Evil in the Name of Good
Believers may imagine that all proponents of unrighteous causes set out to do evil. Yet, according to the Bible, that is often not how sin works. Many times, those who advocate and commit great evils believe they are advancing a righteous cause. That’s not to say all intentions are good. In some instances, people do set out to sin, as in the case of Joseph’s brothers (Genesis 50:20). Other times, motivations that seem positive or neutral on the surface are driven by deep-seated selfishness, idolatry or other vices. Still, the intentions of believers’ cultural opponents often are not purely evil. Scripture bears this out.
Consider the Apostle Paul. Before his conversion to faith in Christ, he persecuted Christians, imprisoning them, attempting to make them blaspheme, and even holding the cloaks of those who stoned Stephen. But he was not doing all this out of spite for the Lord. Rather, he thought he was serving God. “I myself was convinced that I ought to do many things in opposing the name of Jesus of Nazareth,” Paul told King Agrippa in Acts 26:9. Similarly, he told the Philippians his persecution of Christians was motivated by religious zeal (Philippians 3:6).
Sin still works this deceptive way. Indeed, with minimal Internet searching, it’s possible to find champions of gay marriage, abortion, and Islamic terrorism who believe they are advancing a righteous cause. Consider the following:
-- When the Supreme Court announced its nationwide legalization of gay marriage, the Interfaith Alliance issued a statement calling same-sex unions consistent with Christianity: “This is a victory for marriage; this is a victory for families and children; this a victory for the love that is preached by the prophets and spiritual leaders of every faith tradition. Today’s decision is, without question, one of the most important civil rights decisions in a generation.”1 The statement was reminiscent of a 2005 United Church of Christ resolution that “affirm[ed] equal marriage rights for couples regardless of gender” based on the supposed fact that “the Bible affirms and celebrates human expressions of love and partnership.”2
-- When news broke that Planned Parenthood may have sold the body parts of aborted children, former Planned Parenthood clinic director Abby Johnson wrote an open letter to a current Planned Parenthood executive seen in an undercover video discussing the harvesting of fetal parts. Johnson, who is now a prolife advocate, recounted her own experience of harvesting fetal body parts and said she formally did not view it as evil.
“After a grueling abortion day, we would all go out for margaritas and Mexican food,” Johnson wrote. “We would talk about the day and specific abortion cases. It wasn’t gross to us. We honestly didn’t think anything about it. We would plainly talk about harvesting fetal parts as if we were talking about harvesting a field of corn. That was our normal . . . and we were proud to live in it.”3
-- Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, leader of the so-called Islamic State, said in a 2014 sermon that he viewed ISIS terrorism as a moral duty. “Allah commanded us to fight His enemies and to wage Jihad for His sake, in order to achieve this purpose and to establish His religion,” he said. “. . . Oh people, the religion of Allah will not be established, and the purpose for which Allah created us will not be achieved, unless the law of Allah is instated and observed.”4
Evil acts are not justified because their perpetrators think they are doing good. And surely the LGBT activist, the abortionist, and the terrorist are driven by some evil intentions. But realizing the deceived mindset of many cultural and political opponents can help believers in several ways. First, it leads us to pray, because such individuals often need supernatural intervention to change their mindsets. Second, it leads us to argue rigorously and logically for Judeo-Christian principles, for only well-crafted arguments tend to sway minds entrenched in deception. Finally, it leads us to hope, because the greatest Christian missionary the world has ever known was also once deceived by evil.
Lauren Maroke, “Righteous or Repugnant? Religious Responses to the Supreme Court’s Same-Sex Marriage Decision,” June 26, 2015, Religion News Service, http://www.religionnews.com/2015/06/26/religious-responses-to-the-supreme-courts-gay-marriage-decision/ (accessed July 16, 2015).
United Church of Christ, “Equal Marriage Rights for All,” July 4, 2005, United Church of Christ Website, http://uccfiles.com/pdf/2005-EQUAL-MARRIAGE-RIGHTS-FOR-ALL.pdf (accessed July 16, 2015).
Abby Johnson, “Dear Dr. Nucatola: I Used to Harvest Fetal Tissue for Planned Parenthood Just Like You,” July 14, 2015, LifeSiteNews, https://www.lifesitenews.com/blogs/dear-dr.-nucatola-i-used-to-harvest-fetal-tissue-for-planned-parenthood-too (accessed July 16, 2015).
Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, “ISIS Leader Al-Baghdadi Calls on Muslims to Wage Jihad, Says: Becoming a Caliph Is a Heavy Responsibility,” July 4, 2014, Middle East Media Research Institute Website, http://www.memritv.org/clip_transcript/en/4335.htm (accessed July 16, 2015).