Saturday, February 23, 2013

A Thought on Evil and Activism

Just finished a somewhat tongue-in-cheek post at the blog next door about what I see as a witch hunt for Orson Scott Card over his outspoken support for traditional marriage.

There is a certain irony, of course, in seeing people who almost certainly sympathize with Arthur Miller fall into a roll more reminiscent of Joseph McCarthy. And at one time in my life, I would have found such hypocrisy amusing--but now I just find it sad.

It makes me sad because any harmful pattern that both conservatives in the 1950s and gay rights activists in the 2010s can share is probably a part of human nature rather than a symptom of a certain ideology. If I see witch hunts when I look to the right, and witch hunts when I look to the left, I'm probably quite prone to witch hunting myself, should the proper conditions emerge.

If witch-hunting is a common human error, I want to know how to avoid it. When you feel strongly about an issue, how do you keep from unfairly victimizing others in your activism? Or, as Jesus might have asked, how do you maintain empathy for someone who is working against you?

I'm not Jesus. I don't know.

All I can think of today is this: no matter what opponents you face in your battles for a better world, never forget that the most important evil is always the one living within you.

An oil spill is a big threat to the environment, but the most important threat is my own careless use of resources, my own ignorance about the systems of life in my neighborhood.

A changing culture may be undermining marriage through the nation, but the most important threat to marriage is my own selfishness and pride in my relationship with my wife.

A shooting may reveal the problem of violence in my world, but the most important violence for me to stand against is the force of my own voice when I raise it in anger against my eight-year-old.

To fight an oppressor is to do a good deed. But only one who fights against his own wish to oppress is a good man. To recognize an injustice is praiseworthy--but only one who repents of the injustices she commits can truly make the world more pure.

I want to help make the world a better place. But I hope to work with humility so I can face others with charity.  I want my anger at others to be diffused by the realization that I am also part of the underlying problems I may see manifest in them.


  1. I have a few guidelines that I believe, and try, far too often unsuccessfully, to follow:

    1. If you're not doing it out of love, you're doing it wrong.
    2. Ask yourself, are you willing to apply the same rules and standards to yourself that you apply to those who disagree with you?
    3. I assume, and I am almost always right, that those who disagree with me are sincere and believe their way is the right way.
    4. I don't like compromise. With compromise no one gets what they want. Instead I look for a new way where everyone gets as much of what they want as possible. With listening, understanding, patience, and creativity, it can happen.

  2. I love the series on witch hunts, but this was my favorite post. It identified hunting witches as something we are all susceptible to, something that I didn't realize that I'm doing. So instead of being upset with those that think I'm a witch, I ought to not think of my enemies as witches.

  3. I like the way C.S. Lewis described it: the devil's work usually isn't to eliminate charity and replace it with pure hatred--that's impossible with most people at any given time. Instead, the trick is to get people to focus their charity on abstractions and people and causes far away so that they never notice the malice creeping into their relationships.

    Good post.

  4. Very thought provoking - whenever you can get Rick to comment on your blog you know you did something right...or wrong :0

  5. So true. I don't understand boycotting people who disagree with you, anyway. Isn't the whole point of reading trying to understand other people's points of view and gaining a better understanding of the world and humans all over?

  6. My favorite line: "To fight oppression is a good deed, but only he who fights against his own will to oppress is a good man." I like it because of it's versatility. As a mother, as a citizen, as a friend, in every circumstance we are in- do we grant freedom to our fellow men? or do we impose upon them our wills, beliefs or desires? As a mother it is my duty to guide my children, not control them. Very good.

  7. Honestly, I'm really glad I discovered this hubbub about Orson Scott Card via your blog post because I approached it far more thoughtfully than I probably would have otherwise. :)

    Ironically enough, the more I thought about it the more I appreciated it in the context of Lehi's statements about opposition in all things. We talk about freedom in this country (and in many other contexts) and I think that we often forget those fundamental truths he taught. We CANNOT be free as a people without these opposing social and political forces. In a way, no matter who is right or wrong, both sides of an issue owe a certain amount of appreciation if not actual gratitude to the other. Without opposition, freedom wouldn't be possible. I can't help but wonder how such an attitude of gratitude might impact the witch hunt mentality. :)



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