Adventist Media Response and Conversation

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Is Violence Useful

I am bringing this over from the comments section of Spectrum Blog where Bob Rigsby writes:

Hi Ron:
Before I respond to your response, I must say I enjoy reading your blog also. You did some good work on this last quarter's lesson and I'd like to say it was appreciated here...

To this topic -- which strays away from the # of deaths in Iraq report...

It seems to me you have underlined the problem as I have tried to frame it. The exact point is that from our perspective of history, violence does "work". Historically, how could one not agree that violence has "worked". Violence always works though -- doesn't it? -- from the perspective of the "winners".

What interests me is the proposition that since it "works" for us, that God also makes it "work" for Himself.... Some have said that ALL of God's violence is not really His, but merely ours projected ON Him. How could we possibly prove or disprove THAT I wonder?

Selective violence DOES seem to work -- and to be the "right thing" -- in certain circumstances. But does the fact it "works" make it "right"? Or make it God's preferred method? Is it not conceivable that violence is so much a part of how we perceive the cosmos that we are incapable of imagining an ethic without it?

I'm asking here Ron -- I don't hear much rational discussion about this in Christian circles -- and certainly not Adventist ones. If you've any references to honest wrestlings with this issue do share please. DOES God solve His problems with violence? If He does, I am unable to envision how that violence does not engender fear.... And yet, as you say, violence DOES seem to "work" in various circumstances....

As an aside, it's easy to say torture is bad and never to be done. But the sad reality is that we live in a world where torture CAN be seen to "work" in certain circumstances. No less that Alan Dershowitz, in the LA Times yesterday, noted his own narrow allowances FOR torture, as he commented on Bill Clinton's "warming up to torture"...
So, I trust you take my quandry seriously here Ron: How have you dealt with it?? I am very aware that honest and sincere and intelligent minds handle this problem very differently....

There may be no answer to this problem but I will refer to a few elements using brief quotes from your post to focus attention upon what I will be dealing with.

Violence always works though -- doesn't it? -- from the perspective of the "winners".

That may seem to be the case though it may not actually be that way. For instance as fortune would have it as I work out at the gym I often listen to the teaching company lectures. Today I listened to a section on the early middle ages period focusing on Augustine of Hippo. Augustine was influenced by Ambrose who was very influential in that period even to the emperor. It seems there was a famous chariot racer in a certain city who got arrested for being a male prostitute. Being a sports hero the people did not like that and the rioted. Now the authorities did not like that kind of rebellion and so they went in and killed a bunch of the people. Ambrose said the emperor was wrong and if he did not do something to atone for the atrocity he would excommunicate the emperor, which he did. In the end Ambrose won though he likely thought he was going to be killed also. So the winner with violence may not be the winner in even the short term.

Is it not conceivable that violence is so much a part of how we perceive the cosmos that we are incapable of imagining an ethic without it?

I think violence and death are so much a part of human experience that we can’t even conceive of a world without either one of them. Another little tidbit from Augustine is where in talking about the Roman Empire he tells how if the things done by the Empire were done by one man he would be considered the most vile of criminals. But since it is done by a nation, a society of people and in the process sets up a system of justice it has beneficial qualities. In our society we live with this selective violence. In the community we enable our police to apply selective violence for the common safety. On the larger sense that is what the military does for our country. Without depending on God for miracles it would seem highly unlikely that any nation could survive without the use of a military and selective violence.

Now when is violence the right thing to do is an important question but the actual when is very debatable. For instance we may be able to agree that violence may be necessary to save an innocent child from an escaped murderer. Yet the question of when to actually act may never be certain because we don’t have the perfect knowledge of the actions that the murderer may take. As a nation we went through this with Iraq, 17 UN resolutions and the likelihood that they had weapons of mass destruction as reported by most all intelligence agencies in our country and around the world. The question of when to act will be debated. For instance if you say violence should be the last resort then you can always put off action for another day.

DOES God solve His problems with violence?

That is a really interesting question especially from the SDA perspective so often used called the Great Controversy. Here we are on earth in a world filled with sin and violence, is there a reason we are here? If there is a reason then God must in some ways use violence, even if it is only because at some point man screwed up. In the ultimate end shown in the book of Revelation which may be as symbolic as the first part of Genesis there is the presentation of the destruction of the wicked. It does not really matter how they meet their destruction whether it is through fire from God or just because they cannot live in the glorious presence of God the active agent is still God. As God does not have to be in their presence, apparently they could stand before God in the judgment so what is different after the judgment? Even if one believes like I do that in the end we get what we want, either to be with God or not to be with God; I doubt those who reject God desire to cease to exist. The consequences of their choice are equally effected by the actions of God. Of course our perceptions about the ultimate end may be completely wrong; it is hard to predict the future even when God lays out information on the subject. So that is not a very good method to gage God and violence. History would be more accurate.

Ultimately I deal with it by accepting that violence is necessary to deal with evil. Because evil uses violence and evil has to be resisted. It would be nice if you could talk evil out of it’s violence but it does not generally appear to work that way.

No comments: