23 noviembre 2012

Good works... for the wrong reason

"My mistake when I was younger was: in my utter detachment from the people affected by my actions, I was still treating people as things. Instead of ‘ends in themselves’ I treated them as means to an abstracted kind of righteousness for myself, their needs as tasks to be completed."

~Mlle Libresco, when she was younger [!]

20 noviembre 2012

Violent Christians?

"I am for peace,
but when I speak,
they are for war."

Somewhat tongue in cheek, I've embraced this verse since high school. I live in the dirty, beautiful, good-mannered-when-we're-not belligerent South, among a people who have a great love for the 2nd amendment, many of whom think that a well-placed bomb solves many a foreign policy crisis. (I assume. I haven't talked about war recently.) At a recent jury duty panel selection, the defense attorney asked how many were NOT gun owners; apparently, he used to ask how many were, but as pretty much everybody would raise their hand, it was more efficient to do it this way. Sure enough, if i remember correctly, much less than 10 in a group of around 60 raised their hands as not being gun owners.

These are my stomping grounds; these people are my neighbors, fellow Wal-Mart patrons, and many have become my friends. I have had more than a few enjoyable arguments over war, violence and a Christian's relation to the two.

My presuppositions have been:
1) Jesus said, "Turn the other cheek," and "Do not resist an evil person."
2) "Those who live by the sword will die by it."
3) We've got another Kingdom to live and die for. It's not made with hands and not defended by arms. "For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but are mighty in God for the pulling down of strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God."

Now, however, my questions and presuppositions are expanding.

1) I took a self-defense workshop, not quite guiltily, but with a few doubts. "Is this sort of thing [ie: self defense] okay?" Incidentally, it was great. I enjoyed it probably overly much. And I realized, "I would resist an evil person if I were attacked. Whether I was good at it or not, I'm not going to just let someone assault me. Wouldn't it make me sort of complicit in their crime if I didn't fight back? And if I can deter them, I've actually kept them from doing a great evil." (These are my thoughts. I don't ask for them, so telling me how weird they are won't fix anything.)

2) Nowadays, I try more to read particular passages in Scripture as part of a "whole". Thinking of the "Turn the other cheek" passage in relation to self-defense, I found "striking the cheek" an interesting metaphor to use. Your life is not in danger if someone strikes you on the cheek; your pride is. The entire passage gives us an unequivocal "no" to taking vengeance (repaying evil with evil), and it seems to me that verse is speaking of particularly not retaliating when someone insults you. We must learn to accept insults and even injustices (being forced to go a mile) and to respond supernaturally. However, as far as "Do not resist an evil person," well, we as Christians must resist evil, which is carried out through persons, so what is He saying?

3) Those who live by the sword will die by it. Still. The arm of flesh will fail you; you dare not trust your own. We still have goals that weapons will not accomplish. Self-sacrificing love will. [I'm reading Les Miserables, thank you brother of mine for the recommendation. It is amazing. Read it.] Sermon-on-the-Mount living will turn the world upside down... armed insurrections just generally destroy stuff. And how sad to spend your one and only life on earth messing up matter instead of building something eternal.

4) The great principle for Christians is "love." Neighbor, enemy, God, brother... love them. Seek the good of their body, mind, and soul. Hate is never permissible, and "the wrath of man worketh not the righteouness of God". But, is it possible that violence could be the "loving" thing to do? ("Can Lethal Resistance Be Loving?" as blogger Leah Libresco puts a similar discussion.) Is it possible that a violent act, without hate, could work the righteousness of God?

5) This anti-human trafficking video. Even the most basic, "Do unto others as you would have them do to you," tells me: if I were a victim of sex trafficking, I'd want someone to "break the fangs of the wicked and snatch his prey from his mouth." That seems hard to do pacifically. Impossible to do without "resisting an evil person."

6) "And that to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men"... teaching the Declaration of Independence a while back, I was introducing the phrase "secure these rights" and asked the kids that, if God gave us rights, who did God also give us to protect those rights? (I love you, Socrates. Open-ended questions mean that sometimes I am the one who gets schooled.) "Our parents," the kids replied. "Our family," which led to a discussion of our (American) right to bear arms.

Juxtapose that with this: "Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God... For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God's wrath on the wrongdoer."

I have no problem with capital punishment, for we are made in the image of God, and God cares how we treat that image. So whom would I designate to be doing the "reckoning for the life of man"? Unbelievers? Have them do the dirty work, so to speak? [This is tangential, but once I saw all-the-parts-I-couldn't-ignore of Platoon, a movie on the Vietnam War, in which American soldiers start going crazy and attacking civilians in horrible ways. But the thought was similar, "If I don't think Christians should be in the military, whom do I expect to be keeping these attrocities from happening? Virtuous pagans? Do I want to delegate military restraint to godless men?"]

7) Finally this,  wouldn't "governing authorities" include, in addition to kings/ gov't, soldiers, and police...
... fathers.
... guardians.
... according to our law, "the people"?

We're not allowed to execute, accept, in our government, we are in certain cases.

[I'm not sure on the logic on that last one, but I want to get this finished in a hurry, so i'm just throwing it out there. Please excuse typos, etc.]

Please, let me know what you think and what you base your conclusions on. If you disagree on any point, all the better.

18 noviembre 2012

How the Fathers convinced youth without the benefit of pizza

"How did the Fathers do it?
They made wild promises.

They promised young people great things, like persecution, lower social status, public ridicule, severely limited employment opportunities, frequent fasting, a high risk of jail and torture, and maybe, just maybe, an early, violent death at the hands of their pagan rulers.

The Fathers looked young people in the eye and called them to live purely in the midst of a pornographic culture. They looked at some young men and women and boldly told them they had a calling to virginity. And it worked. Even the pagans noticed how well it worked."

The Way of the Fathers :: Mike Aquilina's Blog » Youth When the Church Was Young