For many, doing what’s right means forcing others to accept your views
By Timothy King
“Truth without love is brutality, and love without truth is hypocrisy.” — Warren W. Wiersbe
An obscure film director makes an amateurish film denigrating Islam and deadly riots ensue. Ditto when the French equivalent of Mad Magazine publishes vulgar caricatures of the prophet Mohammed. Muslims take to the street to kill and destroy in the name of their prophet.
On the same note (yes, the same; keep reading), a St. Louis man undertakes a culinary jihad over whether a certain cut of meat was a pork chop or a pork steak. It was settled that the cut was actually a pork steak when the man killed his uncle (an advocate for the pork chop) with a shotgun.
In our own slice of Colorado, a vandal or vandals smeared a concrete-like substance over the swastikas on the John Otto rock in front of the Museum of Western Colorado. The only characteristic we know of the perpetrators is they are totally lacking any critical thinking skills.
What is the common denominator in each of these events? What characteristic does each human participant possess that ties them all together?
While the average citizen looks and judges these acts to be wrong, all who perpetrated these miseries felt as though they were doing the right thing. The Muslims hate the blaspheming infidels because, in their eyes, that is what they must do in defending the righteousness of their religion. That’s the right thing to do.
The nephew kills his uncle because there’s a lofty moral principle — in the nephew’s mind — to be defended: that’s a pork steak, by gum, not a pork chop!
The Otto Rock vandals seek to raise our city’s moral virtue by sacrificing historical perspective and defacing an artifact that had absolutely nothing to do with Nazism (although don’t miss the irony that the vandals have a common characteristic with Hitler).
As old King Solomon said, there’s nothing new under the sun.
With few exceptions, since the origins of man, every fight, every murder, every divorce, every crusade, every jihad, every church split, every ethnic cleansing, every torture, every mud-slinging political campaign, every abuse of children, every fill-in-the-blank-here is perpetrated because one or more of the parties involved believed they were acting on what they felt was a righteous cause.
In his book, “The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Religion and Politics,” social psychologist Jonathan Haidt presents more than 400 pages of studies, the conclusion of which he sums up in the introduction of his book. He says:
“I’ll draw on the latest research in neuroscience, genetics, social psychology, and evolutionary modeling, but the take-home message of the book is ancient. It is the realization that we are all self-righteous hypocrites.”
He then quotes Jesus of Nazareth: “Why do you see the speck that is in your neighbor’s eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye? ... You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.”
To put it another way, the wicked depravity of human nature is never more on display than in the pursuit of justice. Let a person be offended and the default nature will cast aside compassion, mercy and forgiveness in order to make things “right.”
Let’s face it, a great deal of the speeches and protests we hear about reform and change and justice and progress are no more than eloquent exercises in speck-picking. Hypocrisy is one of those traits that no person likes in others, but will rarely see in himself, especially if said person is on a crusade for justice.
The self-righteous perceive themselves as the victims of everyone else’s sins, giving them the justification for leaving a swath of misery and destruction behind them, thus, the pursuit of a perceived “good” can sometimes be more damaging than evil itself.
This is not meant to dampen anyone’s spirit in the pursuit of what’s right. I, for one, am an advocate for doing anything that will stem the rise of evil and promote the good. It’s just that any undertaking in the name of good should be approached with serious self-examination first, because the human default setting is self-righteousness, not self-sacrifice. Self-sacrifice will sacrifice the cause for the person while self-righteousness sacrifices the person for the cause.
Just ask anyone on a jihad. Or eating a pork steak.
Timothy King is a former Baptist minister who now works in the retail industry in Grand Junction.