In a previous post I discussed the possibility that the Tu Quoque argument could have limited worth in reducing the penalty for offenses in an atmosphere of widespread rulebreaking. We are used to viewing the Tu Quoque (“you too,” or “whataboutism”) defense as being automatically fallacious, but there can be a genuine worth in examining how it is that results of the same offense can be disparate. Sometimes these comparisons turn out to be somewhat surprising, as there are often a lot of biases at play in given situations, some of which cut against the narratives of who is supposed to be privileged and who is not. Determining who benefits from questions of identity is not always a straightforward matter, resembling the complicated question of status in the Roman Empire, itself a thorny subject that would be worth tackling some time.
It is important to note, though, that the Tu Quoque is a fallacy in one important aspect, and that is that it is not strictly speaking a defense at all. By the time you say, “you too,” to a given accusation, you are already conceding that the facts are against you and merely wishing to go on the attack. Sometimes, of course, this can work, but sometimes it doesn’t. One example where it doesn’t work at all is the question of how it is that certain not-for-profit organizations seem to be far better channeling money received towards expensive houses for those in charge than doing anything meaningful about the causes for which they were formed. This is by no means a new problem. When those who are somewhat new to this sort of grift point their fingers at others and say, “what about them?” it is important to note that it is a concession of their own corruption, and simultaneously an accusation about the corruption of others that must be proven on a case-by-case basis.
It is by no means a new thing that donations have not always been used by the recipients of those donations in a worthwhile or thoughtful manner. In the sixteenth century AD, for example, the spendthrift ways of the Popes of the Catholic Church sparked widespread anger and eventually the Protestant Reformation in part over the corruption of financial practices involved in indulgences. In the Bible, the king Joash in 2 Chronicles 24 was concerned about financial matters related to the restoration of the temple more than 2700 years ago. I would venture to guess that somewhere in the massive correspondence relating to temple and palace accounting in the ancient world that there are at least some documents that are audits concerning the expenditure of money devoted to religious causes to make sure it goes for a worthwhile purpose. More to the point, those Christian leaders who have promoted their own ministry and siphoned off money for their own selfish and greedy purposes do suffer a loss to their reputation and honor and credit in the larger community for so doing. There are a great many people who serve the public interest at little material benefit to themselves, and although we live in a corrupt age, we still condemn those who siphon off money meant to go to the public good for their own luxurious living.
It is, not surprisingly, no defense at all to complain about being exposed for being grifters when one’s political associates are all known to do the same thing. Just because one is no less guilty than others does not mean that all are not guilty and worthy of the same condemnation. It is a difficult matter in an evil time to accept that one is worthy of blame, and to recognize that morality is not done on a sliding scale. God does not grade on a curve. But he is willing to pardon and He seeks those who confess their sins and repent to Him and who change their ways. Perhaps those who do not wish to suffer judgment might wish to take Him up on the offer.