Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Response to Travis

Travis (glad you're "here"!): you asked if we are not told to protect each other. I would say that, no, we are indeed not told that. I don't know of any passage in the New Testament (or Old, for that matter) that might point in that direction. Many people take it for granted that self-defense, or at least defense of another, is instinctive, therefore "natural" and a God-given duty or right. Certainly it is instinctual -- all levels of species have an instinct for self-preservation. However, I don't think Christians are called to live on the level of "nature," and certainly not of brute beasts.

I think you're right that American law has long been divorced from (if it was ever married to) Biblical principles. I'm not sure exactly what distinction you are making between "justice" and "fairness." But, "justice" as defined in the OT (see Isaiah 1 and other prophets, for instance) is rooted in God's character, particularly in his care for the poor, widows, orphans, and generally for the oppressed and disenfranchised. For Israel this frequently meant the "stranger," which meant foreigners. Of course, from our perspective to care for these people would be acts of mercy -- which is exactly the point. In the OT "justice" collapses into "mercy." OUR concept of "justice" is "eye for eye and tooth for tooth," or "getting what one deserves." But what God calls "justice" are those acts by which we care for the weak.

I'm rambling a little (1 AM!) so all of this doesn't directly pertain to your post. Sorry. But, in the case of Sadaam, yes, he probably would try to recruit while in prison. I don't think that justifies killing him.

I think a more important and more basic question is not what the nation should do, but what ethical principles should guide Christians. Nations will always act in their own self-interest as they perceive it. Can Christians use self-interest as an ethical guide? Doesn't seem right to me.

But that's why Christians should, in my opinion, participate in the governing process (even voting) with a certain level of reluctance. I voted -- but then felt like I needed a shower! Neither party has a corner on Godliness (duh), and each includes people who will misuse the power we give them. Each promises to keep us safe. I think that's just one of the lies they have to tell in order to get elected (don't think it's really possible), but their intent is always to do whatever is necessary to accomplish that task (American safety), even if it means killing lots of non-Americans. So, voting for them is giving them power to do that. Doing so is not justice, in the Biblical sense, nor is it loving our enemies. Well, nations will do what nations will do (that's the point of Romans 13, and NOT that Christians are licensed to kill on behalf of the government if so ordered) -- and God will use them for his own purposes as he sees fit. That has nothing to do with Christians. We aren't called to rid the world of evil (as W. claimed our current war on terror would do!), to keep it safe, or to rule the world. We're called to be salt and light and to love all of God's creation as God loves it (Mt. 5:48).



1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I just wrote the words below on another blog minutes ago and I do believe they can be applied here on topic as well (the whole thread which is quite interesting can be found at Theology For Dummies under War and Christians):

I had a very spirited conversation with another fellow at work today along the same lines as this one. In that conversation was unleashed a set of thoughts that I will eventually work up to here. The nutshell version is that we were discussing, in the light of recent political shifts, the definitions of conservative and liberal. After he established what he believed was the definiton of each- I asserted that what he was defining as conservatism was more akin to a kind of quasi-religious/militaristic nationalism and his version of liberalism was essentially anything that called into question that value system. I explained that when I insisted on returning to traditional spiritual values that, depending on my audience, I became either or a conservative or liberal. If I was asserting either Native values and insistence upon Native sovereignty or spiritual, discipleship based upon the New Testament I would be considered a liberal in his authoritarian worldview. If I was talking the same "spiritual values" and insisting a return to traditional ways to an Indian- I would be considered an ultra-conservative traditionalist. If I insist, at Bible class, that I am to operate in a nonviolent mode as Jesus did- I become a confusing mix of conservative and liberal and get lectured about how God somehow did not intend for me to be "legalistic" when the Bible plainly states in John 12 for instance (Amplified version):

"25 Anyone who loves his life loses it, but anyone who hates his life in this world will keep it to life eternal. [Whoever has no love for, no concern for, no regard for his life here on earth, but despises it, preserves his life forever and ever.]

26 If anyone serves Me, he must continue to follow Me [to cleave steadfastly to Me, conform wholly to My example in living and, if need be, in dying] and wherever I am, there will My servant be also. If anyone serves Me, the Father will honor him.'

Now, I have brought up this- here in this context because I also believe that this verse cuts right to the heart of what we are discussing here. When I said above:
"The question then is implied, "where is the alleged power of Judeo-Christian, particularly Christian thought to transform hearts and minds, positively aid in the formation of culture and ethics and spiritually liberate and elevate mankind?"
- I believe the answer is in this passage from John among others. The power to transform and walk as Jesus walked- is in DISCIPLESHIP and in the non-violent, non materialistic approach of Jesus' worldview and teachings (this does not necessarily mean the total denial of the concept of private property or the concept of protection and justice- but it does sugest a value system that is very much alien to the "world"). This "alien worldview" is what is supposed to be different about us as Christians. Otherwise what we have is merely a system of moral ethics that is rooted in humanism and grounded to human value systems like the market economy and the interests of the "world"- self preservation and materialism and the endless summer of youth. Needless to say- "Judeo-Christian culture" seems to have comfortably and conveniently and studiously dodged the implications too much of this. I would not presume to accuse TG of dodging- but I do believe that the real meaning of Romans 13 has been subverted among many and for a long time beneath the mis-interpretation and mis-application of Romans 13 as to "Christian culture". I do not believe that it is wrong for Christians to participate in government or the protection of nation- states...but, the priorities of a Christian should be clearly at odds in many ways with a culture of materialism and the military humanitarianism that is necessary to preserve it. as a favorite author of mine, Lee C. Camp, who wrote "Mere Discipleship- Radical christianity in a Rebellious World" noted: Disciples of Christ do not necessarily make good frenchmen, spaniards, Americans or Cherokees for that matter.

I also noted for my friend in conversation today that the very fact that the terms conservative and liberal are imposed on us in today's "religious" and "geo-political" dialog- and that everything is generally thought of in an "either- or" fashion with regards to this- is indicative of a certain paternalism, authoritarianism and narrow mindedness that has become part and parcel of "Westernism". We are nearly demanded to use the contemporary American definitions of conservative and liberal- and trying to get outside the box of these very "Western" ideas on such is quite confusing to those who cannot perceive this. Needless to say- I think a real distinction needs to be made between socio-political conservatism and spiritual conservatism (note that i did not use the term fundamentalist which has yet another connotation). What could be more "conservative" in a Christian/spiritual sense than the very words of Jesus as in John 12: 25-26?

More later.

Blessings to all.