Good vs. Evil

by Joel on June 30, 2004

C.S. Lewis wrote, in The Problem of Pain, “On the one hand, if God is wiser than we His judgment must differ from ours on many things, and not the least on good and evil. What seems to us good may therefore not be good in His eyes, and what seems to us evil may not be evil. On the other hand, if God’s moral judgment differs from ours so that our ‘black’ may be His ‘white’, we can mean nothing by calling Him good; for to say ‘God is good’, while asserting that his goodness is wholly other than ours, is really only to say ‘God is we know not what.”

In their reviews of Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 9/11, several conservative bloggers, many of whom I admire as good moral examples, suggested that people might go to see the movie while purchasing a ticket for a different movie. That struck me as highly unethical. Some seem to rationalize that since, in their view, Moore is a liar or worse, depriving him of his earnings is acceptable.

That got me to thinking on the question of just how close to knowledge of the difference between good and evil, right and wrong, we can get. At what point does something have to be clearly either acceptable or unacceptable as opposed to merely a matter of personal judgment?

I also had to think through how much my liberal political views might influence my opinion that such theater switching is wrong. If I wanted to see a film produced by Ann Coulter or Rush Limbaugh, would I still object to such a ruse? Now, I’m not really a big fan of Michael Moore, as I think he is too sloppy with his facts and too shrill in some of his presentations. But I can’t kid myself. He wants to see John Kerry elected president. That’s what I want, too. So, my understanding of right and wrong might be more subtly or even unconsciously influenced than I could acknowledge at first glance.

Granted, we aren’t talking murder or bank robbery here. But that’s the point, isn’t it? That on an everyday basis humans must constantly juggle various moral decisions.

So, how close do we get to understanding good vs. evil? Could we say that a generally moral and righteous person gets it right 90% of the time? Or 80%? Do we get it right mostly on the principle, but more often fall short in the application?

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }


Matt 25:40 06.30.04 at 2:53 pm

Well of course! I say we amend the commandments… they sound all too rigid to me. Why not say something like “Thou shalt not steal… unless one has a compelling reason for doing so, or a decent alibi (like, say, paying admission for a DIFFERENT movie).” Isn’t that o.k.? Gosh, maybe God didn’t fully realize that what He was asking would make our lives DIFFICULT. :)

Frankly, I was happy that a friend needed someone to accompany him to a showing of the Passion. I felt better not lining Gibson’s pockets. BUT, I would not have seen the movie without paying. Stealing is stealing. Some decisions in life are truly more complicated, but this one isn’t.


Joshua Claybourn 06.30.04 at 3:21 pm

For the record, Michael Moore told kids under 18 - who are not allowed to see it for its “R” rating - to buy a ticket for another movie and sneak in. Does that seem unethical as well? At the least, it seems like something that should be mentioned in this post. I say why not apply Moore’s advice to conservatives as well? The idea of him profiting on the deaths of innocent Iraqis and Allied soldiers (not to mention lies) makes me queasy.

By the way, for a wonderful, balanced review, I recommend Paul Musgrave.


Joel Thomas 06.30.04 at 6:07 pm

Yes, Michael Moore’s advice would have to be viewed as unethical, as well.

But what’s the answer to the questions I posed?

And, aside from the important fact that Moore is loose with the truth, is it really different for him to profit from death than say a military contractor? A builder of electric chairs?


Richard 06.30.04 at 6:33 pm

I don’t approve of Michael Moore’s advice — but it is no worse than the suggestion from some British clergy that churches should make private bookings of cinemas for showings of The Passion, thus enabling children of all ages to view the film. (I don’t know about the states, but in Britain the rules about film certification do not apply to private screenings).

I obviously haven’t seen F9-11 yet, but I think there is a huge difference between Michael Moore’s “profiteering” and the activities of, say, arms manufacturers. As far as I know, he’s never actually been accused of causing anyone’s death or injury. He isn’t profiting fom the deaths of Iraqis and Americans, Josh. He is profiting from a film about that suffering, but there’s a world of difference between the 2. Should films not be made about real suffering? If Moore’s profits from the film make anyone queasy, how do the profits of those who actually produce the instruments of death make you feel?

But I think you’re right Joel - we do tend to “go easy” on those we agree with, and shout loudly about the faults we see in our opponents. Not right, but it is what we do.


Allan Chiu 05.26.05 at 5:30 pm

It is obvious that many principles and theory can be understood, but to have the integrity and discipline to act on them are quite difficult. For example, JFK asked the UN to set aside 1-2% GDP for fighting the spread of AIDS, use of condoms, and the education of AID/HIV struck nations in Africa. They all agreed to do so after UN’s approval, but in the end, not one nation successfully had that amount.

Michael Moore says that he wanted Kerry to be president and I wouldn’t be surprised if he was subsidized for it. However, in the context of what Moore was saying, I think his intention was to get everyone to see it and to support Kerry. Even if little kids watched it, how will they affect votes? Them kids can’t even vote yet! And how influential can they be change their parent’s choice? In context, I believe he meant that he wanted everyone to watch it.

Moore did a poor job with that pro-Kerry movie but there are many documentaries ‘City of God’, ‘Life of David Gale’, ‘Columbine’ that were great and that focused on the victims of abuse, violence, oppression, and corruption. Without the cooperation of the victims, money grabbing producers cannot make a movie out of it. Therefore producers are not money makers in this sense, but makes money as a result of the intial cooperation of victims and progressive exploitation of the crime commited against them.

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