“How can we follow Christ – even at a distance – while fighting and killing? Calvin gives us an indication by pointing out that Christ’s pacific nature (his willingness to suffer violence at the hands of Jewish and Roman authorities) is grounded in the priestly office of reconciliation and intercession that is reserved for Him alone. Christ’s pacific nature is thus inextricably tied to His role as redeemer and cannot be intended as a model for Christian behavior. No Christian can or should try to act as a redeemer, but all can and should follow Christ in obeying the commands of the Father. And the Father commands the just use of force.” (“Good Wars,” First Things, Oct. 2001, p. 30)
I think I might clarify what Mr. Cole says here by noting that when Christ commands Christians to “turn the other cheek,” he’s referring to a Christian’s personal response to unprovoked attacks, which, as I’ve previously observed, does not abrogate a right to self-defense, since he also told the disciples, shortly before his arrest:
“But now, he that has a purse, let him take it, and likewise his scrip; and he that hath no sword, let him sell his garment and buy one…
And they said, Lord, behold, here are two swords. And he said unto them, it is enough.”
(Luke 22: 36,38)
As to the seeming contradiction between Christ’s words here and his later rebuke of Peter for drawing a sword (vs.49-51), Cyril of Alexandria suggests that Christ is here warning the Jews of the war that would culminate in the destruction of Jerusalem, and urging them to flee if they can (taking a purse and scrip), or to at least buy a sword to defend themselves if they can’t leave (Commentary on Luke, Homily 145). This interpretation would also seem to permit self-defense. Norval Geldenhuys argues that Christ as he rebukes Peter is affirming that, “The use of material force in the vindication and extension of His church on earth…is quite foreign to the teaching of Jesus.” (Commentary on the Gospel of Luke: Grand Rapids, Eerdmans, 1951, p.571) Loraine Boettner observes:
“As strange as sword-bearing may seem to us, who live in a peaceful, settled country…it was entirely appropriate to that lawless, barbarous age…If we lived under such conditions, we would have occasion to become much better acquainted with weapons than we now are…
Jesus’ rebuke to Peter was not a command to destroy the sword or to throw it away, but simply, ‘Put up the sword into the sheath.’(John 18:1) The Lord thereby implied that although this was not the proper time or place to use it, since He proposed to surrender Himself voluntarily, there would nevertheless be appropriate occasions for its future use…
We are to put our trust in the Lord, although He expects us to use the ordinary means at our disposal for protection against vicious men as definitely as He expects us to use the ordinary means to keep us from starvation or to provide clothing and shelter…” (The Christian Attitude Toward War, Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian & Reformed Publishing Company, 1985, p.24-25)
Mr. Cole makes another comment which no doubt will seem very unpleasant to many pacifists (it even startled me):
“From the divine point of view, God desires to restrain evil among His creatures …From the human point of view, the virtue of charity (the love of God) drives just soldiers to do all they can to restrain evil – to see that justice is done – and this sometimes means using force.
This strikes a discordant note among many. How, we are asked, can an act of force be loving? The short answer is that force becomes an act of love when it seeks to resemble God’s use of force…this means, among other things that acts of force must never involve intrinsic evil (such as intentionally killing innocent people...)” (ibid, p. 31)
I think he has another good point here. In fact, using force to protect or rescue the innocent can at times, I’d argue, approach the concept of self-sacrificing love contained in the Greek word agape, which is, for a Christian, the highest kind of love. Mr. Cole concludes that:
“A failure to engage in a just war is a failure of virtue, a failure to act well…The Christian who fails to use force to aid his neighbor when prudence dictates that force is the best way to render that aid is an uncharitable Christian...Hence, Christians who willingly and knowingly refuse to engage in a just war do a vicious thing; they fail to show love toward their neighbor as well as toward God.” (ibid, p. 31)
Yes, this can be frightfully abused (consider the Crusades), but again his basic point is sound; I’ve realized that there’s such a thing as a just war and an unjust peace ever since I learned about WW II and the Holocaust in grade school. And when Allied forces freed the survivors of the death camps, well, if that wasn’t a great act of charity, I’d sure like to know what is…
I think I’ve managed to show a distinction here between legitimate or moral force (in defense of self or others) and immoral force (used to spread Christianity, for instance), and a distinction between Christ’s role as redeemer and the role of Christians today.
I’ll talk a bit more about this next time around, hopefully by the weekend. In the meantime, take care!
In "Did Hitlerism Die With Hitler?," a review of Hitleer's Second Book: The Unpublished Sequel to Mein Kampf, Omer Bartov compares the current Anti-Semitism, which often tries to hide itself as simple criticism of Israel's specifc policies, with Hitler's ideology, and finds that they have the same writhing, all-devouring evil at their center. He also contends that many commentators are refusing to recognize what's going on, or to take the anti-Semites at their word. He makes his point with a number of quotes from Hitler and his philosphical descendants, and concludes:
"So Hitler is dead, but there is a Hitlerite quality to the new anti-Semitism, which now legltimizes not only opposition to Zionism, but also the resurrection of the myth of Jewish world domination. And those who foolishly think that doing away with Isreal...would remove anti-Semitism had better look more closely at the language of these enemies. For they - I mean the enemies - insist that Jews are everywhere, and so they must be uprooted everywhere...(and) since they are the cause of all evil and misfortune, the world will be a happier place without them...
Hitler taught humanity an important lesson. It is that when you see a Nazi, a fascist, a bigot, or an anti-Semite, say what you see. If you want to justify it or excuse it away, describe accurately what it is that you are trying to excuse away...If the attacks on the Twin Towers were animated by anti-Semitic arguments, say so. If a Malaysian prime minister expresses anti-Semitic views, do not try to excuse the inexcusable. If a self-proclaimed liberation organization calls for the extermination of the Jewish state, do not pretend that it is calling for anything else. The absence of clarity is the beginning of complicity."(my emphasis)
("Did Hitlerism Die With Hitler?," Jewish World Review, 1/26/04)
As I've said before, you need to clearly and correctly define what you're fighting against; you have no chance of really dealing with evil if you won't look it in the face and call it what it is...When, I wonder, Dear Lord, will humanity ever learn this?
I'm a little bit late on this, but I finally got a look at some pictures of the recent atrocity in Iraq, courtesy of a link from Emperor Misha at the Anti-Idiotarian Rottweiler, and, so help me, some of the people enjoying the carnage are kids!!! With great big smiles on their faces, too!!
OK, OK, so why should I be surprised at anything, after seeing child suicide bombers, 9/11, 3/11, etc? But still - that just sickens me...Some people over there need to meet their Maker, and fast...
Sorry I haven't gotten anything else posted in the last week - I'll have more up ASAP, so don't give up...