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Saturday, April 16, 2005

God and War II: The Individual Responsiblity of Leaders

Robert has identified a possible quandry - nations do march to war on the orders of individuals, and individuals are under the Cross. Now what?

What we must turn to are the underpinnings of the commands to turn the other cheek and to love our neighbor.

First, "turn the other cheek" is not a directed response to a physical attack intending to injure or kill. Instead, the face slap is clearly an insult, meant to provoke a physical confrontation where one may otherwise be avoided.

I personally was able to obey this command to the letter once on a Phildelphia street. A guy who I knew from school (Dion) was in a taxi with some of his pals, and some of my drunk buddies hollered at them. Dion jumped out and headed over to our group, obviously drunk and angry. I stepped in between and told him, "Dion, you need to get back in that cab with your friends". He said some drunk stuff, I repeated myself, and then he, literally, open-handed smacked me on the cheek.

What did I do? Exactly as I should - "Dion, I know who you are and will be reporting this to your supervisor" (in the lingo of my school). His eyes got big, his friends grabbed him and they got back into the cab and left. Even though he came and found me at school and asked me not to report him, I did. Why? He was wrong, and it was the job of his supervisor to figure out what, if anything, would happen to him. I didn't even check to find out.

I could have fought with him then. I was just starting my boxing career, but was better with my hands than the average bear. However, I didn't need to. Dion's blow was not meant to injure, it was meant to provoke. Thus, turning the other cheek was the right response.

But, if Dion had drawn back a fist to attack, I believe I would have been justified in ducking under the punch, and delivering a double left hook (body, head) followed by an uppercut, then stepped over his unconscious form while his friends came to get him. While Christians were fed to the lions for declaring their faith, nowhere can I find the command that said they couldn't try to fight it off.

How does that apply to the current war, or perhaps wars in general? How does it apply to our leaders?

First, regardless of what one may think of the POTUS, I think we can agree that he did not find 9-11 an insult. We can also agree that he, like us, saw it as a physical attack against the people he is sworn to lead and protect, and furthermore, an attack that was meant to kill as many as possible. This was emphatically NOT a slap in the face - it was a knife attack, skittering off of our ribs painfully. Furthermore, the assailant had made it known that he planned to continue to knife us until we were dead. The correct response was the self-defense response of one who has already received the initial attack - to take out the attacker - the Al-Queda/Taliban fight.

What about Iraq? As many are fond of saying, "Iraq never attacked us." This isn't harder to grasp because the logic is any less clear - it is harder because the corrolary of the individual situation is somewhat unrealistic. Imagine, after the knife attack and subsequent battering of our assailant, that a man stands behind the fallen attacker. He has several knives in his hand. As he stands there, other interested attackers come up to him, seeking a knife with which to stab people. He hands these knives to whomever pays the price, and the criminals head off to murder. What is our duty?

Unlike my altercation with Dion, there is no authority present to administer justice. Therefore, the perceived threat to myself, my family, and others must be dealt with in a violent fashion. Saddam Hussein was that knife seller, and needed to be dealt with in a violent fashion.

How does Jesus fit into this? "Love thy neigbor." If you need an expose of love, try Peter Kreeft, who effectively descibes the difference between what it is and what we, unfortunately, tend to think of it. In short, loving our neighbor means not only wanting the best for them, but acting in such a fashion as to help that best occur. With our kids, it means sometimes disciplining them. With our neighbors, it means we protect them when we can. For the POTUS and the U.S., Iraq is our neighbor. We want the best for her, and have done what we can to help her achieve it - by removing a despotic dictator who killed them and supported terrorists who attacked others.

In summary, President Bush has obeyed Christ in this present conflict. The command to "turn the other cheek" was not applicable, as action has not been taken in response to insults (that would be bombing Paris!), but instead to a threat of harm. Also, he has loved his neighbor by taking steps to protect those whom he is supposed to protect and aiding those whom he can aid.


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