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Assassination And Christianity


GeorgeW
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Joseph: If this is inappropriate, do not hesitate to delete. The previous thread that addressed this issue was closed. However, I think there is a profound moral and theological issue in the assassination of bin Laden.

 

Our pastor today (PCUSA) said he felt moved to deviate from the planned Bible readings and his prepared sermon to address the assassination of bin Laden.

 

He first read Matthew 5:43-49 about loving your enemies. Then, in the sermon he referenced the theologian, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who was active in the Nazi resistance and was complicit in an attempt to assassinate Hitler. He concluded that any killing is evil. But, there are instances in which an evil is justified in order to stop a greater evil.

 

However, he felt that celebration such as occurred in New York and Washington was inappropriate - that a Christian should take no pleasure at the killing of anyone. He cited Proverbs 24:17, "Do not rejoice when your enemy falls, and let not your heart be glad when he stumbles." He said that he thinks that God is sad at the acts committed by bin Laden and saddened by his death.

 

I think he hit the right moral balance and tone.

 

George

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I don't see this thread subject as stated inappropriate as long as the subject matter stays addressed to religion and the moral and theological issues rather than conspiracy theories or politics or any personal agendas.

 

JosephM(as Moderator).

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This American Life yesterday had a story - The reporter talked to college students who were 9, 10, 11 on 9/11 and had been profoundly imprinted with those images. Our pastor, in a review of the spectrum of responses, mentioned another women who had said the same thing in a blog. The students said that one couldn't understand their celebrating unless one had experienced the attacks on 9/11 as they did. A heavy weight was lifted.

 

Personally, anytime a "last resort" is used is usually as cause for sorrow, especially in human relations.

 

Take Care

 

Dutch

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This American Life yesterday had a story - The reporter talked to college students who were 9, 10, 11 on 9/11 and had been profoundly imprinted with those images. Dutch

 

Dutch, Yes, I heard a similar discussion in another program. It seems that those who were children at the time were more emotionally affected than some of us old timers. One reporter said that when the news was announced her 16 year-old (as I recall), jumped up and cheered.

 

George

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A couple of weeks ago I found myself in the position of euthanizing our old brood mare; she could no longer take nourishment and was not going to live much longer. I think what I did was the humane thing to do but I took no pleasure in it. Two days later my dog ran under the wheels of my car and I ran over her. She was mortally injured and I put her out of her suffering. I've been thinking about life a lot now that these two lives are no longer a part of mine. The thing that bothers me most about the prospect of my own inevitable death is the effect it will have on loved ones who depend on me; not so much what will happen to my spirit or soul. I live to satisfy myself and part of my satisfaction comes from making others lives more satisfying to them. It's like the song verse:

 

"I wanna be happy, but I can't be happy till I make you happy too".

 

In some unspoken way both our dog and our horse seemed to want to make us happy and not having them here to enjoy that mutual satisfaction leaves a void in my life. I am not as satisfied as I was. I know that in time we will find others to fill the void but first we must grieve. I can't be happy making others unhappy and I can't be satisfied with revenge. Even Osama Bin Ladin must have had some redeeming graces. It is because of his religious fervor and inability to think rationally that he became involved in the 911 event and it is because of religious fervor that people see him as evil as he saw them. Is it possible that mutual hatred is satisfying to some people? Is it less satisfying to them not to look forward to the co-dependent hatred? Will his assassination leave a void in their daily lives or will they find another to hate as we look to find another to love?

 

I think we value our lives more than anything else, including the lives of others and I don't take any satisfaction from the death of another. Perhaps there might be a sense of relief in believing that a potential threat was removed from the mix of other potential threats that surround us but certainly not a feeling of satisfaction.

 

We get our information from the media that gets it from the government and we are expected to believe it is factual. This same media also gives us things to fear and the same government has been known to mislead us. They spread sensational news to scare us then they give us a small bit of relief. I think we have a sort of Stockholm syndrome as captives of the media. We essentially mistake a lack of bad news or fear from our captors as an act of kindness.

 

The tenants of Christianity and many other religions are that when we die our souls will either go to heaven or hell. I no longer have any reason to think that is the case. I think death is as important as birth and that if we understood death, as well as we understand birth, we might learn that death is a reward not a punishment.

 

just some of my monday morning musings.

 

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Getting back to the original question of assassination and Christianity,

 

This is one of those areas where idealism bumps up against realism .

 

In my mind assassination in the name of justice is murder pure and simple.

 

Assassination in order to save the lives of others ... it gets a bit murky

 

No where in the teachings of Jesus is there any indication that even this is ok? He never calls for the assassination of a ruler that is killing his subjects. This was what the Jews were looking for and why Jesus was so unconventional.

 

Realistically tho if ever there was an assassination that could be justified bin Laden would be on the list for consideration. Also realistically human kind has never been very good at making the distinction between justice and betterment of society so maybe it would be better to not even try?

 

steve

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To play Devil's Advocate here, in the OT, the Israelites rejoiced over the deaths of the Egyptians after they were killed to free them from slavery. In the little apocalypse in the gospels, Jesus taught the end of the world would happen within the lifetime of his apostles where God will cast the sinners into the outer darkness where the worm burns forever and the 12 apostles will rule the kingdom of God together with the Son of Man and apocalyptic Christianity has been a twisted sense of source and comfort for orthodox Christianity for centuries during times of persecution. While I agree the death of one's enemies shouldn't be celebrated, at the same time schadenfreude is apart of human nature and I can't be too judgmental of people rejoicing over the death of one of the most immoral men in history and I think we've all engaged in schadenfreude sometime in our life. We may not rejoice in the death of our enemies, but if we're honest with ourselves, how many of us have taken comfort in the thought "I sure am glad I'm in my nice warm room instead of out there in the rain like a poor person"? I hope the song is appropriate to post at TCPC so please forgive me if it's not, but I think the Avenue Q song Schadenfreude brings up some good points:

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It seems to me that only the ego can take pleasure in such acts. Whether it is justified or not is a matter for ones own conscience and the collective conscience of society at the time. It also seems to me that we all (perhaps there may be an exception to all) here, have incomplete knowledge of the Bin Laden situation and facts as we have only propaganda and the word of others to go on. Therefore it seems to me, at least for me, best to hold no position on that matter.

 

Joseph

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No where in the teachings of Jesus is there any indication that even this is ok? He never calls for the assassination of a ruler that is killing his subjects. This was what the Jews were looking for and why Jesus was so unconventional.

 

steve

 

One of the problems is that we don't have a complete discourse and examination of many of these issues with Jesus. It would have been nice to have a record of discussions of complex issues that we face in the real world with multiple rights and multiple wrongs. Did he really mean we should literally pluck out an offending eye? Would he have disapproved of violence used to defend a child when other means were impractical? Did he mean that loving one's enemies entails passively allowing genocide?

 

In Islam there are thousands of ahadith (sayings and actions of the Prophet) in which Muhammad was asked for details about all sorts of matters. It would be nice to have the records of Jesus' campfire discussions with his followers who must have asked for clarifications on many difficult issues.

 

I think the best we can do, if we consider Jesus authoritative on these issues, is to take what we have as guidelines and ideals to strive for, but recognize that in the real world the ideal is not always possible.

 

George

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For a thoughtful essay on why the assignation of bin Laden should not be confused with justice -

 

Is It "Justice"?The danger of confusing the death of Osama Bin Laden with an act of justice.By Thomas Nachbar

 

Thanks, that is an interesting essay. However, he didn't examine what I think some people mean when they say 'justice' is retribution or vengeance. If this act was considered justice because it achieved retribution, I would say this was not a just act. But, if we consider it a justified and necessary act because of all the circumstances (particularly the future murder of innocents), then, I think this assassination was justice.

 

George

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