Fast Food (2015): Thirty-Seventh Helping
A Christian doing a Christlike merciful deed in one situation does not morally justify or morally ratify a Christian doing evil in another situation in order to be able to bring about another merciful deed. The Mafia Don distributing some money for food or fuel to some poor people in his jurisdiction does not morally validate his being a participant in an institution of systemic violence, enmity and evil. That the Mafia donates some money to a Church or to a local hospital or to a homeless shelter, does not justify a Christian joining the Mafia and working his way up in the organization from enforcer to godfather in order to get himself into a position to help more people get shelter or medical assistance. Nor does it validate a capo teaching the people of the neighbor a falsehood because it serves his interests.
“The works of mercy are not the works of war” as Dorothy Day brilliantly phrased this truth. But, neither do the works of mercy validate doing the works of war. The Emperor Constantine (d. 337) abolished crucifixion as a form of capital punishment in the Roman Empire. Does this mean that Christians should seek to be emperors, queens, politicians, dictators, prime ministers, presidents or generals in order to get their hands on the levers of the dominative, coercive, violent power of the state so they can do good? Where in the teaching of the Jesus of the Gospels does it say or even hint that His disciples may do evil now in order to possibly bring about some good later?
Any good the Churches do, and there is much good they do, cannot in any way permit them to or exonerate them from teaching the opposite of what Jesus taught on violence and enmity, let alone justifying doing the opposite of what He taught and falsely proclaiming they are doing it with His support and approval. Any Christian sinner, indeed probably all Christian sinners, do some good sometimes. But, those good acts do not give a Christian moral cover to lie about what Jesus taught, regardless of what good he or she or has done or what supposed good might come from altering the teaching of Jesus and deceiving people about what Jesus’ teachings are and require.
No Church and no Church leader can justify teaching untruth as Gospel truth by saying, “But, look at all the good we do.” Nor can Churches and the Churches’ leaders morally validate their ditching Jesus’ teaching by saying , “Look at all the evil that will befall us if we teach what Jesus teaches”, e.g., about violence and enmity.
Using a past or a future good to legitimate choosing a present evil is clearly not part of the ethical universe known and taught by the Jesus of the Gospels. But, it is an oft employed rationalization put forth by apologists for the violent Constantinian Churches’ as a pretext for the throwing out the teachings of Jesus and replacing them their own.
-Emmanuel Charles McCarthy