December 30, 2006

Violence

Saddam Hussein died today. He was executed in Iraq, his home, by his own people. He was hung by the neck, and he died. It brings up a lot of questions in the minds of Christians; how are we to treat our enemies? When is violence the answer? Is it ever?

I find myself questioning our logic, as of late, in regards to the many issues surrounding violence, killing, and maiming others intentionally. On the one hand, I see the logic in Hammurabi’s "eye for an eye" mentality, and in the MAD-tactics employed in relation to nuclear war. On the other hand, I also see Jesus referred to as the "prince of peace," and that he never raised his hand against anyone. He said things like "love your enemies" and "love your neighbor." Jesus was God incarnate, and so you'd think he'd have some authority on the subject. [MAD, by the way, means "Mutually Assured Destruction," and it means that if two countries both have nuclear weapons, it's fairly certain that neither will use them against he other, out of fear of total global annihilation. Nukes suck like that.]

So is violence ever ok? I suppose the question might be framed, "is violence ever an expression of love?" Putting it that way, it would seem obvious at first blush that no, violence is never an act of love ... is it? I know that it should seem obvious to me, but I feel sort of trapped by the question.

This is my conundrum: when is violence necessary to protect (out of love) the innocent? If a thief comes in the night to steal your coat, Jesus said to give him your shirt as well. But what about when the thief is stealing your child's shirt? What about the rapists, the pedophiles, the drug dealers who intentionally set out to harm our children and our wives? Is the instinct that tells me to throttle the guy trying to rape my wife a bad instinct? How about the psycho-killer intent on racking up a body count? That's one-on-one, but then think big - by ousting Saddam, a man who made his choices, and eliminating him, have we protected more people? Is it an act of love to try and give the people of Iraq their chance at determining their own future?

I see God do all sorts of nasty things in the Old Testament. I see God tell Israel to slaughter entire nations so that they, the chosen people, will not be "contaminated." They disobey, and later pay the price. I see the walls of Jericho come crashing to the ground, the populace slaughtered by the Israelites - at God's command. I see Gideon and a pithy little squad of farmers take on an entire army with a bunch of trumpets, a few rocks, and a lot of faith - and God ordered it. Even more, God wiped out almost the entire population of the planet in a great flood, saving the one faithful family that remained. Now we tell the story to our children because it has fluffy animals in it somewhere.

Then God says "thou shalt not murder".

And then, in the New Testament, God mops the floor with Ananias and Sapphira. They die. Killed by God, through Peter. That's violence, right? It wasn't even self-defense, it was punishment!

So I ask again, is violence ever appropriate?

17 comments:

Chris said...

On the one hand, violence pretty much leads to more violence unless one side is completely wiped out, and even then infighting might happen when people who have only known violence turn on their own. I'd say that no, most of the time violence can't solve anything and for the most part, if you were to think real hard, you could find some pretty creative solutions to problems that at first glance only look like violence could solve.

Take Iraq - what if instead of sending in troops, we just sent in a crapload of relief supplies? Like, we're talking use the military budget to provide medication, doctors, food, shelter, air conditioning, shade, power plants, infrastructure - the works. Do you think the terrorists would have any ground to stand on anymore? The "America sucks" line would get old real quick. But at the same time, they ARE militant religious fanatics, and as such are committed to their cause despite popular opinion of America. America must end because we support Israel, who in turn must die because ... just because. "We want their land. We won't share. We just want their land because it's ours, end of story."

Pardon my cynicism, I know that they've been raised in a violent atmosphere and it's all they know.

Mikaserla said...

Dood, I totally agree with you. I still try to figure out why "God" caused all the violence in Bible. I have come to the conlusion that it was people that caused this violence, and for the most part not God. It was just written in the Bible as if "God" was in charge as to justify the violence that was done. Often, most wars are about resources and some times about division between 2 peoples.
I have given up on trying to figure out the Bible and have decided to go out on my own with respect to religon. This is not good, but necessary in my case.

Chris said...

See, I trust that God had his reasons, and I trust that scripture is telling it like it is, I just wonder if any of the reasons are still valid. Are we now "forbidden" from violence, as some Christians say, or are we permitted when necessary? Where's the line, I guess is the question. Just because scripture is confusing doesn't seem to me a good reason to dismiss it.

Mikaserla said...

I still believe in Jesus, just in case it is true, but some of the Bible stuff is just strange to me. It doesn't make any sense.

David said...

Look at the convoluted justification and confusion generated over those unfortunate biblical passages demonstrating God's violence.

And some of the previous commenters "worship" this violent, malevalent, nasty entity.

All I can say to God is get the fuck out of this world you evil creep.

shawna said...

Ahh isnt humanity grand. I had to humble myself to God the other day because I realized I was trying to know more than Him. Funny how we think that if we can't understand what God is doing than He must be the one thats wrong.

In reference to the violence thing. Jesus got pretty cranky at the people defiling his Fathers house. Throwing tables and stuff. The bible never says anger is sin, but anger can cause you to sin...you always have to look at your motives in things. Jesus' reason for saying "love your enemies" wasnt so that we would stop protecting ourselves, I would say its more because you have a better chance of your enemy understanding God's love if you actually show him love. Like Jesus said, its easy to love a friend, even the pagans do that...but loving your enemy thats somthing entirly different, and think about what that does not only for your enemy but for yourself.

And to Mikaserla...don't you think thats a bit of a cop out, don't you think that if God is real and he really did send his son to die for you, he's going to know whats in your heart?

David said...

Now God sacrificed himself to himself didn't he. Well, he sacrificied his son, Jesus, but Jesus and God are the same, aren't they, but different (you try coming up with a coherent explanation of the trinity).

So God committed temporary suicide, although a bit of him was still alive at the same time, the same bit that died. Please ignore the contradiction - it's clearly explained by the trinitarian belief, you just need to have faith, my son.

Ok, now with that mumbo-jumbo in mind, oops I mean clarity of understanding, God's gone and killed himself, sort of, to give himself permission to "save" us from rules he made up in the first place.

University level pure mathematics was clearer than this. And it was true.

shawna said...

So you're comparing the maker of the universe (and the maker of university level pure mathematics) to -- university level pure mathematics... of course my argument because obsolete if you don't beleive God created the universe.

Trying to understand God completely is like trying to explain a 3D object to a 2D stick figure

David said...

Even the tiny little bit that Christians think they understand sounds like so much mumbo-jumbo.

Of course, no one is expected to understand everything about everything. But get some clarity in the little you do know about.

Does scientific thought progress in such an obstructionist, illogical way?

Come to think of it, scientific thought advances, changes, adapts to new evidence. Christian understanding remains stuck with a contradictory bible full of violence, garbage, and the occasional bit of wisdom and moral teaching.

Saying God created the universe: now you've invoked a more complex entity to explain an entity of lesser complexity.

Here's one question the Bible can't answer: Why does anything exist, rather than nothing at all? Chapter and verse please.

shawna said...

I may be misunderstanding the question, but here goes

Genesis 1:1

and for the record I don't believe the bible is a bible full of violence, garbage, and the occasional bit of wisdom and moral teaching.

In fact if you read through the old testement you will notice that God is more generous and forgiving than he is violent -- and the violence is used for discipline more than anything else.

Chris said...

For the record, I too find the old testement to be full of grace and patience on God's part. Often I'm amused by the crap God had to put up with and still He called Israel his "chosen people." My question is more about the violence that we DO see; to get a full picture of God's character, it's not something we can ignore. I know we can't fully comprehend God, but that's not to stop us from trying ... but it's a path that won't actually END somewhere, and I'm ok with that. Usually.

Anonymous said...

Regarding violence in the Old Testament: I don't think that God wanted people to be violent, but that he started working with people where they were. The Israelites were a people who believed in war, so he changed how they were to go about war, and later, when he was incarnated as Jesus, he showed us that the ideal was for us not to be violent toward each other at all. It's similar to how they were originally given a law saying that if a man was to divorce his wife he had to give her a written certificate, whereas Jesus taught that the ideal was not to get divorced at all.

David said...

Remember God doesn't change - He'll be forever the same violent, malevalent creature depicted in the Old Testament.

God's like an alcoholic dad. He has his good days when he's sober, but when wakes up hungover, you'd better watch your step.

You have to face it head on: the Bible does depict disgraceful acts, that would by our standards be serious war crimes. At least the violence is contextual, and not open ended for all to practice like it is in the Koran. Islam, now there's an even more violent religion (that's why it's called the religion of peace).

shawna said...

Are we reading the same bible here? I don't see the violent, malevalent creature you speak of...you're saying when he's angry, he's angry for no reason. If you are actually interested in the truth then sit down and read the bible and don't ignore bits just so you can make a point.

David said...

Examples of God's evil.

Joshua 6:20,21
Everyone and their animals killed - just to grab more land.

Deuteronomy 20:10-17
War strategy: offer peace or destroy every male, but keep the women and little ones, cattle etc as booty to enjoy. Hmmm - implied pedophilia here.

Numbers 31:1-18
Once again kill everyone except virgins. Need some rest and relaxation after battle, don't they.

1st Samuel 15:2,3
God's punishment is to "kill both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass". A little over the top, do you think? Compare it with modern standards of international diplomacy (except, of course, for the USA).

Genesis 22:1-12
Abraham tested by God commanding he sacrifice his son, but aborts the operation at the last minute. What possible moral lesson is there in this story?

Psalm 137:7-9
"Happy shall he be who takes your little ones and dashes them against the rock!" Sounds like a real fun time, God.

Joshua 8:1-29
An entire town of 12,000 people slaughtered. Isn't God such a nice person?


Shawn, if you are actually interested in the evil God creates/commands, then don't just ignore the nasty passages in the bible just so you can make a point.

Shawn, God created evil in the first place. If you don't have even that basic level of theological understanding, what sort of Church do you attend? A mickey-mouse one?


Shawn, it's God's universe. If God made it, then God can fuck it up any which way He chooses.

David said...

Oh, by the way, you used Genesis 1:1 to explain why the Universe exists. This verse does not explain why God exists (if in fact He/She does).

David said...

Sorry, I mis-spelt your name. Replace "Shawn" with "Shawna" in the above.