Thursday, May 5, 2011

The Ruthless

When the blast of the ruthless was like a winter rainstorm, the noise of aliens like heat in a dry place, you subdued the heat with the shade of clouds; the song of the ruthless was stilled.    -- Isaiah 25:4b-5

The passages in Isaiah 25, in the light of recent events, made me think of Osama bin Laden.  I am having a hard time seeing analogous connections through the whole chapter, but I felt compelled to try to put my thoughts down anyway.  Perhaps the purpose of me noticing this connection was simply to get me to reflect more deeply on those who want to harm us.

Last night in Bible Study, we somehow got into a discussion on the death of bin Laden.  The question was raised:  Was killing Osama bin Laden a Christian response?

Jesus said, "You have heard it said, 'An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.'  But I say to you, Do not resist an evildoer.  But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also...."  And when the authorities came to take Jesus, and Peter cuts off the ear of the soldier, Jesus said, "Put away your weapons, for those who live by the sword will die by the sword."  (Matt. 5:38-39, and Matt. 26:52)  These are the teachings which come to mind as I ponder this question.

I know these teachings.  I believe that evil thinking can only be overcome with love.  Yet, I also believe that evil deeds must be stopped, evil people must be stopped.   By the least violent means possible.  But nonetheless, stopped.

"Love your enemies,"  Jesus said.  Osama bin Laden was our enemy.  He claimed responsibility for the attacks on 9/11 killing thousands of innocent people.  I recall that when we were first attacked, we received sympathy from around of the world.  Though we were in shock, and feeling vulnerable, we had the world with us.  Then we answered violence with violence, and began to find ourselves in as many difficulties as our enemies.  

This situation rings a bell much closer to home.  My oldest son has been the victim of bullying, both physical and mental bullying, at school.  We changed environments completely after elementary school because of bullying there.  His current school is much more proactive with regards to bullying:  repeatedly teaching the students about  the harm it does.  And the adults are quick to stop the offending behavior when it comes to their attention.  Yet try as they might, they cannot prevent every instance of bullying.   

I have told my son that when he is being picked on, he must immediately tell one of the adults.  He must not respond with like behavior.   For then he would get into just as much trouble as the other kid.  The adults are the ones in charge of stopping the offender and protecting the children from more harm.

I wonder if perhaps the United States should have responded to the attacks on 9/11 the same way we teach our children to respond to bullies.  Not with like aggression, but turning to the world's leaders to help us stop the offenders, using our words instead of violence, so that the citizens of all nations are protected from more harm.  This certainly would have been consistent with what we are supposed to teach our children. 

As I drove to school this afternoon, I turned on the CD player to listen again to the commentary on St. Augustine's Confessions.  The first words I heard, believe it or not, were:  "We can learn as much from our enemies as from our friends.  It is important to take what our enemies say, see if there is any truth there and use it for our own good." (The Teaching Company, Prof. Cook and Prof. Herzman, Lecture 18, 2004) 

Although my son does not deserve any kind of abuse, I do remember a couple of times when he did not use the best judgment and provoked the other child's anger.  Unfortunately, the other child did not know how to respond calmly and with his words.  Likewise, although we certainly did not deserve to have any of our citizens killed so terribly, I wonder if our government did not use its best judgment in particular situations and provoked the anger of this man and his followers.

What good can we learn from these, our enemies? 

Dear Lord, it has been a struggle to hear your words today.  I am not sure if I have done justice to your message.  I know I need to spend more time with this.  But for now, thank you for allowing me to make connections between your word, events in the world, and my greatest concerns at the moment.  That always feels like a blessing to me.  Love always, Pam

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