George and I watched the movie Doubt on DVD this week and a line from the Meryl Streep character remains with me. Sister Aloysius (Streep), a nun who runs a parochial school with an iron fist, opposes the compassionate new priest who befriends the children. Although she has no evidence, she has a feeling the priest has made sexual advances to some of the boys and enlists a young novitiate to help her spy on the priest. When the young nun objects to her methods, Sister Aloysius tells her, “Sometimes we have to step away from God in order to fight evil.” The film never answers the question of the priest’s innocence, but it shows Sister Aloysius brutally unconcerned about harming others as she pursues her self-imposed duty to find the priest guilty. The young teacher adopts her mentor’s methods—stepping away from God to discipline her students—and ruins her relationship with her own students.
I’m certainly not suggesting that allegations of child abuse should not be investigated, but I question using unscrupulous means to obtain righteous ends. In recent years some worthy goals have been sabotaged by overzealous advocates using dishonest means to promote their cause. The gun control group lost credibility when they enhanced statistics about gun-related deaths. Much of the American public lost confidence in all global warming evidence when a small group of English scientists attempted to suppress non-supportive evidence.
Hugh Nibley made a statement that the purpose of the many detailed war scenes in the Book of Mormon is to show us how awful war is. He also claimed that both sides in a war are serving Satan. I have thought about his words many times in the past several years as our country has launched two wars—bombing an already devastated country into further rubble and attacking a country which had not attacked us. Then our government justified using torture to obtain information from suspected combatants. The photos from Abu Ghraib and other prisons where American soldiers tortured prisoners prove we have stepped away from God.
Ignoring right values in an effort to preserve them defeats our purpose–no matter how noble our intention.