I was having a discussion about some of the recent rhetoric on social media following the election. I referenced this essay I wrote to a friend who had not read it. So I am reposting it here.
(ORIGINALLY POSTED 8/15/15)
I was going to write a blog post called "The Soul Detector Test."
I would have invited readers to participate in a test to see if they posses a human soul. This test would be much like the one administered in Blade Runner, but simpler. Readers would click a link to watch a video and if they did not respond with outrage and revulsion down to their core, then I would be sad to inform them that they lacked a soul.
The video in question would be the undercover Planned Parenthood video where they nonchalantly explore the profitable remains of a murdered baby.
I admit that I am desensitized to the horrors of this world, but I was shaken by this video. The words "another boy" kept ringing in my ears for days. I was so outraged and I became outraged at the lack of outrage by so many people to the obvious horror. Hence the Soul Detector Test.
But then I thought better of it.
Am I still nauseated by what I saw and heard? Of course. Do I find the scavenging of organs from baby corpses intensely evil? Yes.
So why did I not write the article?
Because thankful I recognized a darkness in myself that would have blunted any good that would have come from that writing.
When we are passionate about a great injustice, we fall too easily into the trap of viewing our adversaries not as human beings but as monsters.
To be sure there are people in the world who have made themselves into monsters. It is sad when we encounter in history those who embrace evil like Hitler or Bin Laden. It is even worse when we encounter it in our own lives. I remember a friend of mine told me about how she was almost raped in college. She fought her attacker off, but she came across the horrid reality that there are people who will look at you and not see a human being.
We are fools to believe that there are no monsters in this world. But we are equally foolish when we label people as monsters simply because they do not see the same truth that we do.
And this growing tendency is leading to a further breakdown of our ability to connect to other human beings. There is nothing wrong with opposing someone on an issue of conscience. But I've noticed more and more that we are quick to label our opponents as monsters. This gives us a sense of moral self-righteousness, but that is not the complete danger. The problem is that when we designate them as monsters, it gives us moral freedom to act horribly to them. When battling monsters, drastic measure can be taken. When battling monsters, you seek only victory by any means.
I remember a few years ago, there was a man who was convinced that the Family Research Council was evil because of their beliefs regarding homosexuality. So he went to their headquarters and opened fire, intending to leave a Chick-Fil-A sandwich on each corpse. In his mind he was completely justified in his action because he was vanquishing monsters.
Not all examples of this are as extreme. I've chronicled the troubles that Orson Scott Card has had in maintaining a business relationship with DC Comics. Internet agitators made a ruckus when was going to write a Superman comic. He was deemed by them as unworthy of employment because he gave money to a group supporting traditional marriage. And in their eyes, he got what he deserved because of his monstrosity.
I think of my friend who was attacked in college. Her attacker continued forward despite the unimaginable harm it would have caused because she was not human to him. What is sad is that a form of this dehumanization occurs when we undeservedly label others as monsters.
There is much that Nietszche said that I disagree with. But one of his most famous quotes is "Do not do battle with monsters, lest you become a monster." If you perceive your opponent as evil, there is the danger of building a desire to return evil upon them.
Look at the way we demonize each other, especially if you read any online disputes. It is easy to paint others in broad brush strokes and then tear them down viciously because, after all, that is what monsters deserve.
And this brings us to my original idea for the essay: The Soul Detector.
Notice my reasoning behind the original idea. I experience moral outrage at this injustice. I then presumed to sit in judgment of those who did not meet my level of anger. I was going to imply that they had no soul. Notice that I was not going to direct my ire towards the abortionists, but on those who were not as outraged as I was.
I want to be clear that my outrage has not diminished. But even if my anger is righteous, I would have perverted any attempt to rectify the injustice.
When we see a great injustice, there is a pleasure in "hitting back." We feel self-satisfied when we get in a good dig or zinger.
But what good is winning the argument if we lose the arguer?
Winning the intellectual argument is a means, not an end. It is a way to remove any impediment that the soul has to accepting a moral truth. But the will must be active in reaching for that truth. Unfortunately, our passions can have more of a grasp on our will than our reason does. Let's face it, how often have we continued to argue with someone way past the point where we know they are right? We do it because our emotions won't' let our will accept the truth.
I am not arguing that we should be wishy-washy in our convictions. Nor am I saying that we should avoid speaking truth to ensure that no one is offended. Jesus spoke the truth and some people were so offended they crucified Him. But Jesus offered His mercy to them all.
These videos are an opportunity to shed light. There are some that are so committed to the abortion cause that they are unwilling to admit that these revelations shake them. And then there are some who might have an erroneous conscience and honestly believe that abortion is a moral good. Perhaps no on has truly presented the truth of human dignity to them in a way they can understand. Maybe I am wrong, but I think that if I attacked them the way I was planning, it would only further harden them in their resolve.
My goal should be not to defeat these people, but to convince them. The truth I am seeking to share must be given without compromise, but with compassion.
If we turn our opponents into monsters at the drop of a hat, then we no longer seek to engage in rational discourse to the destination of truth. We lose all pretense of reason and rely purely on strength.
And there are times when strength must be used in the cause of righteousness. We fought a bloody civil war to end the sin of slavery. We saw the largest war in the history of the planet in order to end the Holocaust. Sometimes we must take up arms when men become monsters.
But we must be sure that we are not the ones making monsters of men.