Refusing To Call Evil “Evil”

There are times when our pluralistic sensibilities are overcome by an unambiguous display of evil

“No one is served when we bury our heads in the ground and pretend that ISIS is anything less than one of the most morally repugnant regimes on the face of the planet. Maybe our statesmen will disagree on the best way to address this threat. But can’t we all agree on what they are. They are evil. The only reasonable and moral response is to say so and oppose them.”

 

I just read one of the most morally confused (and indeed asinine) things I’ve ever seen on the New York Times editorial page. The author is a professor named Michael Boyle, and he argues that we must not call the ISIS terrorist group evil. Why? Because the times don’t call for moral clarity. President Bush had moral clarity, and look where that got us–a decade of war. For this reason, Boyle argues that we should avoid describing ISIS as a “cancer” like President Obama did earlier this week. Such language keeps us from seeing the world as it is.

This is the logic of appeasement. It’s very similar to the moral indifference of Western democracies that led to the rise of the Nazis and the rearmament of Germany after World War I. And we cannot go that route again. There really is such a thing as evil in the world. In a culture of pluralism, we may have difficulty agreeing on how to define the good, the right, and the true. Nevertheless, there are times when all of our pluralistic sensibilities are overcome by an unambiguous display of wickedness. It happened on 9-11. And it happened again when ISIS beheaded James Foley. How can someone be so resentful of the last president that he would refuse to see that?

No one is served when we bury our heads in the ground and pretend that ISIS is anything less than one of the most morally repugnant regimes on the face of the planet. Maybe our statesmen will disagree on the best way to address this threat. But can’t we all agree on what they are. They are evil. The only reasonable and moral response is to say so and oppose them.

Denny Burk is Associate Professor of New Testament and Dean of Boyce College, the undergraduate arm of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminar. He blogs on matters concerning politics, theology and culture. This article is used with permission.