I suppose with a title like that a disclaimer and trigger warning is somewhat self evident. This is a rather graphic post, so proceed at your own discretion.
The other day Zande used a rape and burned puppies analogy to express his frustration over the fact that God does not always intervene in bad things. In the process, he attempted to accuse me and some others of condoning rape and dead puppies. In Zande’s mind, morality is simply black and white. If God were good or existed, He would intervene. Since He doesn’t always intervene the way Zande wishes Him to intervene, God is either not good or He doesn’t exist.
However, I wish to speak of this issue in a much larger context, one where morality is actually far more complex than our ability to fully understand it, and to demonstrate some of the limitations of human perception that must be taken into consideration here.
So, donning my hip waders, gloves, and goggles, here is the original comment….
“I will put you in a room, on a chair, where you can watch a terrified six year old girl being raped, her little bones broken as the man splits her open. She screams for it to stop. He beats her around the head to shut her up, and keeps pumping. You have the capacity to stop it. You have the ability to stop her agony. Would you?
Now, you are placed in a another room where you watch a boy pour petrol over puppies. He lights a match and tosses it into the air toward the puppies. You have the capacity to stop that match reaching the puppies. Would you?”
Would I intervene? Of course! I would don my Lara Croft outfit or perhaps my Catwoman suit and come in with guns blazing, making a heroic rush to save the innocent and punish the evildoers. It would be just like a comic book and the good guys would win. Something akin to automatic weapons turning squirrels into hamburger, I imagine.
I have a rather powerful and graphic thirst for both justice and vengeance. The problem being, you can only kill people once. I’d be surrounded by corpses, long before my rage was spent. Actually, my rage and thirst for vengeance would probably make me start to resemble the same darkness and evil within the rapist and the puppy murderer. There is nothing quite like becoming the monster you seek to destroy.
There I’d be, standing in the midst of great bloodshed with a pile of dead puppies and a wounded, broken child, even more impotent and powerless than I was before. Exhausted, spent, I’ve just totally annihilated all my options.
That is the problem with the limitations of the physical world and our limitations as human beings. As a great conquering hero whose morality is governed by might makes right, I’ve just succeeded in perhaps ending that child’s agony temporarily, but I’ve also thoroughly traumatized her farther by exposing her to even more bloodshed and making her uncertain what kind of monster I am.
She’s now had a good glimpse of the nature of evil, and once seen, it can never be unseen.
The puppies are already dead, the child is already wounded, the perpetrators are already dead….and 15oo more of them have just been born. Also, I cannot possibly be in all places at once like a conquering superhero attempting to protect the innocent and punish the evildoers. There’s the added complication of me now being a bit of an evil doer myself . Let’s say that kid burning puppies was actually somebody’s beloved son, brother, a perfect child much treasured by his grandparents, who just happened to get the wrong pharmaceutical prescription one day, suffered a bad reaction and had a psychotic breakdown.
Well crap, now I’ve just killed an innocent victim of some medical malpractice. And the raped child who now grows up to engage in self harm, wrestling demons of her own, how do I protect her from herself? How do I fix what was broken, how do I replace what was stolen?
Enter moral ambiguity, that odd state of existence where nothing in life is really quite as black and white as one would hope it to be…
Which now brings me back to the question, would I intervene? Of course, but it’s now not quite as morally simple as it once was. Would it really be wise to come in like an avenging angel and heroically set things right? Or is that perhaps more about me and my own heroic fantasies? What would truly be in the best interests of that raped child and that boy who suffered a medical malfunction and killed those puppies? The rapist, do I just evict him from the planet, calling it good and ignoring the fact that he’s now been replaced by 1500 more?
Well, now I’m all confused here. Would I intervene? Yes, but how? What is the best course of action here? Are those puppies more valuable then a human boy’s life? What are the needs of that child victim of rape? How do we mitigate future harm? How do we create healing and reconcilaton? How to fix what has been broken, replace what has been stolen? How do we make it right??
There is a law at work here, a spiritual principle at play. Cruelty and evil are always finite, love is infinite. Love conquers all. Light drives out darkness, darkness does not drive out light. It is impossible to dim light by shining some darkness on it.
What would I do? I would probably not come in with guns blazing like some conquering superhero, I would do just what God has done for us all. I would give that child hope. I would speak to her about how God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son. I would teach her about the nature of forgiveness and how she can trust in God’s promises, in his healing power to replace what has been stolen, ten fold. I would teach her that love conquers all, that Christ collects our tears in a bottle, that not all our suffering is for naught, that there are often great treasure hidden therein.
And someday when she was ready for strong meat, I would teach her the principles behind, “but there for the grace of God go I,” “forgive them Father for they know not what they do,” and “Lord, please show them the same mercy and forgiveness you’ve always shown me.” And once she’s grasped those principles I will know she has victory in Christ, that her spirit has met triumph, that she had gained beauty for her ashes.
I don’t wish to dismiss the value or necessity of sometimes needing to go in with guns blazing to protect people, but as anybody with a lick of sense knows that only a fraction of the story, the part of morality we love to celebrate because it makes us feel so powerful. In truth we are flawed, powerless, and somewhat impotent against the tide of evil that has always threatened to sweep us away.
There is good news however, we have a Redeemer, an Advocate, who forgives us for our failings, our powerlessness, and shows us The Way. His victory happened on the cross long ago and all we have to do is give up our romantic notions about our own moral superiority and avail ourselves of Him.
What would I do to heal the world’s brokenness? I’d preach the gospel from every roof top. As good as I might look in a cat suit, I understand the limitations of morality outside the context of God Himself. He is our hope.