Saturday, 18 October 2008

opinions and views

Roderick Strange wrote for The Times that We have been beguiled and betrayed by Mammon.

The economy may be in crisis, but there is a wealth of social capital at our disposal, says Pete Tobias in Face to Faith.

Christopher Howse wrote in the Telegraph about The survival of England’s Syon.

Giles Fraser’s column in the Church Times is about The fantasy of easy killing.

Simon Barrow wrote for Ekklesia about Seeking to build a just economy.

George Packer in the New Yorker had a very interesting article about the disaffection of Ohio’s working class. See The Working Vote. It turns out that Andrew Brown also read it, and he comments at Poverty and the sexual marketplace.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Saturday, 18 October 2008 at 6:14pm BST | TrackBack
You can make a Permalink to this if you like
Categorised as: Opinion
Comments

The thing I liked about Fraser and Barrows' articles is that they invite us to look beyond the surface of things.

Both rightly comment that which is made manifest is merely a symptom of what is thought. Fraser's article reminds us that there is a legacy of the consequences of bad teaching (e.g. dissassociated assassination training in the military but then being asked to go back into the community "normal" and "healthy")

I loved Barrow's comment "Many would suggest that serious political thinking about the economy is not harmed by divergence but by too cosy a consensus, formed around the comforting pieties of ubiquitous pro-market rhetoric." Precisely. Not that there haven't been some who have tried to look beyond the paradigms (e.g. Lester Thurow), it's just that souls were so complacent that their current paradigms worked that they didn't really consider the alternatives.

Nationalising the banks to solve the problems now is really funny. In the 1990s they sold off the banks to avert economic disaster when state banks went belly up - another example of merely delaying the crunch time and who picks up the liability - rather than dealing with the underlying dynamics which cause either kind of crisis.

Posted by: Cheryl Va. on Saturday, 18 October 2008 at 8:34pm BST

Giles Fraser does 007 an injustice. Well, at least the 007 of Ian Fleming's novels. That James Bond, while far grittier than those who play him in the movies, doesn't find killing quite as easy as they.

Posted by: BillyD on Saturday, 18 October 2008 at 10:17pm BST

Giles does the British Army an injustice too. A great deal of training goes into helping soldiers to understand and work with rules of engagement appropriate to every situation they might find themselves in. Clearly there has to be a movable response according to the danger of the situation:

Weapons Hold - weapons may only be fired in self-defence, or in response to a legal formal order.

Weapons Tight - weapons may only be fired in self-defence, or in response to a legal formal order, or at targets positively recognized and confirmed as hostile.

Weapons Free - weapons may be fired at any target not positively recognized as friendly.

Weapons Unlimited - it moves, it dies.

I would suggest that soldiers rarely get into the 'weapons unlimited' situation and when they do, in the heat of an extreme 'contact' with the enemy, fear is the driver. At all other times soldiers are actively taught to use appropriate measured force, up to and including lethal force, only when their own lives, or the lives of others they are responsible for (civilians or POWs).

The British Army no longer seeks to turn soldiers (even 'grunts') into unthinking killing machines whose job is not to reason why but to do and die (sorry Tennyson). All soldiers are trained to think critically, evaluate carefully and act morally. Repetition in training is actually aimed at keeping soldiers in a restrained critically thinking and morally acting mode even in extreme situations.

Psychopaths are not normally given jobs nor are they steered into the Special Forces or Intelligence Services - they are usually discharged as unfit for service.

Perhaps Giles could actually go and find out what actually happens in British Army training and on the battlefield before penning such fantastic nonsense! I'm sure some of his colleagues who work as Chaplains in the Army would help him out.

The reasons soldiers find rehabilitation into 'civvy street' difficult lie elsewhere.

Posted by: andrew holden on Sunday, 19 October 2008 at 9:12am BST

Andrew

Thanks for sharing that. It corroborates with some anecdotal testimony I had heard from Australia.

One thing that both the English and Australian military have worked on is morality in combat, being aware that the conduct of the soldiers (both on and off the fields) affects both its military and nations' reputations.

The screening and culling of sociopaths is excellent. Perhaps that is why we are "surprised" to see some local citizens recruited by international scoundrels. Unable to satisfy their bloodlust through established circles, they move into more feral ground.

It would be nice to be reassured that this standard of conduct is being applied internationally.

Posted by: Cheryl Va. on Sunday, 19 October 2008 at 1:13pm BST

Andrew,

I did not suggest that the army turns its soldiers into unthinking killing machines. Indeed, I know that the army wants its soldiers to think morally as you say. Actually, I am partly responsible for delivering some of the training on this at the army leadership course at Shrivenham. (I also come from a military family and passed RCB for the Royal Green Jackets when I was 20) So I was less than happy about your patronising tone about going and finding out what training they get. I do it. And less than happy about being interpreted as having a go at the army. In an age of so much human selfishness, I think the selfless dedication of so many who serve in our armed forces is hugely inspiring.

So tell me, precisely what was it that you objected to about what I said? I suspect I wasn't saying what you think I was. The book all this was taken from was sent me by a senior officer in British army training who thought that its findings ought be be added to my ethics lectures to the army. His point - the point of a West Point psychology prof. and former US Ranger - was that killing is much much harder than most people imagine and that it takes a certain training to overcome this natural resitance.

Part of the problem may be that you associate psychopaths with some sort of bloodlust. Of course, those with some sort of need for blood are easily found out and kicked out. I have found none of these in the army. But they are not the psychopaths. Rather psychopaths are people who are just emotionally unaffected by killing. The are very few - some 2%. These are the one who find it easy. The point being that 98% find killing much more difficult and a great deal more stressful than most of us think. Which is why the degree of long term mental illness amongst those who have to kill is so much greater than those who work on the battlefield, in equally dangerous jobs, but don't kill. i.e. medics. There is much evidence of this sort. It demonstrates that it is not the fear of being killed that is responsible for long term mental illness, but the having to kill. And that may have to do with the consequences of overcoming this 'natural resistance'

You call this stuff "fantastic nonsense". I am simply telling you what a lot of the army itself believes.

Posted by: Giles Fraser on Sunday, 19 October 2008 at 4:10pm BST

"rules of engagement"

Ah, yes. We go out and take the lives of others because the State tells us that it's OK, and it's justified because we have a set of "rules" that tell us how to lawfully take from others the life God gave them. So, contravening "Thou shalt not kill" is OK as long as we do it by the rules. Right. Now, about that whole "just war" thing......

"soldiers are actively taught to use appropriate measured force, up to and including lethal force, only when their own lives, or the lives of others they are responsible for (civilians or POWs)."

Of course, in many situations, these lives wouldn't be in danger in the first place if there were no soldiers on the other side to be a threat, and there probably wouldn't be soldiers on the other side if there weren't soldiers on our side in the first place. Look, I know war is a necessity in the world, I know any State needs an army. That's why I'm opposed to any Christian involvement with the State. War is not acceptable to a Christian in any circumstances, period. I don't care that the Church compromised away this basic principle 1700 years ago in trade for the State's protection. If we HAVE to be involved in this, the least we could do is admit the shameful betrayal of the Gospel entailed in it, and not seek to justify it or excuse it, much less glorify it. This is not about disrespect for soldiers, either. They endure things few can imagine, all because they have been sold a bill of goods about how "honourable" it is to die for their country. It isn't honourable, it's a waste, and unutterably sinful to require them to go through that. I think that, far from a blessing of military forces, the Church should hold liturgies in which soldiers ask forgiveness for what the are about to do and implore God for the strength to get through the horrors they will have to endure as a result of the Church's shameful complicity with the State that has now placed them in a position of having to lay their lives on the line, and the psyches as well, for some worldly ideals that have little if anything to do with the Gospel.

Posted by: Ford Elms on Sunday, 19 October 2008 at 6:02pm BST

Giles, thanks for the clarification - and apologies for my over-reaction (and indeed the tone) to what I thought you were saying, ie that the Army conditions men to kill without thought. I think the problem paragraph was this one:

"training in the army involves repetition, doing the same thing again and again, so that you come not to think about it. The soldier fires just as Pavlov’s dogs drool. This form of conditioning can significantly increase firing rates — as can the enhancement of denial defence mechanisms: soldiers do not shoot people, they shoot targets."

Even after your clarification this still seems to be saying that the army is training soldiers to kill with a conditioned and thoughtless reaction. I appreciate that most soldiers don't like killing and also that there is a resistance to killing which they must overcome on the battlefield which is why so much consideration is given to the moral component. Apart from in extreme battle situations the aim of training is not to increase firing rates but to increase the effectiveness of fire. Troops who are 'in control' and certain that their cause is right are far more effective than those just 'blatting off' at anything that moves.

Anyway, good to hear that you actually are on side for the British Army and helping with training at the Staff College, they don't get a great deal of support from clergy generally, other than from their own chaplains - which may explain, though not excuse, my assumption that you were having a go.

Posted by: andrew holden on Sunday, 19 October 2008 at 7:11pm BST

Ford
"War is not acceptable to a Christian in any circumstances, period"

Where does that leave Bonhoeffer and the Confessing Church in Germany during WWII?

And where does it leave all those who fought so hard to end this reign of terror?

Posted by: Erika Baker on Monday, 20 October 2008 at 7:39am BST

Andrew,

Thanks for that. Hostilities ended.

Still, I am not sure I agree with the role you ascribe to the 'moral component'. And of course, I agree its all about effective fire. But that, obviously, involves soldiers willing to aim at the enemy. Which means that there is not place for de facto conscientious objectors - of which Marshall suggests there have been a great many. The moral component can do only so much here. And there is no role for anxious moral self-examination in the middle of a fire fight. We need soldiers who are trained and prepared to kill the enemy. What I was suggesting is that modern training techniques that enable more to do this, as developed by psychologists, involves, amongst other things, the use of repetition and desensitisation. And that this does have serious long term emotional/psychological consequences.

The really worrying thing is the way these techniques are replicated in contemporary culture - especially video games - where there is little moral component at all. Which may explain how it is that so many young people in London and elsewhere are able to overcome this deep resistance to killing and all too readily stick a knife in other kids.

Posted by: Giles Fraser on Monday, 20 October 2008 at 8:46am BST

"Where does that leave Bonhoeffer and the Confessing Church in Germany during WWII?

And where does it leave all those who fought so hard to end this reign of terror?"

In a place where we have to endure the inevitable results of our compromise of the Gospel 1700 years ago. WWII actually is a big conundrum for me. If manifest evil behaves violently, how do we oppose it? I guess I am an idealist, and Bonhoffer was more of a realist, maybe? I simply would not able to reconcile killing somebody with the Gospel, end of story. So, what do I do when the only way to save someone's life, or the lives of innumerable people, is to take someone else's? I honestly don't have an answer. But I am very leary of justifications of it. Can we have effective restrictions on how one goes about committing necessary sin? Because, while I am willing to acknowledge that war is at times necessary, I cannot ever see it as not sinful. Justify the taking of a life to save another, and you have not only justified war, you have also justified the bombing of abortion clinics. I do feel though, that the Church's complicity with the State for the past 1700 years has been a huge factor in this.

Posted by: Ford Elms on Monday, 20 October 2008 at 1:35pm BST

"That's why I'm opposed to any Christian involvement with the State."

Thereby reducing Christians to parasites living off of the State. Sorry, but if we want the benefits of the State (which includes things like police services and protection from folks who want to kill you) then we have to get our hands dirty.

Posted by: BillyD on Monday, 20 October 2008 at 3:50pm BST

Ford
"I honestly don't have an answer"

I prefer that to your earlier absolute statement.
I'm very idealistic too, but there is a danger that we deny the reality we live in and refuse to take our moral responsibilities seriously, simply opting out.
I'm not saying that's what you're doing, but I do see it as a principal danger of any idealism.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Monday, 20 October 2008 at 4:26pm BST

In USA the unintended - or at least possibly downplayed? - consequence of training to kill is that more than a hundred returned vets from, say, Iraq or Afghanistan have subsequently gone on killin sprees back home. Out of the population of returned soldiers from combat venues, this is such a small number as to be just the sort of statistical minority data which often gets ignored or talked away in majority situations.

See for example: http://www.cnn.com/2008/CRIME/10/19/soldiers.slayings.ap/index.html#cnnSTCText

However, the USA Armed Forces are concerned and studying it - procedurally if nothing else. Ditto for the markedly increased numbers of returned combat vets from Iraq or Afghanistan who end up harming themselves.

See for example: http://www.cnn.com/2008/US/02/01/military.suicides/index.html

Perhaps both of these grim data blips are telling us that overcoming the innate human resistance to killing has short- and long-term consequences for adult/young adult human development which we do not fairly understand, and in healing of which damages we are ill prepared to serve those we train to kill.

This theme has implications for the so-called Just War Theory in ethics and theologies, too. Even if a soldier succeeds in a killing mission, survives, the hidden impact of overcoming the inhibition in general and of particular successful kill-ratios can still obtain, no?

Alas. Lord have mercy.

Posted by: drdanfee on Monday, 20 October 2008 at 7:13pm BST

Ford has it spot right. Perhaps folk will remember the following passage from the "Apostolic Tradition" of Hippolytus (Rome: ca. 215 AD - probably representing an even earlier tradition):

He writes about those who are to be refused baptism: “The catechumen or faithful who wants to become a soldier is to be rejected, for he has despised God.”

Wherever we may find ourselves on the moral map today, we certainly cannot claim it as part of that famous "faith once delivered". The real sorrow (which I share with Ford) is that we don't approach war as the gritty, awful, moral compromise it is, but as something of great "honor" and "nobility".

Posted by: John-Julian, OJN on Monday, 20 October 2008 at 9:35pm BST

John-Julian
"The real sorrow (which I share with Ford) is that we don't approach war as the gritty, awful, moral compromise it is, but as something of great "honor" and "nobility".

Who is "we"?

Posted by: Erika Baker on Tuesday, 21 October 2008 at 8:29am BST

BillyD,

"Thereby reducing Christians to parasites living off of the State."

Parasites in what sense? I am a strong believer in the separation of Church and State. I'm not even sure we should have tax exempt status. The earliest Christians weren't in any way allied to the State. Were they parasites? While I wouldn't want to see the persecutions of those times return, we can't forget that there have been more Christian martyrs in this century than in any previous one, so perhaps our alliance with the State has not been such a benefit to us in this century as in times past. It's this aspect of Orthodoxy that I have the most trouble with, the glorification of the Church as Imperial religion.

Erika,

"I'm not saying that's what you're doing"

But you may well be right for all that. I see our involvement with the State as having caused us innumerable problems over the centuries, and I think that many of our troubles at present can be linked in one way or another to the idea that we seem to have imbibed that we somehow have a right to dictate to society, through our position of power with the State, how society will behave. Well, we can think that if we like, but society more and more is telling us to shag off, and they have a point, considering how our leaders have abused their not inconsiderable power in the past. All the same, it is pretty easy to use this attitude to avoid having to deal with complex issues.

Posted by: Ford Elms on Tuesday, 21 October 2008 at 12:19pm BST

Sorry, that should be "the previous century".

Posted by: Ford Elms on Tuesday, 21 October 2008 at 12:56pm BST

"I'm not even sure we should have tax exempt status."

Well, that's one area we agree on, at least.

"The earliest Christians weren't in any way allied to the State. Were they parasites?"

Putting aside the fact that what you have presented is a bit of an oversimplification of the situation in the early Church, yes, in some cases they were parasites.. I don't subscribe to the idea that earlier is necessarily better.

"While I wouldn't want to see the persecutions of those times return, we can't forget that there have been more Christian martyrs in this century than in any previous one, so perhaps our alliance with the State has not been such a benefit to us in this century as in times past."

Sounds as if the past century really sucked up in Canada, Ford. Down here in the States we've had a breather from State sponsored persecution for the past 200 years or so. (Sorry to be so flip, but the places where there have been the most Christian martyrs would seem to be specifically where there is not an overabundance of Christians serving in the government.)

Posted by: BillyD on Tuesday, 21 October 2008 at 1:05pm BST

"Ford has it spot right. Perhaps folk will remember the following passage from the "Apostolic Tradition" of Hippolytus (Rome: ca. 215 AD - probably representing an even earlier tradition)..."

As a gay man in favor of women's ordination to the priesthood and the episcopate, I have learned to take some early Christian traditions cum granis salis. I certainly do not think that they are the end-all and be-all of doctrine and praxis.


Posted by: BillyD on Tuesday, 21 October 2008 at 3:19pm BST

"But you may well be right for all that."

Ford, if you think that Christians should opt out, I hope you will have the strength of your convictions and completely remove yourself from the contaminating influence of State participation. Stopping tax payment, refusing military service, and refraining from voting are good first steps, but not enough - it still leaves you benefiting from the work of other people who act as your agents (in your case, the members of the Canadian Forces, inter alia). You need to go somewhere where there's no possibility that anyone will keep you safe by the use of force. A failed state like Somalia or a lawless region like Waziristan is probably a good pick (no danger of having to serve the evil State there, because there effectively no State). Don't forget to burn your passport once you get there.

Posted by: BillyD on Tuesday, 21 October 2008 at 3:36pm BST

The realist/idealist language may help. Christians have always had two options when it comes to the state. The first option is withdrawal and separation - to come out and be holy. The second option is to 'work for the good of the city' in which we find ourselves. There has always been a degree of conflict and compromise between these two positions but in all probablity they need each other - at least this side of the parousia.

It is good that the idealists remain stubbornly committed to non-violence. They remind us that there will come a day when spears will be beaten into pruning hooks and nations will train for war no more. It is also good that the realists are there to face the issue that that the day of the ultimate triumph of the Kingdom of God is not yet and until then there will continue to be wars and rumours of wars. Christians, unless they become a very small minority, will continue to be engaged in the mechanisms of state power and that includes the military. These people need support and guidance to help them behave in as just a fashion as is possible in what is, at least in a civilized nation, an honourable profession that seeks to be a 'force for good in the world' - that's actually one of the stated purposes of the British Military and, I'm certain, one shared by the military forces of other nations! What are we going to say to Christian soldiers? Leave your job? Do we really think the military would be morally improved by the withdrawal of their christian witness and influence?

Both of the options, not just the non-violent/pacifist one, are fully represented in both the tradition of the church AND the scriptures - so we really need to try to be fair to both rather than simplisticly labelling the advocates of one as unfaithful to the gospel or the proponents of the other as parasites on the human project of civilization.

Posted by: andrew holden on Tuesday, 21 October 2008 at 3:46pm BST

“The catechumen or faithful who wants to become a soldier is to be rejected, for he has despised God.”

It's a slight tangent, but it doesn't hurt to be reminded that there are some churches that puport if you refused to be baptised by them (or a church/priest of which they acknowledge) you have despised God.

There is a big difference between refusing baptism/confirmation/communion with a church and/or priesthood that you despise and rejecting God.

In fact, the souls who reject communion etc. are often closer to God, because they have rejected that which brings dishonor to God.

Malachi 1:10-11 "“Oh, that one of you would shut the temple doors, so that you would not light useless fires on my altar! I am not pleased with you,” says the LORD Almighty, “and I will accept no offering from your hands. My name will be great among the nations, from the rising to the setting of the sun."

Posted by: Cheryl Va. on Tuesday, 21 October 2008 at 9:10pm BST

Thanks, Giles, for your article. I found it very interesting, and the comments here have been very thought provoking.

I have just one small -- but I hope worthwhile! -- point to add to the discussion of the one-liner from Hippolytus. Don't forget that soldiery in his time involved submitting to the cult of the Emperor, and the army inducted soldiers into the mysteries of the military religion. I believe this is what Hippolytus means when he says that a catechumen be refused baptism or a member of the faithful be removed if he becomes a soldier. To be, or aspire to be, a soldier was to be the adherent of another religion altogether. It was another type of apostasy.

Posted by: kieran crichton on Tuesday, 21 October 2008 at 11:45pm BST

"To be, or aspire to be, a soldier was to be the adherent of another religion altogether. It was another type of apostasy."

I believe the word conservatives use for this kind of justificatory argument is "fudge". Explain to me how, if the seven passages that appear to condemn homosexuality have to be taken as is, with no qualifications whatsoever, there seems to be no problem at all with rewriting one of the Ten Commandments, which conservatives continually sarcastically remind us are commandments, not suggestions, to read "Thou shalt not kill unless the State tells you to"?

Posted by: Ford Elms on Wednesday, 22 October 2008 at 2:03pm BST

"Ford, if you think that Christians should opt out, I hope you will have the strength of your convictions and completely remove yourself from the contaminating influence of State participation."

There is no need to be so simplistic. We live in society, so we have to take part in it as far as we can. But the Gospel comes first over secular law. I do think some things are absolute, like not taking from people the life God gave them, for instance. But it need not mean that, in order to be a Christian we must withdraw from the world. In fact, the NT says the exact opposite. What we are discussing is how can be "in the world but not of the world".

"Sorry to be so flip, but the places where there have been the most Christian martyrs would seem to be specifically where there is not an overabundance of Christians serving in the government."

And what about the places where there WERE/ARE an overabundance of Christians serving in government? The record isn't all that great. My God, we're North Americans, we don't have to look very far to see how the involvement of the Church with the State has served some very unChristian ends. As to you in the US being protected from government persecution, maybe, but not protected from government in general, unless you consider IRD to be a benevalent force.

Posted by: Ford Elms on Wednesday, 22 October 2008 at 2:54pm BST

"Explain to me how, if the seven passages that appear to condemn homosexuality have to be taken as is, with no qualifications whatsoever, there seems to be no problem at all with rewriting one of the Ten Commandments, which conservatives continually sarcastically remind us are commandments, not suggestions, to read "Thou shalt not kill unless the State tells you to"?"

Oh, dear. You seem to be misreading the Bible here, using as a defense the fact that conservatives do it, too.

The commandment in question doesn't say "Thou shalt not kill." Except, of course, in translation. What it says is "Lo tirtzach." The verb ratzach is usually used for the action that we translate as "murder." It is not a categorical prohibition against ever killing another living thing, or even another human being. It *couldn't* be, since the Bible also lists circumstances when killing another is appropriate (e.g. prescribing the death penalty for, among other offenses, murder). Jewish commentators don't seem ever to have taken this commandment as a warrant for pacifism.

Posted by: BillyD on Wednesday, 22 October 2008 at 7:41pm BST

"There is no need to be so simplistic."

You say simplistic, I say consistent.

"We live in society, so we have to take part in it as far as we can. But the Gospel comes first over secular law. I do think some things are absolute, like not taking from people the life God gave them, for instance."

But paying others to do the killing for you and standing aside to let it be done is okay? The only way that this society we live in is possible is because of the application of force by the State. This is as true on a local level as on a national level.

Sorry, but it really does seem that it's not killing you have a problem with so much as not getting your own hands dirty doing it. You certainly seem comfortable reaping the benefits of the killing, which include not being murdered in your bed by thieves. It includes being able to call someone willing to use that State force - the police - if someone does try to do you mischief.

Posted by: BillyD on Wednesday, 22 October 2008 at 7:53pm BST

"But paying others to do the killing for you and standing aside to let it be done is okay?"

As a citizen, you pay taxes to the State to fund what the State, according to the democratically expressed wishes of the people, wants to do. I am one voice. I do not believe it is right, as a citizen, to withhold taxes because the majority of society wants to do something I personally think is wrong. I can, and do, protest, what else is there? Come on, one person can't usually stop a war, nor abolish an army. As you rightly point out, the society we live in requires an army. I just don't believe it's right for Christians to be members of it. And, no, the Canadian soldiers right now dying in Afghanistan are not killing and dying in my name, as you well know. They are giving their lives in an attempt, that would be over by now if Europeans and Americans stood up to the plate I might add, to clean up an international mess caused in no small part by the foreign policy of governments democratically elected, and thus one assumes supported, by the American people. So, my tax dollars aren't so much being spent to do my dirty work for me as they are to do your dirty work for you. Maybe it's because our political attitudes north of the 49th developed differently from those south of it. Maybe it comes along with the realization that throwing it into salt water is not a very good way to make tea:-) My government also gives funding, some of which comes from my tax dollars, to a political party that chose as its leader someone who took an active role in disseminating a near 40 year campaign of slander, lies, and propaganda against my own people. I'm not happy about that either, but I am only one of millions of Canadians, and it isn't all about me. I can pubically oppose her, and have, but that's my only recourse.

"The only way that this society we live in is possible is because of the application of force by the State."

And you don't see this as an argument for less involvement by the Church with the State? What said Crysostom about the use of force by Christians?

Posted by: Ford Elms on Thursday, 23 October 2008 at 2:51pm BST

"I am one voice. I do not believe it is right, as a citizen, to withhold taxes because the majority of society wants to do something I personally think is wrong. "

Really? So if the rest of society wanted to, say, put Jews or gays in concentration camps you'd foot the bill for it? If killing is so wrong that in all cases that Christians shouldn't have anything to do with the government (which you asserted far up this thread), surely it's wrong enough for you to take concrete steps against it. If they ever haul me off to the camps, I hope you'll do something besides write a strongly worded letter to the editor.

I mentioned the police for a reason, Ford. When a crime is committed against you, do you report it to the police? Would you expect someone who harmed you or a loved one to be brought before a court of law?

Posted by: BillyD on Thursday, 23 October 2008 at 5:11pm BST

"What said Crysostom about the use of force by Christians?"

I had to look it up, because I was only aware of what Chrysostom said about Jews and gay people. Now that I know, I suppose my reaction is, "So what?" I find him a very uncertain moral guide.

Posted by: BillyD on Thursday, 23 October 2008 at 5:45pm BST

"So if the rest of society wanted to, say, put Jews or gays in concentration camps you'd foot the bill for it?"

BillyD, I really don't think that my admittedly high tax payments, higher than I would pay in your country by many percentage points, is sufficient to "foot the bill" for much the state wants to do. I'm not so grandiose about the effect my tax payments have on the effective running of the Canadian State, nor the effect of my four yearly 'X'. And there's no reason to go to extremes here. I doubt even Steven Harper wants to gas Jews, or even gays for that matter. My taxes also "foot the bill" for a health care system and social services network that, for all their faults, are better than anything in certain neighbouring countries, so a little bit of balance might be in order here.

"That's why I'm opposed to any Christian involvement with the State."

In this I was unclear. I meant involvement on the lines of being a State Church, not withdrawing from society altogether. Sorry to have given that impression.

"If they ever haul me off to the camps, I hope you'll do something besides write a strongly worded letter to the editor."

I surely will, as I hope you would do for me. I'd even demand to be taken in your place, which would likely mean the both of us going together all the same.

"Would you expect someone who harmed you or a loved one to be brought before a court of law?"

Yes, since the State mandates the punishment of criminals under its own laws. I, though, as a Christian, am commanded to forgive that person and not seek vengeance. I think that also requires me to intercede on said person's behalf, actually.

Again, what we are discussing here is how Christians can be in the world but not of the world. That, for me, means not being some kind of State Church, speaking against State actions that contravene the Gospel, and taking what measures are within our ability to take to prevent atrocities by the State. And not killing people.

Posted by: Ford Elms on Thursday, 23 October 2008 at 8:16pm BST

"Of course, in many situations, these lives wouldn't be in danger in the first place if there were no soldiers on the other side to be a threat, and there probably wouldn't be soldiers on the other side if there weren't soldiers on our side in the first place. Look, I know war is a necessity in the world, I know any State needs an army. That's why I'm opposed to any Christian involvement with the State.War is not acceptable to a Christian in any circumstances, period."

That was an argument against State Churches?

Posted by: BillyD on Friday, 24 October 2008 at 12:52am BST

"As you rightly point out, the society we live in requires an army. I just don't believe it's right for Christians to be members of it." -
Ford Elms, in response to BillyD, on Thursday 23.

I suppose, Ford, that if we choose to live in a particular society - USA or Canada, say - that 'requires an army', perhaps we have a civic duty of support for that army, which is there to protect us. And I feel it may not be right to say that no Christian should be a member of the armed forces. There are women and men who risk their lives today in supporting roles, who do not actually bear arms. Would you say that they should avoid this work of service?

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Friday, 24 October 2008 at 9:06am BST

"That was an argument against State Churches?"

One argument. I think it shows how the Imperial church model, however necessary it may have been in the fourth century, has led us to compromise the Gospel.

"Would you say that they should avoid this work of service?"

Possibly not, BIllyD will call me on the idea that any support at all for the military is complicity with it, since my taxes in some sense support it, and he has a point. I'm not, despite the extreme absolutism of my earlier, overstated, comments, trying to say this is an easy thing. What I'm saying is that 1700 years ago we adopted a model of Church that might have served a very important purpose at the time, but has led us to some significant compromises of the Gospel, and in many instances had made us complicit with atrocities, even genocide. It's still going on. I think we need, as Church, to reconsider our assumptions from the point of view that our previous position of privelege within Western society has:
a) led us to compromise the Gospel
b) come to an end.

Society doesn't want Christianity to be its moral arbiter any more. The Church HAS been complicit in great evil, society knows it quite clearly, that's what happens when you teach people history, and either only sees that complicity, or sees it as negating anything good the Church has done. On a game show on BBC a few years ago one of the questions was something on the lines of "Who is seen as the natural enemy of homosexuals?" The answer was 'Christians'. It was striking that the announcer said, "Well, yes, but that's not the answer we're looking for." This is where our too close involvement with the State has led us, people now believe that the Gospel of liberation is actually an instrument of oppression, and they have evidence.

Posted by: Ford Elms on Friday, 24 October 2008 at 12:37pm BST
Post a comment









Remember personal info?

Please note that comments are limited to 400 words. Comments that are longer than 400 words will not be approved.

Cookies are used to remember your personal information between visits to the site. This information is stored on your computer and used to refill the text boxes on your next visit. Any cookie is deleted if you select 'No'. By ticking 'Yes' you agree to this use of a cookie by this site. No third-party cookies are used, and cookies are not used for analytical, advertising, or other purposes.