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« The one who lives by the sword will perish by the sword | Main | Field testing 1 Kings 2:1-2 in translation »

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Bob MacDonald

John - I have been reading your notes on violence and I am of course aware of my own hidden violence and my use of state violence to control the impossible nature of FAE in my youngest son - I hope you have seen this item noted by Targuman. (I have also read a bit - notably Craigie which you mentioned earlier in the series). I am not in agreement with the necessary goodness of what seems convenient in the constraints of a particular time. Of course my personal tests have been limited - and like the Hobbits, I am protected from the full scope of the evil that seems to be implicit in the world.

JohnFH

Thanks, Bob, for the link to Bruce Chilton's piece. He evokes much territory and is very much aware of the fact that scripture has been and continues to be used to justify violence of the most sordid kind.

But, if now the Bible is supposed to be used to justify standing by idly while the innocent are slaughtered, I fail to see how that is an improvement. Chilton's piece is, in the end, a giant waffle.

A live and let die attitude is the default foreign policy of most nations. It's called Realpolitik. That Jews or Christians acquiesce in this state of affairs constitutes a betrayal of their faith.

This was not the case for many, many centuries, in which war and peace were issues decided by kings and such, not by the people. But that has changed. Democracy carries with it responsibilities other ages could hardly have imagined.

The old socialist cry, "fascism means war," is not popular today. John Lennon's slogans are. Is that an improvement, or a sign of self-absorption?

Many of Waldensian ancestors in the faith were socialists. Some of them, including my grandfather-in-law, lived by the slogan just referred; they thought it their duty to oppose fascism, if necessary by the force of arms. He died a slow death, poisoned by ricin, at the hands of the Italian fascists. I point this out to help you understand one of the existential bases of my positions. I am fully aware of how uncouth they seem in polite society today.

Peter Kirk notes in another comment thread that he does not condemn Ramos-Horta, though he does not agree with his life choices either.

That is a comfortable position. But in a revolutionary situation, as was East Timor, it is necessary to take sides. No use bringing goodness into the discussion. It's all about evil, but some evils are lesser than others.

Like the Hobbits, depending on who we are, it may not be our role to be warriors. But we still have to take sides, sometimes at the risk of our lives. This side of the kingdom, that may involve combat duty, or supporting those who go into combat supplied with arms paid for by our taxes and approved of by our elected officials.

By making it our first priority to avoid the use of violence, we may actually make things worse, and violence more virulent. Historians point out that reluctance to enter WWII in a timely fashion resulted in far greater loss of life and limb than would have otherwise been the case.

It is no fun to point out this truth, because it throws into doubt our deepest and most comfortable certainties.

Bob MacDonald

Live and let die? John. Live to the tests you are given. No policy can follow from that if it disagrees with the voluntary laying down of one's life by the word of God. We just watched My Son Jack - Kipling's son's story from WW I - And this past week we had occasion to remember the poetry that Britten set of Wilfred Owen in the War Requiem - Abraham refused and slew his son and half the seed of Europe one by one. Iraq was not justified in the form that it took then or now. The divine right of kings - also a false justification, has been replaced by the divine right of the market. This is hardly the quam olim Abrahae promisisti, et semini eius.

JohnFH

Bob,

I never said, of course, that the divine right of the market justifies anything. If you mean to suggest that a commitment to capitalism is the subtext of Ramos Horta's support for the invasion of Iraq, I believe you are sorely mistaken. If you mean to suggest that Blair's decision to take GB into Iraq was based on something other than his sense of right and justice, once again, I think you are sorely mistaken. If you wish to question the motives of Bush and Cheney and the majority of US Senators, Republican and Democrat, who authorized the war, be my guest. I might even agree with you, at least in part. Even if they did what they did for the wrong reasons, it is still not settled whether what they did resulted in more harm than good.

WWI was a senseless war, and Wilson, with messianic missionary fervor, took the US into it when we could well have stayed out. A good thing or bad thing? How does one decide? The US waited far longer than it should have to enter the European theater of WWII. Roosevelt knew better. Over the opposition of an isolationist Congress, he bent and broke innumerable laws to prepare the nation for war just the same. Historians say he did the right thing, and that if he hadn't, millions more may have had to die before the war machines of Germany and Japan were defeated.

Wilfred Owen's poem is fitting for WWI, but not for WWII, and not for the ongoing conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq either.

Just last night or the night before, there were grand celebrations in Baghdad among Iraqis on the first anniversary of the pushback known as the surge in western media. Overall violence is down 90 per cent from its peak.

Are you sure you would go and tell the Iraqis to their face, the vast majority - Kurds and Shias, enfranchised politically for the first time, "this never should have happened"?

You seem awfully sure that someone like Ramos Horta lacks understanding of what was and is at stake in Iraq. You know, he couldn't care less about being pro-war, or anti-war. That's a comfortable way of seeing things he was not permitted in his life to know. He only wants to be pro-Iraqi, and that meant for him supporting the possibility that they might achieve peace through war.

In what sense is it pro-Iraqi to suggest that the Iraqis, like the Syrians to the west and the Iranians to the east, should have just contented themselves with living under a dictatorship - in the Iraqis' case, a dictatorship that ruthlessly murdered, malnourished, and mistreated its Shia majority?

What if, in the midst of grievous error and irresponsibility on all sides, the end of Saddam Hussein was an answer to the prayers of millions of oppressed Iraqis? Of course they were praying for the Mahdi to come, and still do, to save them. Instead they got Bush, who does a poor imitation of Cyrus. But history is like that.

I assume you believe as I do that it matters not that the hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqi Abels whose blood cries out from the ground, and the wails of Shia and Kurdish widows and orphans produced by "chemical" Ali, were followers of Muhammad.

The prayers of Hannahs and Marys are powerful. They may well trump my prayers and yours for a world here and now in which 20 year old soldiers from Canada and the US do not have to lose life and limb halfway around the world in a war we could well have avoided.

Bob MacDonald

Dear John, I won't argue, least of all with you. It is not our custom. On all points where you assume agreement, we have concord. On the other side of the vexed question of violence - we likely have the same discord in our own individual hearts. The king died for his enemies. In the case of recent conflicts, I cannot help thinking that there were alternatives that were not followed - and the reasons for the corporate failures are inherent in their own self-interests. E.g. willingness to give up on the need for oil might have proven a much better solution than the cascading errors on Kuwait and Iraq that go back 100 years. (What is the will of the Father that we should do it - rather than say 'Lord, Lord'?) And as to what happened before my birth, wasn't Germany in the 30s a consequence of the post-war treaties - It seems to me that Margaret MacMillan (Paris 1919) has written about all kinds of ad hoc decisions that still are working themselves out today (e.g. Kosovo). Opening at random: p192 - No limit is fixed save the capacity of the German people for payment, determined not by their enemies but by their labour. The German people would thus be condemned to perpetual slave labour.

Europe and Empire with all the difficulties of colonialism could not deal with anything but business as usual. Indeed, time makes ancient good uncouth.

JohnFH

The discord in the heart of which you speak, Bob, burns brightly within me. How many 18 and 20 year olds have I seen off to war in the last few years? All kids, boys and girls, who have made clear choices, sometimes against the will of their parents. They tend to show up in uniform in church the Sunday before they head off on a tour. They look to me, and everyone else, for signs of approval, of understanding, of a sense of solidarity. Those who served in other wars, the "bad" ones and the "good" ones, are quick to offer support.

I understand something, at least, of the laments of Jeremiah.

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