Monday, July 1, 2013

In Holy Defense

Yes, you fucking dimwit, with a sword. Like you got in your hands right this moment.
Assuming you were in a position to have to do so, in holy defense of our most blessed Lord Christ Jesus...
How. Hard. Do. You. Think, to kill a man?
- Northlanders Vol Three, "Lindisfarne" Part 1
by Brian Wood and Dean Ormston

How hard would you have to swing a sword in order to kill a man? Have you ever thought about how much physical exertion it would require to slay another human being with a heavy piece of metal? I suppose now we can just use guns in holy defense of Christ Jesus. Pulling a trigger is much easier than swinging a sword.

But have you ever thought about having to commit such an act? Are you so devoted to Jesus, is your faith so sincere, that you are prepared to kill in Christ's name?

If so, then you are doing this Christianity thing completely wrong.

Nearly all branches of Christianity have been guilty of this at some point in history. We take the words of an outspoken pacifist and twist them until we are convinced we have to engage in violence to preserve his words.
"But I say to you, do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to the other also..." - Matthew 5:39 [NRSV]
 "You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you..." - Matthew 5:43-44 [NRSV]
It doesn't exactly sound like Jesus wanted us to raise up arms in his defense. And really, what could we possibly defend him from? This is the one who was tortured, crucified, and had his corpse sealed in a tomb for 3 days before rising again. And then later on he did that whole ascending into heaven bit. What could we, mere mortals, hope to do "in holy defense" of him? And what good would physical violence do to protect someone who has already defeated death?

Really, if we're violently defending Christ, we are actually doing no such thing. We are violently defending our own worldly well being and self interests. And who are we fighting anyway? The Crusades are long over and there is very little threat from Viking pillagers anymore. But more and more often church services feel to me like they devolve into a gathering for vitriolic speeches and xenophobic hate mongering. It's us versus them: the Muslims, the homosexuals, the liberals, etc.

And we must do everything we possibly can to drive them away.

Because that's what Jesus told us to do. "Condemn those who are different from you. Destroy them in anyway possible, be it politically, socially, or physically. You must defend me above all else."

Except Jesus did not tell us that. Instead he told us the opposite. He told us to love one another. Especially our perceived enemies. Especially those that are different from us. Loving the other is the hallmark of Christ's teaching, even though such love doesn't really make much sense. John D. Caputo refers to this love as "madness:"
The divinity that shows through Jesus consists not in a demonstration of might but in a complete reversal of our expectations culminating in the most stunning reversal of all. It is the centerpiece of all this madness, the one that makes as little sense as possible from the point of view of worldly common sense, the most divine madness of all: love your enemies. The key to the kingdom is to love those who do not love you, who hate you, and whom you, by worldly standards, should also hate. That is exactly the madness that a deconstructive analysis of love would predict. Loving the lovable is entirely possible, but loving the unlovable, those who are impossible to love, that is when the kingdom reigns.*
Who are we defending Christ from? In my view, the most vicious attacks on Christ and Christianity come from Christians who, instead of loving their enemies and loving the other, exert their energies mounting adversarial campaigns filled with rhetoric of spite and hate against the other in the name of Christ.

*John D. Caputo. What Would Jesus Deconstruct?: The Good News of Postmodernism for the Church (Kindle Locations 1001-1005). Kindle Edition.

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