Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Revenge Doesn't Work

There is a commercial for Glenn Beck's radio show on the local radio station, KFAY AM 1030, where he says that if there is any attack made on United States citizens or leaders, that a retaliatory attack or invasion should be made.

I would submit that this is not a Biblical assertion. Though such actions are consistent with certain forms of Mormon world views, and Mormon history and Joseph Smith writings will show that, but it is certainly not Biblical.

Now forget what I just said about Glenn. He is of no import in this conversation, but I paraphrase him only to expose the point. I believe this is an impressive flaw in conservatism, the tendency to military action. I speak especially of retaliatory military action, but also preemptive action as well.

Now I must qualify my statements by exposing my belief that Christianity is not meant to be a warlike religion, we can leave that to Islam. That is to say, nowhere in the writings about Jesus' life or indeed the rest of the New Testament, is there anything about war or starting a war, or a military action, or nation building, or any kind of offensive violent action whatsoever. In fact, Jesus told Peter that those who live by the sword die by the sword. But we must remember that Jesus also said that the company of the disciples, having two swords among them, was sufficiently armed.

I'll put it succinctly in the words of Rob Bell. "Revenge doesn't work."

Put in the context of scripture, 'Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, "Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord."' Romans 12:19 ESV. Paul continues: 'To the contrary, "if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head." Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.' As a nation who many call Christian, are we doing this? Certainly not under the official policy of a President who claims to be a born again Christian. We all remember the scene of the aftermath of 9/11 when the President stood at the site and said that we would find whoever did it.

The Bible speaks against vengeance and revenge and extols the virtue and basic psychological necessity of forgiveness, but what does it speak of self defense? As I mentioned before, in Luke 22, Jesus was satisfied that the disciples had two swords, yet a few verses later, Jesus chastises Peter for using one of those swords. I would submit that this was because Jesus' arrest was something that was supposed to happen, and Peter was acting on his human nature not on the prompting of the Spirit. For a little more insight, let's look into the Old Testament. Exodus 22:2-3. "If a thief is caught breaking in and is struck so that he dies, the defender is not guilty of bloodshed; but if it happens after sunrise, he is guilty of bloodshed. A thief must certainly make restitution, but if he has nothing, he must be sold to pay for his theft.” What does this say? If some schmendrick breaks into your house at night, and you kill him, accidentally, you are innocent, but it seems to me that if it is daylight, you are expected not to kill him. Just whoop on him for a while I guess. So if we want to put up a missile defense shield, that's fine, but we really need to fix the base problem, and that is responding to aggression with aggression.

So what do we do when a foreign government or terrorist group attacks us? According to the Bible, we should feed them, perhaps set up some hospitals and schools. What kind of power for good could our country be? I don't know about you, but if some wealthy person had paid for my education, schooling, and food throughout my formative years, when I became an adult and set out on my own, I doubt I'd try to usurp that person. It's just hard to kick against that kind of good. But if I perceived that all my life, a wealthy person had done me and my family harm, while providing nothing for my wellbeing, I might grow up and wish to do harm to that person.

We've heard so many stories of forgiveness and charity in the most trying of circumstances, and those stories had wonderful happy endings, but how many happy stories have resulted from someone taking revenge, someone killing their rapist, or killing the man who killed their relative? What kind of peace and healing can come from that? That's the kind of thing that works in the movies, not in real life.

We are so surprised that Muslim extremists want to kill us all. Why is that? Our lack of knowledge of history feeds this monster. In the 40's, world governments installed Israel on top of a Palestinian society of Muslims, Jews, and Christians that had existed for a thousand years or more. In the 50's, the CIA deposed a democratically elected Prime Minister in Iran simply to regain control of oil supplies. This led to the Islamic Revolution in Iran in the late 70's and the extremist governments therein and neighboring that have given us such problems since then. It took many decades to create this problem, it will take only a few to fix it if we are dedicated to fixing it. Unfortunately, the status quo seems to be the only thing that holds firm. Violence begets violence. It will only get worse.

Fight the Power,

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