The Dangers of Moral Equivalence

Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil;

Who substitute darkness for light and light for darkness;

Who substitute bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!

Isaiah 5.20


We are witnessing a phenomenon in human history – particularly in the industrial west. After decades of living off the fumes of Judeo-Christian morality, the steady barrage of an atheistic, humanistic, relativistic worldview has borne its ugly fruit. Thousands of normal citizens feel no compunction at open stealing, desecration of property, and violence toward others. On university campuses, students openly call for genocide of Jews. Appallingly, Ivy League presidents look like bumbling fools, stumbling all over themselves trying to avoid condemning open racism. How have so many become blind to evil? Where have we seen this before?

During the 1930s and 40s, the National Socialist German Workers’ Party launched a propaganda campaign that indoctrinated and controlled masses across Europe to the point that many came to hate Jews and see the atrocities of the Holocaust as an acceptable solution to a “Jewish problem.” In a similar way, Stalin’s purges in Russia, Mao’s cultural revolution in China, and other despots of the last century have been able to seduce masses to justify inhumane barbarism toward other humans. We are seeing this again in a loss of moral compunction in major American cities, and in particular the response to Hamas terrorists attacking Jews on October 7th.

What feeds this irrational, self-destructive behavior is “moral equivalence.” This is a logical fallacy that flows directly out of ‘moral relativism.’ In its most basic form, it compares two or more different and unrelated things in order to argue that one is “just as bad” or “just as good” as something else. For example, Hitler described Jews as a “race-tuberculosis of the peoples” and an “inferior race…that multiplies like vermin.” As this conception took hold in Germany, Hitler was able to openly declare, “The result of this war will be the complete annihilation of the Jews.” The extermination of Jews was ‘morally equivalent’ to their being “vermin.” Killing Jews is bad, but what they do as a “tuberculosis of the people” was just as bad or worse.  

It’s been said that ‘perception is reality,’ and we’re seeing it again in America. We are being duped into ‘moral equivalence’ lies. Take abortion: There’s no difference between giving birth to a baby or killing it in the womb – the options are morally equivalent, since a baby is just a clump of cells (at best sub-human), and giving birth would really complicate your life. Or take the Israel-Hamas conflict: Israel’s war against Hamas is no different (or worse, some say) than the violent antisemitic massacre of Jews on October 7th. Both are equally bad. How absurd. Anyone deluded by those shouting “Free Palestine” should watch the documentary exposing the heinous wickedness of the Hamas terrorists on that awful day ( A society like ours which loses the ability to discern between good and evil is not far from a precipice of cultural collapse.

With Scripture as our standard, and the Holy Spirit as our guide, Christians are ‘islands of truth in a land of lies.’ We must avoid the trap of “moral equivalence.” All are sinners, but not all sins are equal. No people or nation is faultless, but some are worse than others. In a world which cannot discern good from evil, light from darkness, or sweet from bitter, we must.

Finally, let’s heed the admonitions of Scripture: “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven” (Jesus, in Matthew 5.16), and “Be careful to live properly among your unbelieving neighbors. Then even if they accuse you of doing wrong, they will see your honorable behavior, and they will give honor to God when he judges the world” (1 Peter 2.12, NLT).