Archive for the ‘religion’ Category

warriors, pacifists, enchanters and Christianity

Grim has an interesting post up today on the breadth of the Christian faith.  I cut this bit out to discuss:

The interesting thing about Christianity is the degree to which it accepts men as they are: the Christian law is not the Ten Commandments, but the Great Commandment: “Love each other as you love yourself; forgive everything.” If I am to love a man, I must love him as he is; yet if I am to love him as I love myself, then I may fight with him to the degree that I would fight myself. I may even kill him, if there are things I would rather kill myself than be guilty of having done.

If I can but forgive his soul, I am doing all that is asked in the Lord’s Prayer: “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” If I can do that, then we may fight each other as hard as needs be — and we may even love the chance to strike a blow for what is right, best, just. Even the most wicked man is therefore lovable, insofar as he gives us the greatest opportunity to create good in the world. Even our own capacity for sin is lovable, for the same reason.

This is quite a new idea to me, or rather, a sharp twist on some old ideas, and I need some time to mull it over.  But, first thoughts (very bloggish of me, eh? shoot first, think later . . .):

1. Are Christians called to forgive everything?  If so, then we must forgive even those things we would kill someone for?  That seems a bit contradictory, but let’s see.  CS Lewis in Mere Christianity says this about loving one’s neighbor as oneself:

In my most clear-sighted moments not only do I not think myself a nice man, but I know that I am a very nasty one.  I can look at some of the things I have done with horror and loathing.  So apparently I am allowed to loathe and hate some of the things my enemies do. . . .

The real test is this.  Suppose one reads a story of filthy atrocities in the paper.  Then suppose that something turns up suggesting that the story might not be quite true . . .  Is one’s first feeling, ‘Thank God, even they aren’t quite so bad as that,’ or is it a feeling of disappointment, and even a determination to cling to the first story for the sheer pleasure of thinking your enemies as bad as possible?

. . .

Does loving your enemy mean not punishing him?  No, for loving myself does not mean that I ought not to subject myself to punishment — even to death. . . .

If I didn’t know better (and, well, actually I don’t), I’d say Grim had been reading CS Lewis.

2. Then, the idea that we may kill for those things we would wish to be killed for is a brainbender.  However, let’s do a thought experiment.  Let’s say I flipped out, bought guns and ammo, and was on my way to a place to kill a bunch of people.  My sane self would certainly hope someone stopped me, and given the choice between my insane self carrying out that act and some armed citizen or police officer killing me, I would choose to be killed.  That is true; I would rather be killed than commit an act like that.

What about an immoral war?  I presume Grim’s rule would mean that soldiers should only participate in wars they believe are moral, and should only kill enemies who are doing things, or working towards aims, that the moral soldier himself would rather be killed than accomplish.  We have faced this in Iraq, with Watada and others refusing to go for moral reasons.

CS Lewis (MC again) had this to say about the Christian warrior:

All killing is not murder any more than all sexual intercourse is adultery.  When soldiers came to St John the Baptist asking what to do, he never remotely suggested that they ought to leave the army: nor did Christ when He met a Roman sergeant-major — what they called a centurion.  The idea of the knight — the Christian in arms for the defence of a good cause — is one of the great Christian ideas.  War is a dreadful thing, and I can respect an honest pacifist, though I think he is entirely mistaken.  What I cannot understand is this sort of semi-pacifism you get nowadays which gives people the idea that though you have to fight, you ought to do it with a long face and as if you were ashamed of it.  It is that feeling that robs lots of magnificent young Christians in the Services of something they have a right to, something which is the natural accompaniment of courage — a kind of gaiety and wholeheartedness.

I have often thought to myself how it would have been if, when I served in the First World War, I and some young German had killed each other simultaneously and found ourselves together a moment after death.  I cannot imagine that either of us would have felt any resentment or even any embarrassment.  I think we might have laughed over it.

3. I certainly agree that Christianity is much more broad and open than it is often portrayed, and that it has often accommodated itself to the peoples and times it finds itself among.  Some see this as a weakness, but I see it as a strength.  There is always the danger of bending so far the branch breaks and one particular effort is no longer part of the tree of Christianity, but I think we can bend quite a bit before we reach that point.

4. Oh, I have more to say, particularly about Grim’s choice of poem for his post, but I suspect this post is long enough.  I’ll save “The Last Hero” for later days.