Navigating Moral Disgust

Maybe, just maybe, there is some way to faithfully walk through the chaotic storm of emotions and thoughts that come with the feeling of disgust, especially moral disgust. That horrible storm of pseudo-guilt, sorrow, anger, bitterness, frustration, outrage, and above all the soul-splitting disquiet that rages up from the depths of our emotional being when we experience disgust and recognize how unright something is, how much it fits into the category of evil.

If that storm of emotions sounds alien to you, then it might be a good idea to check in with a therapist because if you have never felt morally disgusted by anything it’s probably not a good indication of healthy moral psychology.

For those of us who have experienced some form of what I have described above, this may feel unnecessary however the work of Moral Psychologist Johnathan Haidt haunts me on topics like this, as much as my work in Apologetics and Biblical Studies is indebted to his work there are still some areas where his work haunts me because of the sobering accountability and evaluation it requires me of myself. Disgust is related to our moral sense of right and wrong, when we feel disgusted it is because someone has done something or had something done to them that seriously breaches our understanding of morality.

The Christian Life as modeled by Christ encompasses a rather special characteristic… loving the people that other people want nothing to do with. However, in our day and age, it seems that there is a crossroads yet to be actively recognized. When one commits an act of evil that disgusts others we are quick to do one of two things, hate or ignore. We either hate them or we ignore their wrong behaviors, or at least that’s what it looks like at the surface. The reality of any situation that fits this description is often far more complex than our minds ever want to admit. Here is a passage that we must deal with.

  • “I wrote you in my letter not to associate with immoral people; I did not at all mean with the immoral people of this world, or with the covetous and swindlers, or with idolaters, for then you would have to go out of the world. But actually, I wrote to you not to associate with any so-called brother if he is an immoral person, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or a swindler—not even to eat with such a one.” 1 Corinthians 5:9-11

If someone is not a believer then we must continue to strive for the Gospel with them. If by their actions one who has claimed to be a believer is shown to not have the Love of God in them then strive all the more with them for the sake of the Gospel. If however, one being a believer, having the fruit of true faith is unrepentant in their immorality once it has been found, then we must remove them from fellowship. Our Moral Disgust with the world must not become a stumbling block for the Gospel. In the same vein, our love for one another must also not become a preventative agent for discipline and when necessary exclusion.

If one is found to be immoral and is unrepentant, you have nothing to do with them. Do not let your associations be a reason for Christ to be ridiculed. Strive for the Gospel with the Lost and preserve the Glory of God from the ridicule of association with the immorality of unrepentant brethren. Protestant Christianity is in many ways slow to act with this kind of authority in the church, especially in the more independent theological traditions (like the various baptist circles). Church membership means nothing if it is not fiercly guarded as the fellowship with Christ that it represents.

This will likely not be the last post on this topic as it is an immense one and requires much thought.

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