Today Donald Trump presented a moral equivalence thesis according to which protesters against racism are as culpable for violence that resulted in Charlottesville as the neo-Nazis, the Klan, and white nationalists whose views they were protesting.
Unfortunately, some Christians have also courted this notion of moral equivalence. Consider, for example, this tweet from Michael Brown:
I denounce violence and hate whether it comes from neo-Nazis or Antifa. Do you?
— Dr. Michael L. Brown (@DrMichaelLBrown) August 15, 2017
Of course we “denounce violence and hate,” whatever the source. The problem is that the tacit message of this tweet in context — the implicature — is that there is some sort of moral equivalence between the two groups represented in Charlottesville.
Let’s assume, for the sake of argument, that both sides were equally violent. (That, of course, is a false assumption. For one thing, only one side included a bona fide terrorist act culminating in one murder and an additional nineteen casualties.)
Even if the hatred and violence that unfolded were equal, it wouldn’t follow that there was a moral equivalence for one simple reason: on the first side, the hatred and violence were borne of racism; on the second side, the hatred and violence were borne of a reaction, a moral censure, to the despicable racist views of the first side.
Let’s put it in simple terms. Imagine that you’re a school teacher on the playground at lunch when you see two boys — Jimmy and Johnny — fighting. After you break them up you ask why they were fighting. Jimmy, a Jewish child, tells you that Johnny called him a “dirty Jew.” And from that point, the fight was on.
Perhaps Jimmy shouldn’t have responded to that slur by fighting with Johnny, but who can seriously suggest there exists a moral equivalence between the two?