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Lesser of evils

Religion

One question from a World Journalism Institute student: Should Christians in some circumstances choose the lesser of evils? I pointed out that the Bible is full of such choosing. For example, chapter 21 of 1 Chronicles shows Satan inciting King David to sin, and God responding by letting David choose the lesser of evils: three years of famine, three months of devastation by enemies, or three days of pestilence. When God then sends the pestilence, 70,000 Israelites die.

Starting with Abraham, the Old Testament provides other examples of God responding to sin by leaving us only with a choice among evils. To rescue his nephew, Abraham chooses to fight alongside the King of Sodom. To protect his wife and himself, Abraham twice chooses to lie (at best half-lie) to the rulers of Egypt and Gerar. Later, Jeremiah prophecies that Judah's leaders can choose between surrendering to Babylon and seeing Jerusalem burned with fire. (They foolishly choose the latter.)

A modern chronicler might show Satan inciting Hitler. The resultant World War led to tens of millions of deaths, but it was the lesser of evils, given that the choice was between resisting Nazis and surrendering to them.

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President Harry Truman had to choose between dropping nuclear bombs on Japan and sending an invasion force. Given that the battle for Iwo Jima early in 1945 had concluded with 7,000 dead Americans and 19,000 Japanese soldiers having fought to their death-only 216 chose to live as prisoners-it seemed likely that an invasion of Japan would yield a death toll in the millions. Truman said, "Drop the bombs."

Later, the Cold War was the lesser of evils, given that the choice was containing the Soviet Union or surrendering to Communism. We don't know at this point whether war in Iraq was the lesser of evils, and continuation of Saddam Hussein's regime the greater, but it seemed that way to many in 2003, especially when we believed reports about WMDs.

Motown singer Edwin Starr had half of a good point in 1970 when he asked what war is good for, and emphatically responded, "Absolutely nothing." True-except that other things are sometimes worse than nothing.

Marvin Olasky
Marvin Olasky

Marvin is editor in chief of WORLD News Group and the author of more than 20 books, including The Tragedy of American Compassion. Follow Marvin on Twitter @MarvinOlasky.

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