’s evil? Probably neither, really. But if one of those groups does “something,” the other group will very likely see the outcome as evil. And if one of those groups does “nothing,” the other group will think they have defeated evil. Also, let’s say either is right. What do they do? Should pro-gun people run around town shooting their AR-15s in the air to prove a point? Should anti-gun people raid people’s houses, steal their guns, and melt them down to use as gardening tools? Even if neither pro-gun people or anti-gun people are evil, surely you can appreciate how they could both start acting in ways that many people on both sides would see as evil. And evil would triumph.

I guess the main point of this ramble is that there has to be a balance somewhere between passive apathy and taking the time to think about and research 1) what’s really “evil” in any given situation and 2) what sort of action would actually be “good.” There is a difference between stubbornly refusing to act in the face of evil – when there is an obvious good action – and taking time to learn and understand at least *some* of the facets of a really complicated issue. Similarly, there is a difference between acting emotionally, passionately, “spinning your wheels,”etc. and actually doing something effective.

Now the main point of the main point: I want to be willing to consider that the outcome of my actions, no matter how well intended, could be evil. And if I’m going to act, I want to take some time to think about the best course of action — and that will likely involve having non-antagonistic convos with people who do not see the world exactly as I do.

Btdubs I’m not trying to be wishy-washy and say there is no truth or no evil or whatever, but I have Christian friends who would be disgusted by the political actions of my Christian parents, and my parents would be appalled by some of their activism. So especially within this community – which should be empowered by the same Spirit and working toward the same end goal – we should be willing to at least entertain the idea for 30 seconds that we could learn something from our sibs in the Lort!

This is good stuff y’all. I’m going to applaud myself.

😉 Dr. Galloswag out!

— EDITORIAL NOTES —
*I actually think that someone’s heart makes them good or evil. But as Jesus said, “you will know [evil men] by their fruit,” and as James said “I will show you my faith BY my good works.” The point is- only God knows what’s truly in our own and others hearts and so we can use people’s behavior as a proxy for where their heart is.
**Because pc, yo