At the request of a few people I have started this blog to chronicle the process of fostering, foster-to-adopt and working with children in "the system". I am sure that at some point I will go off on some theological-biblical-philosophical rant about something not entirely related to adoption, but this is needed at times. For those of you that know us personally please DO NOT use our foster child's name or post pictures of them or offer any identifying information, this is illegal.
Thursday, June 20, 2013
I am taking a class in American History up to 1877 and the professor asked this question:
Was Pres. Andrew Jackson good, evil, or both?
Should we judge him by the standards of today?
Well, I figured I would answer and this was my response and thought y'all would enjoy it. I hope I don't fail.
The question of good and evil is not necessarily a question
for historical narrative. However, when
you have a man like Jackson that was considered one of the country’s greatest
leaders since the founding fathers, who
was also responsible for despicable actions; it is a question worth
investigating. More so to determine if
they (we) love the expansion of our country more than the human beings that
were displaced, hurt and killed. The
question of good and evil is in fact a spiritual question and one that cannot
find its answer solely in the minds of men.
To answer a question of such gravity we must look to something that is transcendent
, otherworldly and outside our limited epistemological base. Sure, if we
compared Jackson to someone like Mother Theresa he is evil. But if we compared Jackson to Stalin or
Hitler he is good; so then, the question that must first be answered is:
compared to who? We cannot judge the
actions of Jackson, or any person, by those of other people because we can
always find someone “better” and someone “more evil.” Now we must answer the question of standards,
if we are to unpack Jackson as good or evil.
It is important to clarify that the kind of standard that is related to
good and evil is different than other standards. For example, is my Toyota Corolla fast? Compared to a go cart, yes it is, but compared
to an Indy Car, no and this kind of standard is not how we would judge good and
evil. If evil were judged with a sliding
scale then we could all have our own scale by which we would judge and that would
be a problem. If on my scale I said
slavery was wrong and on Jackson’s scale he said it was good, then the question
is who is right? Logically either we are
both wrong, or one of us is right, no other tenable view is possible. To
suggest that we are both right is self-refuting because saying we are both
right, is to say that it would be wrong to say we are both wrong or that only
one of us is right. The conclusion is
that either way only one view is indeed right.
The question about Jackson being good, evil or both is best answered
when compared to a standard that does not change. Think of it this way: if you have 10 pianos
are they tuned to each other, or a single tuning fork? Naturally you would tune all 10 pianos to the
same standard, the same tuning fork.
Pianos don’t stay in tune by being tuned to another piano because pianos
do in fact go out of tune. Now the
question is who or what do we compare Jackson to? I would suggest that a
transcendent moral objective must necessarily exist in order to answer the questions
you asked. In fact the founding fathers
thought there were certain inalienable rights that were bestowed upon all man
by a creator. If I were stand with the
framers I could confidently say that the standard is that of God, as revealed
in the Bible and the person of Jesus of Nazareth. The progress of revelation throughout our
nation’s history has been fraught with man’s self-serving interests for power,
money, land and prestige. Jackson was no
different. Just because slavery was in
fact legal doesn’t mean it was right and just because it was illegal to speak
out against your country doesn’t mean it was wrong. Therefore my answer would be that Jackson,
like all of us (I reject the “tabula rasa” idea) are evil at heart. All of us are evil when compared to the immutable standard of a Holy God, so I do not
think, in relation to good and evil, that there is a different standard today
than there was in Jackson’s day. Because
if there was that would mean that slavery and stealing land were really right
at the time, and I doubt anyone who is intellectually honest would go there.