Now, I don’t know about you but the moral relativism of the last several years has coaxed many folk’s minds to agnosticism when it comes to evil. They’ve become uncertain that there is real evil…really. Because there has been a never-ending sermon from the presiding cultural priests that morality is, well…fiction, it’s hard call a spade anything but just another card in the deck.
They quote Jesus, “judge not”, when traditionalists argue against same-sex marriage. Considering the pro-life’s insistence that abortion is the killing of another human person, pro-life advocates are accused of oppressing women. When a baker won’t bake a cake because of his/her conviction about the celebration of something he considers wrong, the courts are used to coerce the baker back into the kitchen! I was convinced that the cultural maxim was “there is no real evil except that which considers something evil”.
But now, it seems there’s been a shift. Considering recent events these same people want us to believe that there is real evil…really.
Evil to them.
I don’t really believe that there was a shift in their beliefs about the existence of evil. It’s only that I misjudged them before.
As I reconsider how they argued, or rather what they argued for, it strikes me that most of them have been protecting themselves against what they believe evil is. They believed in evil all along, but they only believed in what they think is evil-evil to them.
Evil, to them, is anything that stands in the way of success, comfort, and happiness.
What is success?
Success is defined by the predominant culture as whatever makes you happy. In fact happiness, as far as they’re concerned, is what defines us as human. If someone is unable to be happy, they are unsuccessful. Therefore, evil is whatever stands in the way of a person’s pursuit of happiness.
In the case of a mother who may be economically disadvantaged, a new child may stand in the way or her pursuit of happiness. Her economic situation may also be a disadvantage for the child’s eventual pursuit of happiness.
In the mother’s case, since happiness is the ultimate measure of success, prevailing wisdom is to terminate the pregnancy.
In the unborn person’s case, since happiness is unlikely because of the mother’s economic situation, ultimate success is also unlikely. So, prevailing wisdom is to kill that person.
Sometimes giving birth to another human person may cause a mother (or baby) to be unsuccessful. That event may stand in the way of her pursuit of ultimate happiness. Therefore, the ultimate principle would dictate that she ought to kill the baby.
If, on the other hand, someone argues that she ought not kill the baby, that pro-life advocate potentially stands in the way of her success. They slow her progress toward happiness. So, they are evil.
Discomfort is uncomfortable
Discomfort is defined by the prevailing culture as anything that would cause someone to consider happiness anything less than ultimate. It’s a pretty common theme in most people’s lives. The old sarcasm, “whatever makes you happy” is now a slogan, even in some churches. So, it must follow that whatever makes you unhappy is evil.
It makes people unhappy to consider themselves guilty of racism. Confederate monuments and symbols stand as a reminder that history is complicated, humanity is fallen, and all are guilty of failing to love their neighbor. If we allow these monuments to exist, then we must face the whole truth about the war and the events that directed it. If we do that, we will no longer be able to deny the culpability of all our ancestors, and even ourselves.
It’s an easy fix. Produce a scapegoat from the low-hanging fruit (the Confederates). Destroy it. Happiness can then continue because people can remain comfortable in their own self-righteousness. Anything that argues against the destruction of the scapegoat causes discomfort. It is evil.
If something interrupts these folk’s normal procedure of everyday life, especially if it causes them to take the time to think, read, protest, argue, listen, or yes, tweet their discontent, it is evil. Most people in the preeminent culture believe in the right to live comfortably. That is to live without diversion or distraction from the pursuit of happiness. Evil to them is anything that interrupts that comfort.
Happiness-the ultimate good
Both comfort and success are directly linked to what many Americans consider the ultimate good. To them, the ultimate good, the measure of success and the source of comfort, is pleasure.
Happiness can be had many ways, sexual being the primary pleasure. Any act, thought, or emotion must be fulfilled for the ultimate purpose of bringing pleasure or happiness. Anything that impedes or prohibits that is evil.
Happiness is defined by many Americans as whatever makes you happy. Happiness to them is an existential something that completes us or fulfills our longings. All happiness must be affirmed as equally good, according to them.
If it is a person’s desire or longing for all people to acquiesce to their long-term relationship with a person of the same sex, the happiness produced by that is the ultimate good. If, on the other hand, a baker or land owner prefers not to celebrate with them by providing their service or property, they have impeded the pleasure of the couple. By definition, the non-celebratory proprietor is more than a wet blanket. They are evil.
If happiness is prevented, whatever prevents happiness is evil.
Ultimate evil to them
By now you’ve probably figured out what the ultimate evil to them is. Anything that impedes the ultimate good is the ultimate evil, to the prevailing culture. The ultimate good is happiness. The pursuit of happiness is the primary American virtue.
In the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson wrote that into the American ethos as something that gives us value as a human being. Just as life and liberty, all humans have an inherent right to the pursuit of happiness.
Never mind that the great Virginian originally penned it as life, liberty, and property, until he was convinced to change it. Oh, and don’t bring up the fact that simply asserting or assuming the pursuit of happiness is an inherent human right only begs the question. What is happiness? What did Jefferson mean by that?
It’s better to remain ignorant of the fact that Mr. Jefferson believed happiness to be more in line with holiness than licentiousness. Those are inconvenient facts of history that cause discomfort, and prevent ultimate happiness. Maybe it would be better to erase Jefferson than face the truth about another complicated man of his time.
But, it would be a mistake to assume that Thomas Jefferson is the ultimate evil to them. Likewise, historical figures like Lee or Jackson or the Confederacy do not supplant the great Satan as far as the present American ethos is concerned. Not even pro-lifers or cake bakers who won’t celebrate same-sex marriage can claim the title of real evil.
Nope. They are really evil, sure enough. But, to them, they are not essentially or ontologically evil. They only represent what evil is. They are manifestations of real evil…really.
Real evil…really is truth. Truth stands as that which conforms to reality. The prevailing American culture, the one emerging from metropolitan America and American universities, considers truth as the ultimate evil because their pursuit of the ultimate, does not conform to reality. Truth opposes their pursuit of happiness. They oppose truth.
Unfortunately, Christians, especially apologists, are called to speak truth. As loving as we try to be, as respectfully as we try to present it, ultimately, we are truth-tellers. That is unpopular. Sometimes it is uncomfortable. Some folks hate it and/or us. But, we cannot avoid it and remain faithful.
Yes. There exists real evil…really. Real evil to them is truth. It’s our job to say, “not really”.