Oct 15 2008

Boston Legal/Shatner trailer follow up

Category: Uncategorizedharmonicminer @ 11:21 am

If you didn’t see it yet, go here and watch the video!  Then continue below for some thoughts.

I have my suspicions about why the video was removed from the first site where I linked it yesterday, but I’ll reserve them for now.

I don’t know about you, but I found the mugger to be unusually well-spoken.  He did not sound much like what I imagine comes from the mouth of an inner-city hoodlum in Boston.  He sounded just a bit too much like an aspiring actor, recent graduate of acting school, answering the cattle call for a well-dressed black criminal casting.  And you know what?  If they had cast a less sympathetic sounding black criminal, someone who really looked and sounded the part, they would probably have been called racist or something…  which they may be anyway.

Then there was the Shatner character.  For an attorney, accustomed to the combat of litigation, but not the physical combat of life and death, he was amazingly cool.  I know, it’s a TV show….  but give me a break.

And then, the very silliest:  we’re supposed to believe that Shatner, shooting from the hip at a range of 7-10 feet or so, can call his shots to the knee and the feet?  That someone who CAN shoot that well would choose to shoot that way is beyond ridiculous (takes LOTS of practice:  you can’t believe how many police officers have emptied their weapons at short range and missed with nearly every shot, shooting at bigger targets than knees and feet: shooting for your life is STRESSFUL, and people who practice that much or are trained that well haven’t been practicing doing hip shooting at knees and feet).  So, a suggestion:  if you ever have to shoot for your life at a distance greater than arms-length, AIM, for the center of the chest.  You don’t have to be perfect and shoot bullseyes, so don’t go slow, but do AIM.  Better yet, practice AIMING and shooting before the occasion arrives, so you develop the right reflexes and habits….  you’ll probably have tunnel vision at the time, and the large muscle memory you’ve developed by practicing while AIMING may be all that saves you.  Practice enough and you reach a point where you mostly just have to look at what you want to shoot and the gun just lines up on it.  After, oh, 20,000 rounds of practice, of course.

And by the way:  if there are two of you being robbed by one guy, the best time to shoot back, if you decide to, is when the perp is busy taking stuff from the other guy.  Look scared…  it gives the perp confidence.

Personally, I stay out of underground garages at night, unless I’m with about six people, since an iPod makes a lousy weapon, and I live in California, where only criminals are allowed to carry guns, unlike the 40 states that have concealed carry laws guaranteeing honest citizens the right.

And of course, the silly Hollywood convention of the criminal COCKING the gun after several lines of dialog between him and the victims is in full flower here, as if he’d been pointing a gun that wasn’t ready to fire all that time.  Hollywood script writers are utterly, completely, cluelessly ignorant about guns.  Yet they write about them all the time.  Don’t you find yourself wondering if they are also as ignorant about everything ELSE they write about a lot?

Most Boston Legal watchers, of course, have no clue who Liberty Valance was…  But of course, Hollywierdos all know about old movies.

Shatner’s line, “We’re trying to get an African-American elected for president…”  is simply fascinating.  What “we”?  Lawyers?  Bostonians?  Rich white people?  Actors?  Screenwriters?   And the line seems to imply that the point isn’t to elect OBAMA, but to elect “an African-American”.    With Obama as place-holder for African-Americans everywhere?  Doesn’t really matter WHICH one, as long as we GET one?

Most delicious of all, of course, is that the Shatner character implies that the black criminal should dial back on his normal criminally violent behavior just long enough for “us” to get Obama elected, and then he can go back to business as usual.

I suppose it’s possible that the Shatner character could be construed as not really meaning any of it, and just talking to distract while he waits for the time to make his move.  But for that to work, we have to be assuming that the Shatner character thinks this whole line of thought will be attractive to the black criminal.

This whole scene is really a window into the minds of Hollywierd script writers, isn’t it?

And of course, we know that black criminals everywhere are almost certainly planning to vote for Obama.   I expect that nearly 100% of voting black criminals will hang a chad for the ONE.  And we can assume that ACORN has managed to get them illegally registered if they’ve already been convicted of a felony, at least in battleground states.  Which, if Obama is elected, may well become REAL battlegrounds.

31 Responses to “Boston Legal/Shatner trailer follow up”

  1. enharmonic says:

    You sound like my husband, BUT I STILL LIKED IT!

  2. Michael K says:

    Now I know why the writers went on strike. As far as the black criminal vote goes, all they’d need to know is what cell the voting booth is in.

  3. Hello says:

    Do you feel like posts such as this really are good things to be posting? Talking about “black criminals” and how they are going to be illegally registered just so a black president can get in office? I don’t see how you are modeling anything resembling a loving attitude with things like this. It seems to me that these kinds of comments engender more hate and distrust than anything.

  4. harmonicminer says:

    I didn’t create the video. I commented on it. Did I say something inaccurate about it? And the simple fact is that black criminals ARE being registered by ACORN to vote for Obama. Is it impolite of me to point out something that is public knowledge for all who pay attention to the news? And it is also fact that voting black criminals will vote for Obama, nearly 100%. If you doubt that, feel free to rebut. Is it unfair to point that out?

    And absolutely: I intend to engender distrust in the main stream media, and in the Obama campaign, ACORN and Leftists everywhere. No secret there. Distrust is not an unqualified evil. Distrust in the untrustworthy is a GOOD thing.

    Where do you see hate in any of my comments?

  5. enharmonic says:

    Hello, I can’t think of any more loving thing than informing people of potential evil, can you?

  6. Hello says:

    Enharmonic, here’s at least one: Laying down your life for your friends.

    To harmonicminer, notice that I didn’t say that you yourself were writing hateful things, but that the kinds of opinions in your post engender hate.

    There is nothing wrong with stating facts, but the whole tenor of your post seemed off to me. As with the liberal media, everyone who writes chooses what to write about and what not to write about. It is interesting to me that you decided to spend a decent amount of space discussing both how to effectively shoot someone, and that specfically “black criminals” will be voting for Obama in November. Now, I myself do not plan to vote for Obama, but that’s another story. A phrase that has been challenging to me is this: “Love your enemies.” I’m not going to assume that you do or do not ascribe to this phrase, but I personally find it difficult to talk about shooting people who attack me or speak flippantly about “black criminals” when I’m trying to love even my enemies. I find that it makes it awkward to even call people “enemies” anymore when i’m doing that.

    Anyway, that is what seemed to me to be a bit out of line in your post. Am I wrong?

  7. harmonicminer says:

    Hello Hello (I’m glad you didn’t sign in as “Goodbye”… that would be confusing)

    I’m glad you aren’t voting for Obama. That’s a sign of good judgment, at least, as far as it goes. I would be happier if you said you are voting for McCain, because if you vote for anyone else, you ARE voting for Obama, whether you like it or not, because in voting otherwise you aren’t doing everything you can to prevent Obama’s election.

    You say I am “engendering hate”, and ask me to show that I am not. One can’t prove the negative, and I won’t try. But surely you aren’t suggesting that “love your enemies” means you have no right to self-defense? And if you have a right to self-defense, surely it is not hateful to do it well, and to prepare for it properly? Surely you aren’t suggesting that pointing out obvious facts about one demographic supporting Obama is offensive? Or are you?

    You read “engendering hate” into a post designed to point out how untrustworthy our media are (both “news” and “entertainment”), how ignorant they are, who their fellow travelers are, how much in the tank for Obama they are, and how corrupt the relationship is between Obama and ACORN. The post was also supposed to be at least a LITTLE bit funny, as was the video… but I guess you missed the tongue-in-cheek aspect.

    People who wish to hate don’t need anyone to engender it in them.

    Just curious: you seem proud that you find it difficult to call people enemies when you’re busy trying to love them. See any scriptural support for that? I think you don’t understand the word “enemy”, maybe. It doesn’t refer only to people against whom you choose to contend, it means people who have decided they are YOUR enemy. For example, Osama bin Laden is YOUR enemy, whether you like it or not, because HE has decided to be.

    When someone has chosen you as a target, you have no choice in the matter, and feeling uncomfortable about calling that person your enemy will not help him or you, nor will it help you take effective, appropriate action.

    Consider: the idiot Shatner character may have saved his friend’s life, since we have no idea what the mugger was going to do after getting their watches and money.

    Remind me not to walk through any remote parking garages with you as my only companion.

  8. Hello says:

    “But surely you aren’t suggesting that “love your enemies” means you have no right to self-defense? And if you have a right to self-defense, surely it is not hateful to do it well, and to prepare for it properly?”

    Who told you that you have a ‘right’ to self-defense? Was it divine revelation? The Bible? When I was younger, I was told that I have ‘rights,’ and I was told that this is true because it was written in the US constitution. Jefferson and the others of course borrowed from the Enlightenment thinkers for the idea of “rights”, which is why we have it in the Constitution. So, when you assume that you have something like a ‘right’ to self-defense, you are taking the word of all those figures (the founding fathers, Enlightenment thinkers, etc). I think you will find that the early Christians were themselves under no illusion that they had a right to self-defense. The take the cue from their leader, and when soldiers arrested them, they went with them. The martyrs of the early church were under no illusion of having the right of self-defense.

    I think the question with things like the right of self defense is, who do you believe? I’m not trying to make this over simplistic, but here is how I see it: do you believe the church’s teaching, or do you believe America’s?

    “Surely you aren’t suggesting that pointing out obvious facts about one demographic supporting Obama is offensive? Or are you?”
    I am not saying that pointing out obvious facts is inherently offensive, but I find it interesting which kinds of facts you tend to focus on. When your facts consist of targeting a specific racial group that has been historically oppressed in this country and is doing its best to get out of this condition, I think that there are more helpful things to say than throwing around the term “black criminals.” That’s all.

    “Just curious: you seem proud that you find it difficult to call people enemies when you’re busy trying to love them.”
    Not proud at all, actually. Maybe you read that into my post? It challenges me every single day to think about who my so-called ‘enemies’ might be, and how I shoudl treat them. I’ve found that praying for my ‘enemies’ makes it hard to call them enemies anymore (on my part at least), but this is a difficult (impossible?) undertaking and I need God’s strength every day to have any shot at it.

    “See any scriptural support for that?” I don’t know, do you think that Jesus thought of those who crucified him as is enemies while he prayed, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do”?

    “I think you don’t understand the word “enemy”, maybe. It doesn’t refer only to people against whom you choose to contend, it means people who have decided they are YOUR enemy. For example, Osama bin Laden is YOUR enemy, whether you like it or not, because HE has decided to be.”
    I think I do understand the word ‘enemy’, actually. I’ve had lots of them in my life. Not proud of it, either. And you are right, I can’t make anyone want to be my friend (or at least my not-enemy) but I can still treat them as a friend (or at least as a not-enemy) regardless of how they feel about me. I fail to see how I can possibly do that while I am harming them, whether they are choosing to harm me or not. I do not presume to have this nailed down so that I consistently do it all the time, but I try.

    It seems to me that we need new imaginations for handling conflict. Anyone can strike someone who first strikes them. It takes imagination to turn the other cheek. Anyone can rebel against a tyrant. It takes imagination to love a tyrant and leave the results to God. Anyone can shoot a mugger before he harms them. It takes imagination to make the attacker no longer want to attack you. And if the attacker shoots anyway? I die knowing I did my best trying to follow God’s way.

  9. harmonicminer says:

    Hello Hello,

    Your conclusions do not follow from scripture or tradition. You’ve isolated only a few, specific points, and generalized them into all encompassing principle, generally not good hermeneutics.

    But before responding to you on that, I want to ask a question or two.

    Let’s start with this:

    Do you depend on police? If you are being attacked, and a police officer is nearby, will you say, “It’s OK, let him mug me or kill me, I don’t want to resist?”

  10. harmonicminer says:

    Sorry, Hello, forgot to put in second question in last comment, so here it is:

    Suppose you have a teenage son, as big and strong as you, who is assaulting a younger sibling in some serious way. Use your imagination, but be sure it is SERIOUS, and will cause significant harm to the child being assaulted. Will you only verbally reason with the teenage miscreant? Or will you take physical action to stop it? And what if the teenage boy actively fights you, with the intent of returning to the assault once you’ve relented or been stopped? What will YOU do, when you have the responsibility for defending someone else? Exactly how far will you go?

  11. Hello says:

    Hello harmonicminer,

    “Your conclusions do not follow from scripture or tradition. You’ve isolated only a few, specific points, and generalized them into all encompassing principle, generally not good hermeneutics.”
    Oh? What other hermeneutical meaning do you draw from Jesus’ teachings when it comes to self defense? I could use others…’those who live by the sword, die by the sword’ would be one of the top of my head. I don’t really think I over-generalized at all. Do you think that the Bible provides for self-defense? Where might it suggest that we should seek to defend ourselves ‘fire with fire’ style instead of with love?

    “But before responding to you on that, I want to ask a question or two.” Hate to be nitpicky, but you didn’t respond to a whole lot of what I said…

    “Do you depend on police? If you are being attacked, and a police officer is nearby, will you say, “It’s OK, let him mug me or kill me, I don’t want to resist?””
    I don’t think it’s so much about resistance vs. nonresistance. The question, rather, is HOW shall we resist? Shall we resist violently, or otherwise? I believe the Biblical model is to absolutely resist, but in ways other than through violence. Again, maybe I have a too-simplistic understanding of the gospel, but I have trouble shaking the “love your enemies” passage in Luke. So if someone was attacking me (I don’t have much money so I don’t know what they’d do that for, but let’s pretend that they thought I did) I really would not prefer for a police officer to intervine in a violent manner. I would be really sad and upset if a police officer shot and killed my attacker to try and “save” me.

    “Suppose you have a teenage son, as big and strong as you, who is assaulting a younger sibling in some serious way. Use your imagination, but be sure it is SERIOUS, and will cause significant harm to the child being assaulted. Will you only verbally reason with the teenage miscreant? Or will you take physical action to stop it? And what if the teenage boy actively fights you, with the intent of returning to the assault once you’ve relented or been stopped? What will YOU do, when you have the responsibility for defending someone else? Exactly how far will you go?”

    Ah, so the question here is, “what do we do in the face of unadulterated, unalterable evil”, right? Well, on the one hand, if the boy is really as strong as me, how am I supposed to resist him physically? But that aside (let’s say I could beat up the kid with no trouble), I still don’t think that violence is the way to go. I also do not buy the thought that “reason” is our only other means of resisting. What would happen if I feel to the ground and started barking like a dog? What if I started doing a crazy dance around the kid? What if I offered the boys some ice cream? These might seem silly (and they really are silly), but the point is to diffuse the situation, right? If the guy is really not stopped at that point and really just wants to destroy this other kid, then I am absolutely jumping in between the boys and taking every blow until he either stops or I am unable to keep myself in between the two any longer. Beyond that? I entrust the situation to God.

    I believe that Jesus’ way is to expose the attack for the sin that it is (if someone tries to take your shirt, then strip down and offer your underwear as well! If someone forces you to carry their pack for one mile, offer to walk two!) Is this comfortable? No. Is it easy? No. Is it Christlike? I have come to believe that it is.

  12. harmonicminer says:

    “Do you think that the Bible provides for self-defense?”

    Gazillions of places in the OT. Are you a “dispensationalist”? If so, maybe you ignore the OT. But in the NT, and out of Jesus’ mouth: Luke 22:35-38

    “I would be really sad and upset if a police officer shot and killed my attacker to try and “save” me. “

    Read Rom 13, esp 13:4

    And when the person who attacked you was not stopped by the officer, and did the same the next day, should THAT person have to suffer because the officer failed to take necessary action? How many people have to suffer so you can retain your ideological purity?

    In my teenage example, I asked you to use your imagination, and assume the evil being done was real. So let me be really clear. Assume the teenage boy is raping someone. How, exactly, will you place yourself “between them”? What if it is clear that the boy intends the rape, and you must stop him physically, or he will do it, even if it means knocking unconscious the unresisting YOU (or worse)?

    Still asking questions, because your responses have attempted to blunt the nature of the choice I am trying to get you to make. At bottom: do you have no responsibility to the innocent to protect them from evil? You had better never be responsible for children, my friend, who deserve every bit of protection you can give them, even if you find it distasteful.

    Comments on your hermeneutical approach to come later… after I get you to decide if you think it is wrong to protect children or the innocent with necessary violence to prevent the evil.

  13. Hello says:

    “Gazillions of places in the OT. Are you a “dispensationalist”? If so, maybe you ignore the OT. But in the NT, and out of Jesus’ mouth: Luke 22:35-38″
    I never felt a persuasion toward the dispensationalists myself, but I would still challenge you to find places where physical retaliation is lauded as the primary choice in any situation. As to the Luke passage, I do not think that Jesus meant for disciples to take it literally. He was using it as a metaphor for “things are about to get crazy, so be prepared.” But, of course the disciples took it literally, which led to Peter chopping off the guy’s ear in the garden, which led to the “he who lives by the sword dies by the sword” statement.

    As to the Romans passage, Paul was writing to a group of Christians in a world in which many of these new believers were taking their “freedom in Christ” to ridiculous levels, blowing off their taxes and generally just being irresponsible. Paul’s call is to go back to a revolutionary submission, which is exactly what many of them ended up doing (martyrdom, etc). So I think that taken out of context it would prove your point, but I don’t think that Paul intended that passage would like the places that it is sometimes taken. (Jesus himself was a great example of someone who was submissive to authorities…but not in the way that everyone wouold expect.)

    “And when the person who attacked you was not stopped by the officer, and did the same the next day, should THAT person have to suffer because the officer failed to take necessary action? How many people have to suffer so you can retain your ideological purity?” Well, probably more than 5 but definitely less than 10…ok, sorry, bad joke. Seriously, though, how am I supposed to believe that anyone who stops this attacker with force is really going to change anything? Are we God? Dietrich Bonhoeffer was part of the infamous plot to assassinate Hitler, which happened to backfire and supposedly only reinforced his belief that he was invincible, and we all know how that turned out. Now, were Bonhoeffer’s motives pure? Who knows, I certainly have no interest in putting those people on trial, because it probably seemed like their only option at the time…but that is my point! There are ALWAYS other options. Real life never, ever, ever looks like the absurd cases that we dream up in philosophy class. There are always alternatives, there’s always more to the story of what is going on. There are no “hypothetical rapists”, but real people with names, and stories, favorite movies and ice cream flavors, and all of that.

    “Still asking questions, because your responses have attempted to blunt the nature of the choice I am trying to get you to make.”
    Exactly!!! That’s the whole point! There are never just two options (physical force or allow a horrible crime to be committed), that’s called a false dichotomy in logic.

    “At bottom: do you have no responsibility to the innocent to protect them from evil?”
    Surely. I have the responsibility to ALWAYS follow Jesus’ example and do my best to engage fully in the Kingdom of God, and that includes when people are in danger. I still fail to see how using physical violence on another child of God is the best response to evil. Evil cannot be defeated with more evil.

    “You had better never be responsible for children, my friend, who deserve every bit of protection you can give them, even if you find it distasteful.”
    I’m not sure how to respond to this…so instead I will tell you one of my good friend’s favorite jokes. I think it’s kind of corny, but here it is:
    A horse walks into a bar, the bar tender says, “Hey buddy, why the long face?!?” It’s at least a little funny, right?

    “Comments on your hermeneutical approach to come later… after I get you to decide if you think it is wrong to protect children or the innocent with necessary violence to prevent the evil.”
    Feel free to comment on the hermeneutical issue or not, but I absolutely do not think it is wrong (I rather think it is right) to protect people (innocent and non-innocent alike!) from evil, but NOT WITH MORE EVIL!!! The cycle of violence is a horrible thing, and at some point it’s got to end. Will I perpetuate it or will I be a part of putting an end to it?

    My bottom line is, if we see only the option for physical violence in a situation, then we have already lost because our imaginations have been taken captive.

  14. harmonicminer says:

    “where physical retaliation is lauded as the primary choice in any situation”

    Never said it, don’t put words in my mouth.

    “Luke passage, I do not think that Jesus meant for disciples to take it literally”

    Commentaries don’t agree.

    he who lives by the sword dies by the sword

    Don’t you think “lives by the sword” means something different than “ever uses one in self defense”?

    Too lazy to go through your comments one by one. I’ll say this. I find your position to be terribly immoral, and shirking of responsibility.

    Before we continue, if you choose to:

    Since you’re making essentially pacifist and complete non-violence style arguments, here is a previous post with a couple of sources I consider to be important, one a blog post by Frank Turek, the other a scholarly book. If you continue the discussion, I’ll essentially be discussing ideas clarified in the book, and briefly outlined in Turek’s post, so if you really want to engage on this, you may as well familiarize yourself with the territory. There’s plenty of literature on this, and it mostly denies the very simplistic view you’ve taken, and particularly denies your generalization of Jesus’ injuctions in certain personal situations into a global command for all people in all situations.

    Bottom line: pacifism and total non-violence in all situations is simply not the historical Christian teaching on war or self-defense. It is not scripturally required, nor was it the understanding of the early church, else there would have been no Christian soldiers in good standing in the church, and we know there were. In fact, we know Jesus praised the faith of a centurion. Anyway, read up, if you’re serious about the discussion.

  15. Hello says:

    It’s fine if you don’t want to address my points, you are obviously free to respond or not respond to my posts as you wish, either way I have been enjoying the discussion. :) Anyway, here’s a few of my comments on your post…

    “Never said it, don’t put words in my mouth.”
    Sorry, didn’t mean to. Perhaps a careless use of language on my part?

    “Commentaries don’t agree.”
    I’m sure some don’t, and some do. It seems to me that my interpretation is not only feasible, but the most likely given the context and in light of the later comments made by Jesus.

    “Don’t you think “lives by the sword” means something different than “ever uses one in self defense”?”
    It might, but I think we have a case here that suggests otherwise. Peter is attempting to defend literally the most innocent man ever, and he is told to stop it.

    As to the readings, I did read the Turek blog but do not plan on reading the book. I’ve read enough material on just war and the historically Christian response to war that we can, I think, still have a conversation. While we’re on the topic, I would commend a few of books to you as well: The first is The Politics of Jesus by John Howard Yoder, the second is Torture and Eucharist by William Cavanaugh, and the third is Jesus for President by Shane Claiborne and Chris Hawe. The first I’m sure you are familiar with, the second and third you may or may not be. Feel free to read them or not, I think we can have a decent dialogue either way, but they have been influential on my thinking.

    If you want, feel free to bring up points in Turek’s blog (or from elsewhere) and we can discuss those, or feel free to take some other approach. I realize that I am basically saying things that are in line with a ‘pacifist’ stance, which is probably close to accurate. I don’t like the term ‘pacifist’ myself because it connotates that I stand ‘passively’ by while bad things happen around me (or to me). You can see above for my thoughts on resistance, but I want to stress once again that I think that resistance to evil is absolutely essential to the Christian faith. My contention, however, is that we need to think of different methods of resisting than the world tells us are readily available, and I believe that Jesus has already given us examples of this through his teaching and through his own interactions with the authorities.

    So, we can have the “pacifism v. just war” debate if you want, but just know that I adopt the ‘pacifist’ tag only if it has a huge asterisk next to it, as detailed above.

    To maybe spark some discussion, here’s something I found interesting from Turek’s post, right at the beginning:
    “With less than 90 seconds left in the ride, I quickly said, “I think it was the least bad choice we had. Saddam used WMD, invaded Kuwait, and then violated 17 straight UN resolutions and the cease fire. What other choice did we have in a post 9-11 world?””
    This is a perfect example of a way of thinking that has been taken captive by the state (which is detailed in the Cavanaugh book, if you’re interested). The language of the “least bad choice that WE had” and “what other choice did WE have” is particularly troubling to me. It shows primary allegiance not to Jesus’ teachings, but to the imagination of the nation-state, in this case the United States of America.

  16. harmonicminer says:

    I take it, then, that you believe early Christians were wrong to accept soldiers who used violence for a living (hopefully justly, doing their best to be moral in its application)?

    John the Baptist was wrong to simply give that very advice to soldiers?

    Paul was wrong to point out the just violence that may be perpetrated by governments to protect the general public safety?

    This is not general blanket endorsement of all government violence…. VERY far from it. It is an attempt to be faithful to the scriptural text.

    A question: to whom do you think Jesus was talking when he said, “Those who live by the sword will die by the sword”? And when he said, “Enough of this”?

    Finally: what is your moral position, given that you benefit from the state’s use of violence in your behalf NOW? Do you believe prisons are acceptable? Don’t you think Christians must demand the release of ALL prisoners now held by violence in jails and prisons? They can be kept there only by violence, and the constant, credible threat of it. You benefit from the absence of felons in your community. Should you not start at home, and be up front and center protesting the very existence of prisons?

  17. harmonicminer says:

    BTW, the book I recommended at the link in my previous comment is not merely another explanation of Augustinian just war theory. It is a uniquely thorough treatment of available sources on the actual practice and thought concerning the just application of violence from the beginning of Christianity up through modernity. It’s author identifies, correctly, pacifism as a thread through Christianity, quite early, but only ONE thread, with the others being just as valid in their scriptural support, and early church historical practice. You’re correct, I’ve read the Yoder book, not the other two, though I’m aware of other books on the topic, some of which I’ve read, Hauerwas, etc.

    “Between Pacifism and Jihad” is, however, something quite different than the mere Augustinian argument recast in modern terms, and covers a great deal more ground than that.

  18. Hello says:

    Sorry it took me a little bit of time to respond. You know, life happens. :)

    “I take it, then, that you believe early Christians were wrong to accept soldiers who used violence for a living (hopefully justly, doing their best to be moral in its application)?”
    I don’t feel like I’m in a position to judge the relationship that the church had with soldiers, especially soldiers who converted to Christianity. They were still forming their doctrines (we still are, sort of) and I think that they were doing the best they could. That said, it seems to me that the church (or at least parts of it) has always had uneasy relations with the military. Christianity has never been monolithic, but has always been sort of a kalaidoscope (sp?) of different interpretations of Scripture. So, just because some Christians at the beginning tolerated soldiers among their ranks (I doubt they were thrilled that Christians were soldiers), doesn’t necessarily mean that it was the most helpful way to do Christianity. It’s really no different from today. I don’t hate Christians who are in the military by any means. I think there needs to be a fair amount of grace when it comes to Christians in the military, but that doesn’t mean that we don’t speak truth when we see it.

    “John the Baptist was wrong to simply give that very advice to soldiers?”
    You are talking about Luke 3:14, I assume? I am not exactly sure how John is condoning violence via military here, maybe you’re referencing a different passage (or I am misunderstandin it?)

    “Paul was wrong to point out the just violence that may be perpetrated by governments to protect the general public safety?”
    I don’t think he was endorsing it or saying, “this is the way it should be”, but was just stating matter of factly, “this is the way things are”.

    “This is not general blanket endorsement of all government violence…. VERY far from it. It is an attempt to be faithful to the scriptural text.”
    Certainly. Please understand, I do not think you are some kind of warmonger who wants to kill everyone on the planet through bloody wars. You are trying to be faithful to the Bible as you read it. However, please trust that I am also trying to do the same thing! Once upon a time, I had similar views to yours (and was probably even more comfortable with violence than the stance you are taking), but as I’ve read the Bible and discussed it with others I have come to the conviction that an active (not passive) resistance is the way that we are to interact with those who would harm us.

    “A question: to whom do you think Jesus was talking when he said, “Those who live by the sword will die by the sword”? And when he said, “Enough of this”?”
    I’m guessing that in the moment he was talking to everyone there, I’m sure it was meant to indict both Peter and those who came to capture him. But that’s just how I read it, I’m happy to be wrong on that point.

    “Finally: what is your moral position, given that you benefit from the state’s use of violence in your behalf NOW? Do you believe prisons are acceptable? Don’t you think Christians must demand the release of ALL prisoners now held by violence in jails and prisons? They can be kept there only by violence, and the constant, credible threat of it. You benefit from the absence of felons in your community. Should you not start at home, and be up front and center protesting the very existence of prisons?”

    Ah, so we come to an interesting issue. Do I think there should be prisons? No, I do not, not the way that they appear in this country, to be sure. This is a ludicrous position to take, right? I’m an idiot, I know, but go with me here for a moment. I believe that the question to ask is, “am I primarily a citizen of the Kingdom of God or of this world?” Everything has to flow from the way that I answer that question. If my citizenship is primarily in the kingdom, then that means that the other kingdoms of this world take a distant second to it (no one can serve two masters). So, in the logic of the nation-state, it makes sense to lock away people who have broken the laws of the state. However, I do not primarily have a duty to the laws of this land, but to the way of the kingdom of God. So, when someone kills someone else in America, they are supposed to go to jail (or worse). Does Jesus recommend that people who sin should go to jail? No, he says that we should forgive each other and love our enemies. He calls us to a changed life. It is much more difficult to change a life than just throw someone in prison. In fact, Jesus says that we shoul visit those who are in prison, and he even says that he has come to preach good news to the poor, release the captives, and proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor (Jubilee). Christians too often think this just refers to some metaphysical freedom from sin only, but freedom from sin is freedom from EVERY kind of captivity and opression, inculding that of the state.
    So I’m probably sounding like a total anarchist at this point, so let me explain to you why I am not. I also follow the laws of the land I am living in because of what Paul says in the verses you’ve mentioned. Completely abandoning the laws of the land is not freedom, but more captivity. Who is more free, the one who must constantly rebel against the law, or the one who voluntarily submits to the law? Anyway, I understand why America has prisons and I don’t expect that to change, but in the kingdom of God there are no prisons, there are no borders, there are no boundaries: the kingdom of God has invaded the entire world, and does not respect the boundaries that humankind has imposed on it.

    “BTW, the book I recommended at the link in my previous comment is not merely another explanation of Augustinian just war theory. It is a uniquely thorough treatment of available sources on the actual practice and thought concerning the just application of violence from the beginning of Christianity up through modernity.” I’m not sure how to interpret this…I guess you are trying to hold this above my head here? Maybe not, but I can assure you that I am aware of the arguments for and against just war theory and all the other theories of war out there that Christians use to justify war. Remember, our primary allegiance is not to the state but to the Kingdom, which does not have armies (well, actually, it does, but they are armies of peaceful followers of God who fight with grace and mercy instead of guns. You might even say that their sword is ‘of the spirit’, and their shield is ‘of faith.’ :) ).

    “It’s author identifies, correctly, pacifism as a thread through Christianity, quite early, but only ONE thread, with the others being just as valid in their scriptural support, and early church historical practice. You’re correct, I’ve read the Yoder book, not the other two, though I’m aware of other books on the topic, some of which I’ve read, Hauerwas, etc.”

    I completely agree that pacifism is only one thread among Christianity, but remember, I DO NOT HOLD A PACIFIST STANCE! I explained it above, I think, but would be happy to reproduce my reasons again if you want. I’m glad you’ve read the Yoder book, though I think you probably rejected a lot of what he said. Jesus for President is very non-scholarly (it even says so at the very beginning), but is sort of a consolidation of scholarly sources into a more readable and understandable narrative form. Torture and Eucharist is a fantastic book, I would highly recommend it, though I won’t pretend that it is some sort of required reading for being a good Christian.

    The reality is, I am not going to read Between Pacifism and Jihad because I don’t have the time right now. If you think that kills the discussion then I guess I am ok with that, but notice that I am not placing similar ultimatums on the books that I’ve recommended. If you don’t think it’s absolutely essential that I read the book, then I’d love to continue discussing! :)

  19. harmonicminer says:

    Hello Hello, (I really love typing that)

    This response will come in a couple of pieces, spread over a day or so. You wrote so much that it takes a bit of time to respond appropriately.

    I think your description of the early church is inaccurate, and very nearly condescending, as if you think you know much better than they did what the actual teachings of the church were, and what Christianity really demanded of them. Why do you think you’re in a superior position to evaluate the demands of Christian teaching than the early church fathers themselves, including the apostles and the very next generation who were taught by the apostles?

    Yes, John IS affirming that soldiers could continue to be soldiers. John was hardly reticent in making demands on people, was he? So all he really said was not to use the threat of violence to extort money, not to steal, etc., injunctions that apply to everyone, actually, but he said it because it was common behavior for soldiers. Don’t you think if he meant, “It is a sin to engage in any form of violence whether under orders or not, and whether ‘just’ or not,” that he would have simply said that? He certainly said other things as demanding of various people and groups.

    If you read the full passage in Romans 13, you’ll discover that it is an explicit endorsement of government use of violence in defense of justice.

    Verses 3 and 4: “For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and he will commend you. 4For he is God’s servant to do you good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God’s servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer.”

    I don’t know how this could be clearer.

    My guess is that the words of Jesus, “Those who live by the sword will die by the sword,” were aimed almost totally at the (obviously power abusing) people who came to arrest him. Clearly, Peter did not “live by the sword”, but the (paid off) thugs who came for Jesus certainly did, and were likely the sort who extorted people as mentioned in the John the Baptist discussion above. And when Jesus said, “Enough of this,” don’t you suppose he was trying to stop Peter from uselessly sacrificing his life against superior numbers of better armed and better trained people? The point of the “ear replacement” was probably to return things to the baseline situation of “no harm, no foul”, and also to intimidate the thugs just enough to let the disciples escape. Would YOU swing a sword at someone who had just now demonstrated supernatural power, but who seemed inclined to come along peacefully? Me either… even if I was a thug in the pay of the Sanhedrin.

    Not trying to “hold something above your head”.

    You said, “I guess you are trying to hold this above my head here? Maybe not, but I can assure you that I am aware of the arguments for and against just war theory and all the other theories of war out there that Christians use to justify war.”

    But that is not the same thing as being aware of the actual history of the church fathers and their
    teachings and writings on the subject, and early church practice in historical context. I certainly learned things from Dr. Charles’ book that I didn’t know just from reading philosophical presentations of just war theory. You might, too.

    You’ll note that I’m still responding, whether or not you read the book. But I will make assertions (in fact, I have already) that you may not believe unless you check out the sources in the book, but which I believe to be well supported.

  20. harmonicminer says:

    Hello Hello,

    Can you distinguish your perspective from that of a pacifist? I really am unable to see a difference, though you say you are not one. Perhaps if you explain I’ll have a better sense of your starting point.

  21. harmonicminer says:

    Regarding the fact that you benefit from the existence of prisons, police, etc., even though they employ violence, I think your explanation of your preferences misses the point. The point is, you benefit. You are personally safer. And it is a smoke-screen to refer to it as merely a matter of loyalties and nation-states.

    Even if the only relevant polity in your life was a small village, there would be rules, and those rules would include penalties, and there would be a necessity to deal with violent people, etc. Small western towns in the old west had essentially no significant interaction with the nation-state, or even the territory. Law enforcement was local, with maybe a circuit judge coming to town now and then. Every town had a jail, and needed it. The alternative was to be even more severe in punishment. It was necessary for the strong to protect the weak from evil, in this case “the strong” being the local sheriff, backed by a posse if needed.

    So it is not a matter of nation-states, it is a matter of how much suffering we are willing to require of our fellows, as victims, in order that we not sully our hands with any form of violence.

    The logical conclusion at the end of this trail of thought is not new: it is the community of essentially total withdrawal from “regular” society, on the lines of the Amish and similar groups. This was actually an intellectually consistent and honest solution to an otherwise insoluble problem, how a person who believes essentially in total non-violence can live in regular society, in good conscience. Their answer: it can’t be done, and so let all of us who believe this way withdraw into our own society, where we alone take the risks of our beliefs, and at the same time are not forced to benefit from that which we find unacceptable.

    BTW, even those small communities have “shunning” for some infractions and total expulsion for the completely unacceptable intransigent. That is, when their small community of non-violent people really can’t solve the problem, they simply eject it into the larger surrounding society.

    That option is not available for the larger society, of course.

    I think you may underestimate the degree to which your life, and quality of life, depend on the violence potential of the state. In addition to removal of violent criminals from society, the ability of government to do ANYTHING is in the end the power of sanctioned violence. That power undergirds everything from taxation to contract enforcement, protection of civil rights to environmental regulation. NOTHING that government does, nothing at all, really, is possible or meaningful without the recognition that, in the end, it has all the power, and can simply enforce its will on everyone, using any available means. Pick your favorite law or regulation, the one that you think does the most good, and understand that it depends on violence, in the end, to BE a law or regulation.

    Those communities such as the Amish understand this, and refuse to run for ANY civic office, or participate in any aspect of governance, because they understand, rightly, that violence underlays it all.

    In the end, total non-violence becomes total anarchy, with only the violent having the power to enforce their will on anyone else. It can only work as a means of organizing a culture if essentially EVERYONE buys into it. In other words, you’ve just described the NEW Jerusalem… which is not where we live at the moment.

  22. Hello says:

    “I think your description of the early church is inaccurate, and very nearly condescending, as if you think you know much better than they did what the actual teachings of the church were, and what Christianity really demanded of them. Why do you think you’re in a superior position to evaluate the demands of Christian teaching than the early church fathers themselves, including the apostles and the very next generation who were taught by the apostles?”
    I’m really sorry I came across as almost condescending, because I really thought I tried hard to not come across that way. I said, “I don’t feel like I’m in a position to judge the relationship that the church had with soldiers, especially soldiers who converted to Christianity. They were still forming their doctrines (we still are, sort of) and I think that they were doing the best they could.” I really tried to show that it is a tough business to judge peoples’ actions from another place and time. Remember, during the first few centuries there was hardly anything that kept the church unified. There was no official canon, and the earliest creeds (that we know of) didn’t even start cropping up till a couple of centuries later. Besides that, you and I have had a wealth of 2,000 years of Christian tradition and theological reflection to draw upon, so in some ways I would suggest that we really are in different place than the earliest Christians when it comes to doctrines (not necessarily better or worse, just different).

    “Yes, John IS affirming that soldiers could continue to be soldiers. John was hardly reticent in making demands on people, was he? So all he really said was not to use the threat of violence to extort money, not to steal, etc., injunctions that apply to everyone, actually, but he said it because it was common behavior for soldiers. Don’t you think if he meant, “It is a sin to engage in any form of violence whether under orders or not, and whether ‘just’ or not,” that he would have simply said that? He certainly said other things as demanding of various people and groups.”
    I agree that he isn’t explicitly stating that soldiers shouldn’t be soldiers anymore, only that they could not be the same kinds of soldiers that they were before. There is no occupation that is impossible for a Christian to have; I could absolutely be a soldier in the US military, but I know that based on the qualifications for soldiering that I would be a very, very bad soldier when it came down to it. Also, I will point out that it is a logical fallacy to assume that just because he did not specifically mention violence in this instance it means that he condoned violence by the soldiers. By that logic, he probably also condoned any number of possible sins that soldiers commit on a day-today business just because he didn’t mention it.
    As to the Romans chapter, I still stand by what I said earlier, and I honestly don’t feel like I have anything new to say on the topic. We seem to be at an impasse on that point…
    As to the ‘live by the sword die by the sword’ thing, it looks like we just interpret the whole situation a little bit differently. You are speculating with your interpretation, as am I, which is really ok, I think. It just goes to show you that you can get different meanings out of scripture depending on how you read the rest of Scripture, right?
    You asked me to prove that I’m not a pacifist…I don’t know that I can really do that, but I will show what I understand a pacifist to be, and how I differ from those:
    A pacifist is someone who believes in complete nonviolence and believes in being completely passive in all conflict situations (at least physically speaking). So, when slapped across the face, a pacifist will not fight back; they will just sit and take it because their commitment is to not fighting back. That is simple, but I think the commitment is key: their commitment is to nonviolence above all.
    I on the other hand am not committed primarily to nonviolence but to the Kingdom of God. There are many ways in which this looks very, very similar to pacifism, but I am distinguishing it from pacifism here because the primary commitment is different. So, when someone who holds to the Kingdom of God is slapped across the face, they actively resist by both reacting nonviolently AND exposing the injustice for what it is. The one who is committed to the Kingdom of God realizes that it is not enough to merely be a pacifist, but that they must also actively (and creatively!) resist evil. Anyway, you can buy my explanation or not, but that is my story and I am sticking to it. 

  23. Hello says:

    “Regarding the fact that you benefit from the existence of prisons, police, etc., even though they employ violence, I think your explanation of your preferences misses the point. The point is, you benefit. You are personally safer. And it is a smoke-screen to refer to it as merely a matter of loyalties and nation-states.”

    I guess I just disagree with you? I would continue to maintain that it absolutely is a matter of loyalties. For example, who do you believe when you talk about being ‘safer’ because of prisons? According to whom am I safer because of prisons? You may laugh and say that it is common sense, but to who’s common sense would you be refering to? Most of the time, you will find that it is the cultural, the academy, the world, the nation-state, etc who dictates what is ‘common’ and what is ‘irrational.’

    “Even if the only relevant polity in your life was a small village, there would be rules, and those rules would include penalties, and there would be a necessity to deal with violent people, etc. Small western towns in the old west had essentially no significant interaction with the nation-state, or even the territory. Law enforcement was local, with maybe a circuit judge coming to town now and then. Every town had a jail, and needed it. The alternative was to be even more severe in punishment. It was necessary for the strong to protect the weak from evil, in this case “the strong” being the local sheriff, backed by a posse if needed.”

    I am particularly interested in your use of the terms “strong”, “weak”, and “evil”. Didn’t Jesus say something of the strong and the weak, and who they really are? If you sign up to be a Christian, you absolutely sign up to be forever a part of the weak. And who is our strength? God is our strength! I do not need posses are sherrifs to ‘protect’ me from ‘evil’ because God has already done that! The problem is that the world doesn’t know that, so they have to figure out other ways of saving themselves, so prisons, wars, and police are only a natural outspring of this. I agree that these ‘old west’ towns had little overt influence from the nation-state, but the ideas and imagination were firmly present, I am sure.

    “So it is not a matter of nation-states, it is a matter of how much suffering we are willing to require of our fellows, as victims, in order that we not sully our hands with any form of violence.”
    I have to point out that that is exactly the imagination of the world. The idea is that we can only save people through violence, so the only way to actually act in a right way is through violence.

    But do you see how twisted this way of thinking is?? (please understand, I’m not calling you twisted :) but that this way of thinking that we all so often ascribe to is twisted)

    How can we POSSIBLY bring good into the world through violence? How can we prevent evil through the use of evil means? How through killing children of God can we make this world a better place? These are questions that need answering.

    As to the Amish section, I agree with you that it is the logical result of the pacifist line of reasoning, and I think that it is actually a very good and fair way to live, I reserve no judgment for them whatsoever. However, I personally do not come to the ‘withdrawal’ conclusion (at least I haven’t yet) because I think that Jesus meant for Christians to engage the culture. Again, the Amish are committed more to nonviolence itself than I probably am, whereas I am committed to nonviolence insofar as it is a means to an end (the Kingdom of God).

    “I think you may underestimate the degree to which your life, and quality of life, depend on the violence potential of the state.”
    Who knows if one understands anything completely, but I really do not think that I underestimate the state and its potential for violence. I recommend the Cavanaugh book fro more on this.
    “In addition to removal of violent criminals from society, the ability of government to do ANYTHING is in the end the power of sanctioned violence. That power undergirds everything from taxation to contract enforcement, protection of civil rights to environmental regulation. NOTHING that government does, nothing at all, really, is possible or meaningful without the recognition that, in the end, it has all the power, and can simply enforce its will on everyone, using any available means. Pick your favorite law or regulation, the one that you think does the most good, and understand that it depends on violence, in the end, to BE a law or regulation.”

    Good thing I don’t have a favorite law, right? :) Seriously though, I really understand what your saying…I think you might overestimate my commitment to the state and its laws?

    “Those communities such as the Amish understand this, and refuse to run for ANY civic office, or participate in any aspect of governance, because they understand, rightly, that violence underlays it all.”
    That’s pretty much how I feel, too.

    “In the end, total non-violence becomes total anarchy, with only the violent having the power to enforce their will on anyone else.”
    But of course, that’s not total nonviolence then, is it?

    “It can only work as a means of organizing a culture if essentially EVERYONE buys into it.”
    Agreed. And make no mistake, I am by no means suggesting that America should function in this manner, because it would cease to work if it did. I am suggesting that if our primary allegiance is to the Kingdom of God, then we will act accordingly, and that not means that we will not be violent people.

    “In other words, you’ve just described the NEW Jerusalem… which is not where we live at the moment.”

    Yes, I have. And no, we don’t. This world has not been fully redeemed and restored yet, but as Kingdom people we are told to live in that reality now. What happens because of this? Well, for starters, martyrdom happens. The book of Revalation shows that it is in response to the blood of the martyrs that Christ finally acts and ushers in the fullness of the kingdom. The point is that we don’t live in a reality where God’s Way is the norm, so we must suffer the consequences for it. However, one day God’s Way will be the norm, and that’s when the Kingdom of God has come in its completeness.

  24. harmonicminer says:

    Hello Hello, re: the early church, you miss my main point. The early church fathers KNEW THE APOSTLES. You describe it as if it was a bunch of people trying to figure out obscure texts, so that we have some advantage with our perspective on them all. Not my point. My point is that we know what the behavior of the early church fathers and the apostles themselves was in regard to this matter, and they clearly did not all act, or write, that the proper attitude was your “Christianly motivated pacifism” (I can’t think of another way to designate your attitude, which is “pacifist for Christian reasons”, as far as can tell). That was one thread. There were others, just as valid, and perhaps more representative of the majority. You’ll have to read J. Daryl Charles’ book for the details.

    Re: John the Baptist’s teachings, you write:

    I will point out that it is a logical fallacy to assume that just because he did not specifically mention violence in this instance it means that he condoned violence by the soldiers.

    The logical fallacy is in assuming he taught something he did not teach. And in so doing, he was representing a very long Jewish tradition, divinely ordained, might I add, of justice, not utter non-violence. It falls on you to make the case that he intended such a radical departure from Jewish tradition but didn’t feel called upon to publicly make the case, or else to assert that for some reason the inspired biblical writers omitted his teaching on that point. Assuming he meant something unsaid and unsupported is simply you reading your ideas into the text.

  25. harmonicminer says:

    Again, re: John, that’s why your argument about all the “other sins” John didn’t mention has no force. He did not bother to mention things known to all Jews, except those that were obviously problems before him in the culture. So you actually reinforce, inadvertently, the notion that John assumed his audience knew the Jewish teaching on justice and the right application of force in a just cause.

  26. harmonicminer says:

    I continue to believe you simply refuse to see the plain meaning in Romans 13, and are doing an individualistic reading of it to suit your prejudice. I suggest an experiment: see if you can write something that Paul WOULD have written if he’d believed as I have asserted, instead of as you have asserted. What in the world COULD he have said that would lead you to believe that Paul accepted and found to be God-ordained the judicious application of just force? You’re very close to asserting that nothing Paul could possibly have said would lead you to that belief, because of your rejecting the plain meaning of the text. So, write what Paul would have to have written to convince YOU, and then let’s compare it to what he wrote… or else acknowledge that your mind is simply made up, regardless of any possible scriptural input to the contrary.

  27. harmonicminer says:

    Hello Hello,

    yes or no question time: do you believe in total non-violence on the part of Christians, regardless of the situation? Throwing yourself between an attacker and a victim does not count as “violence” in this case… For our purpose, I’ll define “violence” as causing physical pain or worse to someone else, or threatening (with intent to carry out the threat if necessary) to do that in order to assert control of someone else’s behavior.

    I think if you answer YES, your claim not to be a pacifist is again a very individualistic use of the word, and will be recognized by pretty much the rest of the world as proof you are a pacifist, whether for Christian reasons or not. Why are you so uncomfortable with the word, if that’s the case?

  28. harmonicminer says:

    Hello… do me a favor and go walk through a high-crime neighborhood. At maybe midnight on Saturday night. Stay there awhile. Walk back and forth in front of the night-clubs and liquor stores and hooker trails. And be realistic, and don’t play word games: are you not safer if more of the criminals in such neighborhoods are simply not there, but in jail? Your case is not helped by pretending otherwise, and playing semantic games with “strong”, “weak” and “evil”.

    If your house is being broken into, and your family is being threatened, will you not call the police? Careful: the wrong answer here is proof of your disdain for your family’s well-being, not proof of your extra-spiritual walk with Jesus.

    You asked this question:

    How can we POSSIBLY bring good into the world through violence? How can we prevent evil through the use of evil means? How through killing children of God can we make this world a better place?

    If you take scripture seriously, you just called God evil, because you have accused Him of using evil means, in assuming that all violence is evil. You just walked away from the very center of biblical teaching, some of whose tenets are that God is always just, and His commands are always right, and His ways are always good. God has used violence, and directly commanded violence, from the Fall on out. Even the crucifixion used violence (a case of God literally using unjust violence to do good!). God has commanded us to act justly. That does not include allowing anyone to suffer unjustly at the hands of another, if we have the means to stop it.

  29. harmonicminer says:

    I think you are probably not being honest about your commitment to laws. How about laws against child abuse? Laws against murder? Laws against rape? Surely you believe such laws are right and necessary, and that the state must enforce them however it can, consistent with respecting civil rights, etc.? If you don’t believe that, PLEASE don’t move to my town….

    And I pray that you are not the only person seeing me being beaten by a gang of thugs… because you won’t call the police to violently intervene in my behalf, you’ll just throw yourself between me and the thugs, which won’t help either of us much, and I’m not looking for a fellow sufferer, I’m looking for someone to actually HELP me. Which you would not. To your shame, I think.

  30. Hello says:

    I apologize for the delay in response. Here are a few responses to your last comments…

    Regarding the early church, please read the works of people like:
    Justin Martyr
    Tertullian
    Origen
    Clement of Alexandria
    Ignatius of Antioch
    Tatian
    Athenagoras

    Those are a few that I can think of, but I am sure there are more. These writers all lived in the first couple of centuries after Jesus and fairly overwhelmingly argue the position I am taking, or at least something very similar to it.

    As to John the Baptist, the soldiers that he was talking to would not have been Jewish, thus they would not have been a part of the Jewish narrative at all, regardless of whether it supported or rejected violence. I don’t think I reinforce your position at all, because John wasn’t even speaking to Jews when he was speaking to the soldiers. Keep in mind, also, that these gospels are not exhaustive records of the teaching of Jesus and the others, but only narratives of actual events that were intended to edify the Christian community. Might the axiom “soldiers shouldn’t kill people” have been assumed by the Christians who were around when Luke was written? I think so.

    As to the Romans 13 piece, I feel like you are the one who is taking it out of context, not me. I will say again, Romans 13 is recognizing that at its best, governments have the ability to carry out condemnation against people who are doing wrong anyway. Is he saying that this is a good thing? No, please show me where he acknoledges that it’s a good thing. The closest he comes is vers 4, but even there he is acknowledging that God is still above the government, and that the powers may at times deal rightly, and that it is not all bad. His purpose is to commend the Christians to do good. The early Christian community had an itch, it seems, for rebellion, and Paul is clearly trying to squelch that with a passage like Romans 13. He is saying that we would do well to submit, because rest assured they will kill us if we are out of line! I don’t know how I could make up a Bible verse so I’m not going to try. I’ve already made my point but I don’t think you want to listen to me, which I guess is ok…

    As to your pacifist question, I again just think this is evidence that we are missing each other in this discussion. You seem troubled that I won’t fit in traditional boxes. Why? I’ve made my views on violence as clearly as I can, and you clearly do not think they are valid, which again is fine.

    The thing about going down to the street corner is interesting…I think part of our disagreement stems from the fact that I don’t see anyone as being beyond the scope of grace and forgiveness, but my sense from your postings is that you do. Yes, even I am not beyond the scope of forgiveness and grace. The logic you are using is absolutely of the world, and I don’t mean that as a point of any sort of condemnation or judgment, but it is simply what I am witnessing.

    As to calling God evil, I think you read that into my questions. God will do what God will do, and I am not talking about God’s action in relation to violence (that’s another discussion entirely).

    As to the law question…I don’t think people should do those things. Do I think anyone should be punished violently for doing them by another person? No. Where is grace? Where is forgiveness? Where is the end to the cycle of violence? The nation will do what it will do, but I will do my best to forgive. That’s really the best way that I can answer your question.

    Your last paragraph…I think is indicative of the whole discussion. At root, I think that you just do not see my position as having any basis in reality. I am not willing to make the concessions to violent behavior that you are, because I am trying to let God renew the way that I think about the world. These thoughts are where God has led me. I am not pretending that I have it all figured out, but the way of thinking that you are recommending seems to me to be the kind of imagination that has been domesticated by the world. At the end of the day, you have not wanted to have the conversation that I have wanted to have, and I cannot bring myself to go back to the way I once thought.

    I think this discussion has probably run its course at this time, or at least very nearly. Thanks for the responses you have given to the ideas I have presented, they have genuinely been helpful in revisiting my thinking on this issue. I appreciate your desire to be true to the scriptures and to God’s call on your life and while it looks like it has led us to different conclusions (at least for now), it definitely helps me appreciate the diversity of the body of Christ.
    This will probably be my last (or almost last) posting, but I’ll be checking back in the next few days for your response, so please don’t feel like this is my way of having the ‘last word!’

  31. harmonicminer says:

    Hello Hello,

    I have read some of those authors you mention. I can only ask you, again, to read “Between Pacifism and Jihad”, which is a very thorough assessment of these and other sources you don’t mention, by a very careful scholar.

    It is what scholars call “special pleading” to simply assume the apostles (especially the writers of God-inspired scripture) accepted teachings that aren’t in scripture, and so left them out because everyone was assumed to know them already. To make that case, you need other historical sources (other than things written AFTER scripture was composed), and you don’t have them, while the argument to the contrary, that Jewish tradition is very comfortable with justified violence, is very easy to make. I do hope you’ll check out J. Daryl Charles’ book, at some point.

    Again, from Rom 13 Verses 3 and 4: “For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and he will commend you. 4For he is God’s servant to do you good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God’s servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer.”

    There are no conditionals here, no “may at times deal rightly” or “sometimes” or “not all bad”. In some ways, and with regard to some situations, I wish there WERE some conditionals here, but there are not. Read them in if you wish, but understand that’s what you’re doing. Regarding my natural inclinations, I’d prefer here to be given permission by Paul to disobey unjust laws. Paul was sufficiently skilled with language that he could certainly have said what he meant, and he showed no inclination in his ministry to “blunt the message” to keep the flock out of trouble with authorities, indeed quite the opposite.

    And I think you COULD make up a statement that, if it existed in scripture, would cause you to re-evaluate your perspective. In fact, I’ll be so bold as to say that if you cannot, you have as much as admitted that your reason for your position has little to do with scripture and its explicit teachings, and much more to do with your personal preferences. Scientists call this sort of commitment a “non-falsifiable hypothesis” to point out that it is not based on any possible evidence. That scientific rule is not limited to science, it is a general hermeneutic principle. If nothing COULD have been said by the Apostle Paul to convince you otherwise, then your commitment is not, at bottom, scriptural in its motivation, even if it should turn to be accidentally correct in its result (which I think is not the case here, of course).

    It is not God’s actions only (re: violence) that are under discussion. God clearly commanded people to DO violence, but the people were the doers of it. Were they doing “evil”? Can it be rational to say God commanded them to do “evil”? And if you are a dispensationalist, would you like to state that Jesus’ life and teachings have now created NEW sins that didn’t exist before the Incarnation?

    Your understanding of forgiveness appears not to be the Biblical one, which normally involves repentance first. I think you cannot find a case in the Bible of forgiveness being offered to an unrepentant person (though sometimes the repentance is implied in other behavior, and not offered verbally in an explicit way), and most particularly forgiveness is not offered to one who is at that moment in the process of committing the sin or crime which is being forgiven. (With one exception: this is where Jesus begs the Father to “forgive them for they know not what they do”. To be completely true to the context, this would seem to apply only in situations where the person committing the sin truly doesn’t know the enormity of what they’re doing… a rare case, I think. And, there is no record, of course, about whether the Father actually DOES forgive them. This is a highly unique situation, though, that does not fit gracefully with Jesus’ own teaching on the topic elsewhere.)

    The Biblical standard involves repentance, first, clearly not the case when you are being attacked (or your loved ones are, or people for whom you feel some sense of responsibility) and must defend yourself or others.

    Jesus teaching on when to offer personal forgiveness was very clear, and while it was to be done “over and over” as long as it takes, even with repeated offenses, each episode of forgiveness was to be limited by the willingness of the offender to repent and ask for forgiveness.

    Again, I don’t think one can generalize that into what public policy should be, though it is applicable for individuals.

    Words mean things. The word pacifist means something, and as far as I can tell, the thing it means applies to you, because pacifism as a term addresses not motivation but behavior. I am bemused by your discomfort with it. It suggests that indeed you aren’t quite comfortable in the suit you’ve chosen to wear.

    And while personal advice from me is probably unwelcome, fools rush in and all of that:

    While you maintain your current ideological commitments, you should never have children. You should never be a teacher, or a person who is utterly responsible for the welfare of another. You should not vote. You should not participate in any aspect of civil governance. You should protest at every opportunity, at great length, and with great vigor, the collection of taxes, which is itself a violent act at bottom. I could lengthen this list, but you get the idea.

    And while I’m tongue in cheek just a bit on the taxes part, I’m quite serious on “responsible for the welfare of someone else part”. To do that, you must be willing to set aside your preferences and directly act for the welfare of the person for whom you are responsible, and it doesn’t sound like you’re capable of committing to that, just yet.

    To be consistent, you can’t even call the cops while your home, with all your children, is being broken into by violent men.

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