Wednesday, August 6, 2008

And Now, A Serious Blog

I have decided to allow myself to be serious, from time to sparing time, here at We Need The Eggs. I hope you'll forgive me. But I wanted to bounce some theological ideas off you, some stuff that I've been kicking around lately.

I've been meticulously examining my beliefs about violence, both committing certain acts of violence as a Christian, as well as wars being waged by secular governments. I have always essentially been for these things, at least in the right set of circumstances. But I was listening to a preacher, Greg Boyd, and he has some ideas that are very different than mine. He says that he could never be in the military, because he couldn't take orders that he personally disagreed with from a superior, but he doesn't specifically condemn all war (to my knowledge). He says that if a Christian police officer were called on to take a criminal's life, he shouldn't think that he did a "good" thing that glorified God. I am incredibly uncomfortable with that; it runs entirely contrary to the Christian lens that I view the world through, and it smacks of a peculiar dualism: Can there by morally neutral acts of large consequence? Can you take a man's life without glorifying God nor sinning? Did that action simply float off into limbo, and God just won't bring it up when you stand before Him to receive your judgment? But if I'm honest, I have to consider the fact that I could be wrong. First of all, he's got quite a few years on me, he's a pastor, and he's got a damn P.H.D. God save me from being a stereotype, the 20-something who's got it all figured out. He would say that Jesus called us to love our enemies, so to him that means no killin'. I think I can love Hitler in that agape way that Jesus called us to, but I also love the Jew, the retard and the gay that Hitler wanted to eradicate, so what of that? Some people speak of Dietrich Bonhoeffer as if he was in some quasi-sinful and at the very least shaky territory because his Christian organization was actively working to plant a bomb in Hitler's pillow—I see no contradiction in terms, that is faith in action. And I know that is horrifying to some Christians, and I am horrified by the very real possibility that God could be shaking his proverbial head at these sorely misguided words.

And I am equally mystified because I am filled with feelings of such righteous joy and satisfaction when I hear of one of the world's worst terrorists getting blown to many, many indistinguishable pieces. My joy is even multiplied by the fact that while he was sipping fruit juice at a Muslim mixer in Syria, an Israeli secret service agent was replacing the headrest in his SUV with one loaded with explosives. I read that, am filled with joy and want to rise up and praise Jesus for justice, but am I only heaping judgment on my head? This guy was responsible for the deaths of hundreds of innocent people. But he was assassinated (murdered?) in violation of God knows how many international laws; he was never given a trial or presented with any evidence with which to defend himself against. it would be very easy for me to condemn that and say that it's wrong, but, even knowing laws were broken, I don't feel that it was the wrong thing to do. I'm trying to deal with the world as it is, and I refuse to frown upon violence because world peace is the ultimate good. I don't disagree with that, world peace would be the ultimate good (in a fallen world), it is also an ultimate impossibility. So is it somehow noble to herald and pray for idealistic and logical impossibilities? Who does that help? Yes I know that Jesus said turn the other cheek—does that equally apply to nations that Christians have chosen to be headed by a secular institutional government? Does it apply equally to American and Israeli secret service agents in service to their kingdom on earth?

There is one other one that's been bugging me. In the 1300's the black plague visited its horrors upon Europe. The infection moved quickly, and often when it was discovered the non-infected family members would flee the home and leave the infected ones to die on their own. And often times it was only members of clergy who would stay to tend to the dying, knowing they were sacrificing themselves to show Christ's love to strangers. Christians reflect on that with pride. I can't stop myself from being baffled. The people were going to die, why choose suicide? I know that we're called to sacrifice, sometimes even to the point of death, but within certain parameters, right? Should we follow suicides off of their cliffs so we can identify with them on the way down? If there is one person in a home with an airborne illness that will die within a day, should a faithful Christian enter the home so the victim has a hand to hold and is able to die with some measure of dignity? I know that's not rosy and inspiring, but how much should we let cold hard reality play into the commandments of God?

Part of the problem is that I am an unmitigated pragmatist. I constantly run hypotheticals through my mind. In one of them, for whatever reason, I'm in a locked elevator with one other person. There is a man with a gun on the other side of the door who is going to kill one of us, but we get to choose which one. Now, it is Christianity 101 to say that I should lay down my life for the other person. That is a no-brainer. But where my mind always goes, what I constantly envision, is that we both sit there, cross-legged, and have a calm, rational discussion in which we both discourse in disinterested fashion on which one of us will contribute more to society.

I probably need to dispense with some of that pragmatism. Jesus was not a realistic or very rational person. He said if you wanted to gain your life then you had to give it up. He said that if someone was stealing your shirt you should give him your jacket as well. He said we should count others' needs more highly than we count our own. He said there wasn't anything much better that we can do than lay our life down for our friends. These things are not reasonable; that was exactly his point.

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