Misunderstanding Right vs. Wrong

Misunderstanding Right vs. Wrong July 15, 2018

Some thoughts from physicist and theologian Karl Giberson:

As many of my FB friends know, I have been struggling to understand how and why evangelical Christians have become unable to make moral judgments when it comes to the Trump administration. I think I am starting to get a part of the answer based on some discussion about the Red Hen kicking out Sarah Sanders.

When I think about that episode, I see it in moral terms. Sarah Sanders is a member of a group that has decided that child abuse is acceptable governmental policy. Sarah has been fully complicit in this, going on national television to try and rationalize the child abuse.

When I look at this ugly situation, I don’t automatically assume that the folks at the Red Hen are “liberals” who are attacking a “conservative.” To me, this incident is akin to a restaurant kicking out a member of the KKK, a known rapist, a lawyer who manipulated the system to get a child molester freed, or anyone else whose hands are covered in the blood of innocents.

A part of what seems to have happened to evangelicals is that they have entangled their political beliefs with their religious beliefs until “right versus wrong” has become synonymous with “conservative versus liberal.”

Under normal circumstance, freed of politics, they would be horrified by state-sponsored child abuse. But, make the abuse at the hands of the GOP and the primary critics the Dems and suddenly it is just a political issue.

He shared the above in a Facebook comment, and kindly gave permission for it to be shared more widely. And I think it provides a helpful example of what might seem a complication of my recent argument about hierarchical prioritization of values, when in fact I think it illustrates it well. For some, being conciliatory and respectful takes priority over political differences in the case of Democrats vs. Republicans, but not either of those vs. Nazis. I’d argue that this isn’t an instance of the prioritization of the same things being inverted in two different cases. Rather, I think it shows that being respectful can be prioritized higher than different visions for the best approach to the American economy, but lower than the need to counter a group that advocates genocide and hatred. And when the Republican party shifts from merely benefiting the wealthy to actively harming the poor, minorities, and immigrants, the prioritization may have to adjust accordingly.


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  • Otto T. Goat

    Always throw the first stone, in other words.

    “this incident is akin to a restaurant kicking out…a known rapist, a lawyer who manipulated the system to get a child molester freed”

    I don’t recall any restaurants ever kicking out the Clintons.

    • Jesusisdemocrat

      Not rapists, etc!

      • Otto T. Goat

        “Of the Clinton accusers, the one who haunts me is Broaddrick. The story she tells about Clinton recalls those we’ve heard about Weinstein. She claimed they had plans to meet in a hotel coffee shop, but at the last minute he asked to come up to her hotel room instead, where he raped her. Five witnesses said she confided in them about the assault right after it happened.”


        Hillary laughing about the time when she was a lawyer that she manipulated the system to get a child rapist acquitted:


  • Vucodlak

    Under normal circumstance, freed of politics, they would be horrified by state-sponsored child abuse.

    I was raised by conservatives, I grew up surrounded by them, and I’m surrounded by them still. They’re just fine with child abuse, so long as they approve of the abuser and the abuser’s choice of target. More than fine- they’re enthusiastic, gleeful even, and will defend the rights of abuser to the death (usually that of the child). So long as the government is controlled by conservatives, conservatives will be pleased as punch that it’s harming the children of those people. You can’t free this of politics- it’s a foundational principle of US conservatism that those people aren’t really people and, therefore, neither are their children.

    For a long time, I didn’t want to believe that that’s what my family believes, or what my neighbors believe, or what some of my old friends believe, but it is. I can’t ignore it any longer. Some people, a whole lot of people, are things to US conservatives, and it chills me to the bone to hear what conservatives say they’d like to do them. Or me, if they realize I’m not with them.

    And that is why I’ll have no truck with this “civility” talk. I hear you, dear neighbor. I hear your thirsting cries for the blood of innocents, and I will not break bread with you any longer. For so long as you embrace this evil, we ain’t friends. Grow a conscience or get yourself a thicker coat, because it’s gonna get real chilly when I’m around.

  • John MacDonald

    It’s always an interesting question as to why some “take offence” and develop a “holier than thou” attitude about a certain side of an issue while others do not. Presumably Trump supporter who approved of the family separation policy felt bringing the violators to justice trumped any effect this process might have on the children. After all, someone who committed a bank robbery wouldn’t be exempt from jail if they had kids. I remember years ago at camp on the dock by the lake having a lot of luck catching bass for a shore lunch. While this was going on, I noticed a girl with a scowl on her face watching me. She was a vegan, and I found out she thought that I was a terrible person.

  • jekylldoc

    If you propose re-evaluating moral priorities that way, you have some responsibility to think about the way the lines get drawn. Is a person who chooses to live in 98% white suburbs for the good schools as complicit as a person who resents paying taxes to support freeloaders? Is supporting the poor within America but not taking responsibility for foreign poverty really exempt from the stain of tribalism?

    I don’t have a problem with advocating for policies a person considers more moral. But the obligation to look first for our own sins, before condemning others on moral grounds, is there for a reason.