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    Ethics & Debate Center - Thread: Do The Ends Justify The Means?

    1. #1
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      Do The Ends Justify The Means?

      OneNewsNow: Do The Ends Justify the Means?
      Friday, August 30, 2019 | Dr. Michael L. Brown - Guest Columnist
      http://www.askdrbrown.org/

      --This is a perennial ethical question, one that is becoming increasingly relevant in our national elections. Do the ends justify the means? The simple answer is that it depends on what the ends are and what the means are.

      In the view of author Ben Howe, when it comes to evangelicals voting for Donald Trump, the answer is no, the ends do not justify the means. The losses outweigh the gains. We may have made gains in the courts and elsewhere, but we have lost our credibility as Christians.

      In the view of Professor Darrell Bock, it may well be that our vote for the president has done more harm (in terms of the degrading of the nation) than good (in terms of pro-life legislation, pro-Israel moves, and more).

      In the view of strong Trump supporters, there's no debate to be had.

      The man is fighting giants. He's pushing back against so many societal evils (both nationally and internationally), not to mention taking on the leftwing media, doing his best to drain the swamp, and making positive decisions today that will help the next two generations. Who cares about some mean-spirited tweets and some ill-advised words? The man has been sent from God. And so the debate continues, ceaselessly and endlessly, driven by the media and social media.

      How, then, do we sort this out? Do the ends justify the means? Was it justifiable for evangelicals, who so prize morality and integrity, to elect such an unevangelical leader to take up their cause?

      There is an interesting anecdote in the Talmud that discusses a related ethical dilemma. A person came to a rabbinic leader named Rabba and presented his problem: "The ruler of my village came to me and said 'kill that person, and if you do not then I will kill you.' Can I follow his order so that I will be able to save myself?"

      Rabba responded: "Allow yourself to be killed, but you may not kill another. Who says that your blood is redder than his? Perhaps his blood is redder than yours."

      And what, exactly, does this mean? As explained by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz, "On a simple level, Rabba's argument is that we cannot tell whose life is more valuable, so we will not allow you to save your life at the expense of another."

      Based on this logic, the Talmud states that various laws can be broken to save your life, such as the Sabbath or the dietary laws. In other words, if someone puts a gun to the head of an Orthodox Jew and says, "Eat pork, or we will kill you," it's permissible for him to eat pork.

      But if someone puts that gun to his head and says, "Kill someone else," or, "Engage in sexual immorality," or, "Worship an idol or we will kill you," then he must say no, even if it costs him his life.

      So, when it comes to Jewish law, these three commandments (against idol worship, forbidden sexual acts, and murder) "are so severe that a person should give up his life rather than perform the forbidden acts."

      Many Christians have given their lives for similar principles, such as, "You can kill me, but I will not deny Jesus."

      In such a case, the ends (here, saving your life) do not justify the means (here, denying the Lord).

      But what if the ends are noble (saving other lives) but the means are anything but noble (lying, breaking some laws, and being nasty)? What then?

      Consider this illustration.

      You get an emergency call from a friend. You have in your possession the antidote to a deadly snake bite, but it must be applied within one hour or the victim will die.

      Your friend is frantic on the phone. Ten children, playing in a schoolyard, have been bitten by a venomous snake, but no one in the community has the antidote.

      Thankfully, you have it, but you live 45 minutes away and there is road construction on the main highway.

      The only way you can deliver the antidote on time is by violating the relevant traffic laws, getting out of your car and screaming at others to get out of your way, and, to overcome one last hurdle, telling a blatant lie. But you arrive on time and the children are saved.

      Would anyone question for a split second that the ends justified the means? Not a chance. You would be viewed as a hero (or heroin) and everyone would recognize that you did what you had to do to save lives.

      When it comes to voting for Donald Trump, many evangelicals would say, "It's a similar situation. We were and are facing existential threats as a nation. Our very liberties are at stake. The lives of innocent babies are at stake. The make-up of the courts for the next 30-40 years is at stake. And on an international level, Christians were and are facing potential genocide, especially in the Middle East. Israel could be facing a nuclear Iran. Do you think babies in the womb or persecuted Christians in Syria or Israeli Jews care if Trump can sometimes be a brute? Wake up!"

      Others would say, "Those, indeed, are weighty issues, issues of great importance. But what of the fact that we have lost our credibility as Christians by defending Trump at every turn? What of the fact that he has stirred up so much dissension and hatred, turning people away from the Lord? Is it worth it?"

      These are the questions that everyone must answer, especially those of us who are evangelical followers of Jesus.

      But to me, there is a simple way forward. If we believe that Trump is the best candidate for president after weighing all the pros and cons, we vote accordingly, making clear this is just a vote. Then, by our actions, our words, and the overall course of our lives, we show ourselves to be faithful witnesses for Jesus, feeling no need to defend the president at every turn.

      Can it be done successfully? That's the big question of the hour.
      I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else. - C.S. Lewis

    2. #2
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      It increasingly seems to me that many on both sides of the political spectrum think the ends justify the means, as long as "the ends" further their own political agenda. If "the ends" further the other party's agenda they expect process to be followed to the letter.
      "Do what thou will shall be the whole of the law" - Aleister Crowley

      "If you love me, obey my commandments" - Jesus Christ

      The Bible comes as a complete package. If we want to pluck verses out of context so make them mean what we want them to mean, if we want to ignore the passages that are inconvenient to our outlook, we should be intellectually honest enough to throw our Bibles in the trash and admit we are following Crowley and not Christ.

    3. #3
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      I realize it's a popular proverb: "The ends does not justify the means." Christians often chant that, too.


      I'm not so such it's that simple. We live in a BROKEN, FALLEN world - where the ideal isn't always the reality. Sometimes we are faced with only BAD as options, and we are forced to choose the least bad option - in order to pursue something good. Was it GOOD for God in the OT to destroy all those cities and kill thousands of civilian women and children? Yet God chose to do that.... with a good in mind. In the NT, Jesus was betrayed and torchured and killed. Is that GOOD? Is the unimaginable horrible murder of a PERFECTLY INNOCENT person "good?" Did God permit such? Even PLAN that? Because of a goal? There were 40 known attempts to murder Adolf Hitler, most near the end of the war by members of the military. They held that if he was eliminated, they could immediate end the war and free prisoners - saving untold number of lives. Is murdering a man GOOD? Might the end have "justified" it? Ah, I'm not sure this issue is as simple as it is often held to be. YES, in a perfect world! But in this broken, sinful, fallen world?
      O
      We are justified by works - just not our own.

    4. #4
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      An interesting ethical dilemma - but one that seems to arrive at a conclusion of "we voted for the lesser evil" so it's okay. I've said that if I could still vote in the U.S. elections (I'm still a citizen, but living in Canada) i would have exercised my right to sit out the presidential vote. I would have voted in all other races and for ballot measures in my (former) home state, but not in the presidential race. The "end" here being a clean conscience as I had no confidence in any of the candidates offered. There was noting that I noticed right to the end that would have swayed my conscience either.

      I recall watching Trump on the campaign trail, and seeing a speech he gave at Liberty University. During the speech he referred to a passage of scripture as coming from "Two Corinthians", and his audience as "Liberty College"
      It was one of those "wait... what?" moments. I didn't know if he was citing scripture or starting a joke (two Corinthians walk into a bar with a Priest and a Rabbi from Liberty College...)

      In the "end" I would have had a clean conscience

    5. #5
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      Quote Originally Posted by ImaginaryDay2 View Post
      An interesting ethical dilemma - but one that seems to arrive at a conclusion of "we voted for the lesser evil" so it's okay. I've said that if I could still vote in the U.S. elections (I'm still a citizen, but living in Canada) i would have exercised my right to sit out the presidential vote. I would have voted in all other races and for ballot measures in my (former) home state, but not in the presidential race. The "end" here being a clean conscience as I had no confidence in any of the candidates offered. There was noting that I noticed right to the end that would have swayed my conscience either.

      I recall watching Trump on the campaign trail, and seeing a speech he gave at Liberty University. During the speech he referred to a passage of scripture as coming from "Two Corinthians", and his audience as "Liberty College"
      It was one of those "wait... what?" moments. I didn't know if he was citing scripture or starting a joke (two Corinthians walk into a bar with a Priest and a Rabbi from Liberty College...)

      In the "end" I would have had a clean conscience
      The whole thing about "Two Corinthians" is nothing more than an expression. Most people I've heard in the US refer to Paul's second letter to the church in Corinth as "Second Corinthians" but just about everybody in the UK calls it "Two Corinthians". The terms "university" and "college" are often regarded as more or less interchangeable. If someone doesn't like a candidate based on their political stance that's one thing but to nitpick and suggest that someone is unelectable because they used a trivially different term to refer to a book is just silly.

      It's like the people who made such a huge deal of when Gary Johnson didn't know what Aleppo was but gave Hillary Clinton a free pass when she talked about coming under enemy fire when visiting some war zone or other, when video later showed her smiling and waving as she casually walked across the airfield without any urgency at all. Apparently she "misspoke". It's an easy mistake to make I suppose - only the other day I was at Walmart and thought I was coming under mortar fire but it turned out to be some redneck in a backfiring pickup.

      As you say in an election it is sometimes a case of choosing the least bad option rather than the best option. It always surprises me when people talk as if they can't understand how anyone could have voted for the other party's candidate. Given the 2016 choice between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton it's not as if either candidate could lay any claim to much high ground so it became little more than a question of which candidate any given voter found less distasteful.
      "Do what thou will shall be the whole of the law" - Aleister Crowley

      "If you love me, obey my commandments" - Jesus Christ

      The Bible comes as a complete package. If we want to pluck verses out of context so make them mean what we want them to mean, if we want to ignore the passages that are inconvenient to our outlook, we should be intellectually honest enough to throw our Bibles in the trash and admit we are following Crowley and not Christ.

    6. #6
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      Quote Originally Posted by tango View Post
      The whole thing about "Two Corinthians" is nothing more than an expression. Most people I've heard in the US refer to Paul's second letter to the church in Corinth as "Second Corinthians" but just about everybody in the UK calls it "Two Corinthians". The terms "university" and "college" are often regarded as more or less interchangeable. If someone doesn't like a candidate based on their political stance that's one thing but to nitpick and suggest that someone is unelectable because they used a trivially different term to refer to a book is just silly.

      Bingo...


      Here's what I've noticed from the Mass Media US press: All Republicans (especially Republican politicians) are stupid. They are people of low IQ. They are ignorant and uneducated people (think Trailer Park) who tend to be religious, patriotic and gun owners. They say and do STUPID things because they are stupid, uneducated and don't know better. They also are sexists and racists, homophobic and anti-Muslim. And they tend to be clumsy, trip and fall a lot. Liberals (and the more liberal, the more true) are brilliant, highly educated, of high IQ, and quite sophisticated in the European sense (European socialists admire them). IF they say something ... well.... it's been misinterpreted by stupid, hateful, homophobic (and probably religious) people.

      This comes through from the press constantly. I got it in the most extreme form in many classes in my undergrad years. My Dad says this probably goes back to Hoover but became full blown with Nixon, and ever sense. Of course, I wasn't born until Reagan, who was constantly mocked for his stupidity.
      We are justified by works - just not our own.

    7. #7
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      We are justified by works - just not our own.

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