Moral relativism breaks down when it encounters the kind of monstrous evil we saw in Tucson a few weeks ago. This type of evil is not a "mistake" nor is it a matter of taste or preference, it is dark and cruel and destructive. There can be no possible justification for such a heinous act. None. There are no mitigating circumstances to explain it, no moral dilemma to be resolved. In this act, we saw evil in all its ugliness.
Roger Simon on the Politico blog states the dilemma for moral relativism. On January 18 he wrote, "In modern times, are we embarassed by the term 'evil?' To some it seems too primitive or too religious or both." Yet, what else can we call the heinous acts of that day? And yes, evil is a religous issue.
This act reveals the monstrous capacity for evil in the human heart. While the murderer appears to have been severely mentally disturbed, insanity does not adequately explain the cruel inhumanity of his actions. As the facts of the case unfolded, I was often comparing this act of murder by a madman with the similar mass murder of men, women, and children in a public place by a suicide bomber. Mass murder can be rational or irrational, it is still murder.
Evil exists as a fearful reality in our world. We are confronted with its horrors every day. The death of a child at the hands of a molestor, death and dis-memberment of rivals by drug war lords in Mexico, or a car bomb blowing up a church in Baghdad are just some examples of the tragic events that fill our daily news broadcasts. There is no escaping the awareness of this monstrous reality.
The murders in Tucson were different in one aspect however. They gave us a glimpse of the sinister nature of evil. Who can forget the look on Jared Loughner's mug shot. It is almost enough to convince one of evil as a transcendent or metaphysical reality. Or to put it in biblical terms, to convince one of the demonic. The kind of evil displayed by these murders is inhuman, as beyond human. Dostoyevsky is said to have described the transcendent nature of human evil. It is un-natural, in that it cannot be explained just by the fulfillment of natural appetites, it goes beyond nature. As he wrote, "To call human evil 'bestial' is to insult the beasts, for no beast was ever as cruel as a man."
The existence of evil in the world is often used as an argument against God. Yet no system of thought or belief whether religious or non-religious deals as clearly and honestly with the existence of evil as Christianity. I would put Isaiah 59 up against any explanation for the existence of evil in the world. Particularly since it declares that our God does not just "explain" evil, He has acted to end its reign. "Now the Lord saw, and it was displeasing in His sight that there was no justice. And He saw that there was no man, and he was astonished that there was no one to intercede; then his own arm brought salvation to Him, and His righteousness upheld Him." God was not only disturbed by the evil in the world, He sent His Son and did something about it. Christ came, He bore our evil in all its monstrous cruelty on the cross, and by His death and resurrection liberated us from its power.
In the midst of the terrible evil of that day, there shone the light of faith. I was deeply moved by testimony of the parents of Christina-Taylor Green, as they expressed their conviction that their daughter was in heaven. And of Dorwan Stoddard who shielded his wife and died protecting her, confident of the reality of everlasting life through faith in Christ.
Evil is real but it will not have the final say. Even in the midst of such a tragedy we saw another transcendent presence: faith, hope, and love. May we display some measure of the courage, the faith, and love that were manifested on that day of infamy. And may we draw near to the God whose grace was present on that day and whose love is available to all who who will put their trust in Him.