Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Moral Dilemma

Today a friend of mine shared an article with me from Relevant Magazine.  For those who have never heard of Relevant before, it is a Christian magazine aimed at the younger generations and tries to be culturally relevant.  I haven't read many articles that are published by them but this one was actually a bit thought provoking and dealt with a topic that I feel deeply about.  So much so that I have written on this topic previous.  This topic would be what we will call war. (See posts from September 2010 to find out what I said in that post.)

For those of you who have talked to me about anything faith related in the past few years, you probably have listened to me give my views of war, violence, and anything related.  You would have also found out that I am opposed to these.  I base that mostly on teachings that Jesus lays down particularly in the sermon on the mount found in the Gospel of Matthew.  I have been fairly stern on my views and feel that it might be time to reexamine them in light of this article that I read today.

A few weeks ago while driving to southern IL to go climbing for the weekend with my friend Travis Crane, the topic of war and politics came up.  I explained my view, he explained his, we both realized why the other thought that way, and then we continued on with our drive.  Today he sent me a link to the article that I have been referring to.  Here it is.  Relevant Magazine .  This article is basically a guys discussion on whether or not the U.S. should be involved in the conflict happening in Libya.

Early on in the article he brings up a point that I feel that I have somewhat dismissed and haven't dealt with in forming my theology/ethics on this subject.  That point he makes is that as people of God we are called to protect and help the disenfranchised, the down trodden, and the marginalized of the world.  One example of this in scripture comes from Isaiah 1:17.  There it says, "Learn to do good; seek justice, reprove the ruthless, defend the orphan, plead for the widow."  You could probably read just about any of the prophets and find at least one verse from each that says something similar.  There are others stated in the article.  Also you could look at the life of Jesus.  Even if He never said anything about taking care of orphans, the outcasts, the widows; His actions towards those would show that God cares about them.  Many of the people he healed would have been outcasts.  If they had any kind of deformity, especially leprosy, they would not have been allowed in the temple.  He also shared a table with tax-collectors, prostitutes, and the like.  So if you haven't gotten the point by reading the Old Testament, the man Jesus, who most Christians would claim to be the fullest revelation of God that we have had, spent time caring for the marginalized. To sum up this whole entire paragraph, God is all about social justice (did i really just say that?) and we are called, as Christians, to join Him in it.

This is where things normally get hairy for me.  I totally agree that we should be involved in social justice.  I also would say that we should not act violently towards anyone.  Jesus did tell us to love our enemies.  In history there have been times in which dictators, people groups, and religious zealots have done unspeakable things to other groups of people that they hate.  There was Hitler who killed Jews.  You have Western Europeans who enslaved Africans.  And you also have Christians killing anyone who doesn't claim to be a Christian.  Now as a Christ follower I am called to help these people who are being attacked but how am I supposed to do this?  Should I grab my gun and start cutting down everyone who kills, harms, steals, rapes, or enslaves people?  What then is separating me from those people that I am now killing, harming, stealing, raping and enslaving?  Should I just sit back and allow my fellow country men to do the same thing? 

These are the things that make situations like what is happening in Libya such a problem for me.  The author of the article mentioned above states that at the writing of that article he is supportive of the actions taken against Moammar Gadhafi, but might later change his stance.  I must say that I am glad that he isn't putting this subject to rest.  It is something that I feel must be wrestled with.  When thinking of other Christians who have struggled with this my thoughts go directly to that of Dietrich Bonhoeffer.  If you have never heard of this man, you need to look him up, read his books, and read books about him.  This was a man of God who had to struggle with the Nazi regime in the 1940's.  He ended up deciding to help with the resistance is said to have aided in an assassination attempt on Hitler.  This eventually cost him his life.  He is a martyr because he stood up for the persecuted Confessing Church in Germany.  Would I agree with his actions and make them a set way to deal with these injustices in the world?  Not at all.  But it is interesting to see that I am not the only one to struggle with such difficult situations in life.

After wrestling with this topic a bit more, I have not changed how I feel about war.  I also don't feel that we can sit back and watch it happen.  I do believe that the God I serve is big enough and powerful enough to effect change in the world to rescue the captives, end tyranny, and help the poor in ways that would not go against His own desire to love our enemies.  I don't know how exactly that is played out and it might be different with every single situation in the world.  It might be that we should go into a war torn country and help those who are afflicted escape.  It might be us going to these leaders and giving them the gospel even if it costs us our lives. I would love to hear your thoughts on this subject and maybe creative ways in which as Christian we can bring peace to this world through means that do not involve the killing or harming of others.

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