Michael VanHook
Michael VanHook


Something to Ponder


“You have heard that our ancestors were told, ‘You must not murder. If you commit murder, you are subject to judgment.’ But I say, if you are even angry with someone, you are subject to judgment!” (Jesus).   


“To believe in something, and not to live it, is dishonest” (Mahatma Gandhi).


An Invitation to Ponder


Recently, I watched a television interview with the leader of a rising, radical socio-political movement. A documented strategy of this group has been their advocacy for acts of violence against its enemies as a means to achieve their ends. Destruction of public property, physical attacks upon individuals, and preventing speakers from opposite points of view from presenting their ideas in public forums have been some of their cited behaviors. In several previous interviews, the leader stated that the movement’s purpose is to “shut fascists down.” That label, “fascist,” was thrown out a lot during the exchange.


The interviewer inquired, “What is a fascist?”


“A fascist is someone who is organizing a mass movement that’s attacking women, immigrants, black people, other minority groups, and a movement of genocide. . . . It’s someone who is committing violence and someone who is trying to organize other people to commit violence,” was the prompt reply. Notice the irony.


Broadly defined, it was anyone who held a counterpoint of view or who was remotely related to their enemies—guilt by distant association. When the interviewer challenged this viewpoint by stating that certain individuals who had been targets of their group had never advocated positions of which they were accused, the leader retorted that they were just as guilty because they were from the same political perspective—more obviously a perspective different from their own.


In my analysis, this leader believed their ultimate objective was morally righteous; and therefore, they could exercise any means necessary to achieve those ends, even violent and immoral tactics.

Recently, I reflected on the guiding principles of Mahatma Gandhi’s freedom movement. It is worth noting that for Gandhi, the means that they used to achieve their ends was all important. He could never use wrong means to achieve a right end. So important was this principle that he was prepared to halt his movement, even when they were successful if the ends were not as morally equal to their objective. The means never justified the ends.


I am submitting for your consideration, that in all our interactions with other people and in all of our endeavors, the means that we utilize must be consistent with the ends we are seeking to accomplish. This principle has application in significant and insignificant realms. Violent means cannot be used to obtain nonviolent goals. Falsifying information is not an appropriate means to represent the truth. Demeaning another human being is not consistent with elevating noble human values.

What are some examples of means that you have observed that are beneath the ends they seek to promote? Can you think of any examples where the methods employed are justified in being inconsistent with the ultimate value? What suggestions do you have to create a more civil society? How do you practice civility in your own life?


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