aefenglommung (aefenglommung) wrote,

Moral Equivalency cuts both ways

A lot of ink has been spilled over Pastor Terry Jones burning a Koran down in Florida and the riots in Pakistan and Afghanistan that followed it. (BTW, since so much publishing is now electronic, shouldn't that be "a lot of electrons have been spilled?" No matter.) The first result of all the coverage is, of course, to magnify the Rev. Squit's actions down in Swampland. Makes me wonder, What if they held a Koran burning and nobody came? Or how about, If a Koran burns in Florida, and nobody was there to report on it, would anybody know to riot?

Me, I think somebody should tell Pastor Needsalife that his fifteen minutes are up. Then, the media need to stop taking his calls. And that would take care of that.

But beyond commenting on the actions of just about the only pastor I know of who doesn't have enough to do, most of the other nattering and grommishing I read usually makes some sort of moral equivalency argument. You know, we really can't blame the poor Afghans (or whoever) because, after all, they've been offended. And besides, Christians have done it, too.

Now, that is quite an argument to make. Yes, Christians have, in times past, gone on rampages. I could name a few: the pro-Mary riots surrounding the calling of the Council of Ephesus that eventually declared her to be theotokos; the spasms of medieval anti-Semitism that would erupt whenever somebody said the Jews were poisoning wells or something; various outbreaks of iconoclasm directed against pagan temples or pictures in church or "Romish" decorations. These are nothing to be proud of.

That said, if we are to semi-excuse the rioting Muslims because of our past history of rioting Christians, let's understand what that means. If it's okay for Muslims to riot and to kill people all because of what somebody did eight or ten thousand miles away (and even if, as before, he had only said he was going to do it), then it must have been okay for those Christians long ago to riot and kill, too. They, too, had provocation -- or thought they did.

Are we really prepared to go that route? For make no mistake, that's what the moral equivalency argument gets you. Rather, we should condemn this kind of violence wherever it breaks out. We don't excuse Christian rioters from the past; on the contrary, we confess the repugnance of their actions -- and call Muslims to live up to the same standard. That's the only moral equivalency I'm interested in: that all persons and groups should be held accountable for their actions, without excuses or special waivers for certain ideologies or approved victim groups.

In J.R.R. Tolkien's great work, The Lord of the Rings (a novel far more morally serious than anything written by the literary "mainstream"), the warrior captain Eomer asks, "How shall a man judge what to do in such times?" To which Aragorn replies, "As he ever has judged . . . Good and evil have not changed since yesteryear; nor are they one thing among Elves and Dwarves and another among Men. It is a man's part to discern them, as much in the Golden Wood as in his own house." Substitute Christians and Secularists for Elves and Dwarves and Muslims for Men and it is just as true.

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