No human being can feel outrage over all the evil committed on this planet — who has the energy or time, or most importantly, the moral rectitude? So we all, to some extent, engage in selective moral outrage — we choose, or react to, what most enrages us. One might hope that human anger would be directed at the greatest moral transgressions on the scale of good and evil. But there doesn’t seem to be much logic for the volcanic vituperation expressed against some acts versus the stunning silence surrounding other seemingly more heinous deeds.
Take for example an evil action reported in early July — the illegal trophy killing of Cecil the lion in Zimbabwe. I understand that Zimbabwe issues about 50 licenses yearly for lion hunts. Yet there is little to no murmur over this. So is the issue that the American hunter involved did this illegally? Hardly. The problem is that Cecil the lion was a celebrity on the animal preserve, at least in the eyes of those who worked there or who had participated in photo safaris. To the average Zimbabwean he was unknown, but to the Western tourist he was apparently iconic (though who among us had heard of Cecil before last month?).
Some are opposed to killing for sport in general. I can understand that. But the level of invective and grief generated all over the world by this killing has not been generated by other trophy killings that go on day by day. Others argue that the wrongness of this is due to the fact that the life that was taken was innocent and defenseless. I can understand that, too. One late night talk show host teared up as he included news about Cecil in his evening monologue. Thousands, apparently, have joined in protests around the country. Some are calling for the hunter’s extradition to face charges in Zimbabwe, or even worse, for physical harm to be done to him here as justifiable revenge. I can understand the feeling.
But here’s where the selective outrage has me bamboozled. Since 1973, over 58 million abortions have been carried out in this country. Even allowing for cases of rape, incest and/or physical/psychological harm to the potential mother (accounting for up to a total of 6% of all abortions), the massive number of abortions for the sake of convenience or birth control is simply morally obscene. Some argue that the lives taken are not yet human. But the fundamental fact remains that they are nonetheless lives — having unique DNA from their parents — and unless their lives are snuffed out, they will be born into this world as fully recognizable human beings. The recent secret video footage of Planned Parenthood doctors and executive staff talking in such blase and utilitarian terms about fetal organs and tissue to be harvested and sold, as if the unborn are to be to be treated like lab rats, vivisected for the welfare of the human race, made my blood run cold. Killing our unborn for the possibility of extending our own lives? Where’s the outrage over this monstrous industry that we have allowed in our society? If the killing of an innocent and defenseless lion in the wild elicits so much anger and grief, should not the killing of millions upon millions of innocent and defenseless unborn, meant to be safe in their mothers’ wombs, cause us to be overcome with paroxysms of anguish and rage? Yet, such is hardly the case. Selective outrage….
Or for those who refuse to consider the unborn as in any way alive (though the scientific, medical evidence completely disallows this viewpoint), let me point to another, more recent killing event. One week ago, 16 Christian fisherman from Chad were executed in Nigeria by agents of the Muslim group Boko Haram. Why? Because they were Christians, and because Boko Haram is upset with the government of Chad for seeking to rid its country of violent Muslim groups, particularly Boko Haram. These innocent and defenseless Christian men had their throats slit, rather than being gunned down (the terrorists’ preferred method of killing), because the perpetrators feared that some army troops might be nearby and didn’t want to alert them by discharging their weapons.
Sixteen helpless human beings slaughtered for no reason other than hatred inspired by Islam, and hardly a ripple caused on the public media pond, nor in the Twitter worlds of starlets and pundits. I don’t think I’ll stay up to see if Jimmy Kimmel tears up over this. Selective outrage….
I’ve tried to make sense of the moral incongruity — that human beings could get so bent out of shape morally to condemn a lion killer but not even muster a sigh over the nonchalant abortion industry in this country, or the murder of 16 human beings simply for living according to their religious convictions. All I can think of is that it is easier to condemn something safe (where no one will be seriously upset with our stand) than something that may lead to blowback. Or, that on the scale of moral value, human life is worth significantly less than the life of a lion in the eyes of our throwaway culture, where human beings are discarded regularly in so many venues.
Neither of these is really a good explanation. But if it has to be one or the other, I sure hope it’s the former and not the latter.
Of course, it could just be moral hypocrisy — we human beings are so practiced at that — another evidence of the fallenness of our souls, for which we need a Savior!