Archive for the ‘Violence’ Tag

Mutuality and Freedom   2 comments


I recall telling my university students that many bastards exist, but that the marital status of the parents has nothing to do with one’s status as a bastard.  Being a bastard is solely a matter of bad character.

By the way, I reject the notion that anyone is illegitimate; my Christian ethics dictate that position.  Now that I have addressed that matter, I return to my topic.

Biblical Ethics 101:  Mutuality is part of the infrastructure of the Law of Moses, the teachings of Hebrew prophets, the theology of Jesus of Nazareth, the epistles of St. Paul the Apostle, and those attributed to that great evangelist.  Biblical Mutuality teaches that, in community, human beings stand together, completely dependent upon God.  It also holds that we are all responsible to and for each other.  Whatever we do, we affect others.  Nobody has the moral right to exploit or otherwise victimize anyone else.  The community has no moral right to oppress individuals who are harming nobody, and no individual has the moral right to endanger the community.  In other words, we are all in it together.

No freedom is absolute.  I have no constitutional or legal right, for example, to commit libel, slander anyone, or incite violence.  If I were to do so, I would engage in illegal speech.  Given my dedication to objective reality, I will never commit libel or slander, of course.  Given my aversion to violence, I will never incite violence, either.  I do have a moral obligation to resist calls to violence, though.  Unfortunately, that can be illegal, depending on the time and the place.  When governments incite violence, pacifists and conscientious objectors may become enemies of the state.  Ask the Quakers and the Anabaptists, O reader.  This weblog’s Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days includes pacifists and conscientious objectors who died as martyrs, sometimes in the United States of America.  “I will not kill,” is a morally defensible position.

As I wrote, the state has no moral right to target, detain, or prosecute individuals who are harming nobody.

However, the state has the moral right to protect the common good.  This frequently entails making the lives of individuals who are harming others rather uncomfortable.  This official process may, according to some, infringe upon freedoms.  But which freedoms may these be?  May these be the alleged freedoms to be irresponsible.

Nobody has the moral right to be a contemporary Typhoid Mary.  Universities and other institutions have the moral right in mandate certain vaccinations, for the common good.  If I could trust human nature, I would oppose vaccination mandates, especially during this pandemic.  I distrust human nature, though.  Official compulsion is necessary much of the time, for the common good, sadly.

I read that certain people refuse to wear masks and get vaccinated against COVID-19.  Many of these bastards cite their freedom.  Which freedom is this?  Is it the freedom to be a latter-day Typhoid Mary?  Is it the freedom to die horribly and leave a large medical debt?

Will Campbell (1924-2013), a renegade Southern Baptist minister, said:

We’re all bastards, but God loves us anyway.

We may all be bastards, to one extent or another, but each one of us can, by the combination of divine grace and human free will, be a bastard to a lesser extent.  In the context of COVID-19, each of us can wear a mask when that is appropriate, get fully-vaccinated (if that is possible and medically advisable, given factors such as age), and maintain proper distances.  Each of us can behave in a morally responsible manner, within circumstances.  We can look out for each other and save lives.  The lives one saves may even include one’s own.

Some people are relentlessly selfish, of course.  They look out for themselves, not others.  This is unfortunate yet true.  Selfishness should lead even these individuals to behave responsibly.  Do they want to die or suffer horribly?

May we look out for each other.  Assuming that we are bastards, may we avoid using that status as an excuse.  May we strive instead to be better people.




To Be Clear   Leave a comment

Shalom in Hebrew

Above:  Shalom in Hebrew

Image in the Public Domain


Injustice anywhere is injustice everywhere.

–The Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr., at the Riverside Church, New York, New York, April 4, 1967


To be clear, I stand, without reservation, against police brutality, systemic racism, individual racism, the militarization of police forces, needless violence, and all excuses that cover up for not opposing and correcting these offenses against human dignity.  I also oppose all political dog whistles (mainly, appeals to law and order) that distract while they favor unjust order over social justice.  Furthermore, I oppose the use of force against peaceful protesters.  That unjust, oppressive, and repressive law-and-order “desert called peace” (as Tacitus referred to the Pax Romana) is NOT shalom.  It is not, in civil rights terms, beloved community.

I also understand that institutions infected with injustice change only when people force them to do so.  Society is people.  It shapes its members, who have the power to change it.

I favor a just social order.  I favor wise and necessary systemic reform.  I favor spiritual renewal, which must go hand-in-hand with the first two points.  I recognize that sin, guilt, reward, and punishment are both individual and collective.

I, as a self-respecting white liberal, also refuse to tell my brothers and sisters of color how they should feel regarding any matter related to racism.  I do not know how they feel.  I have not experienced what have experience and continue to experience.  I refuse to lecture them.  Instead, I listen to them and learn from them.  I respect them so much that I refuse to do otherwise.




This is post #2100 of SUNDRY THOUGHTS.


Deplorables   4 comments

Then [Jesus] called the crowd to him and said to them, “Listen and understand:  it not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but it is what comes out of the mouth that defiles.”

–Matthew 15:10-11, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)


If Jesus were speaking today, he would include websites and social media in that statement.

I used to be a news junkie.  In the middle and late 1980s, I could recognize the names of most of the United States Senators.  In 2015 and 2016, however, I began to choose being sane over being thoroughly informed.  I also decided to tend to my spiritual life more; certain public figures were bad for it, increasing exponentially my use of profanities (in private, under my breath, of course).  I did not grow up using that kind of language routinely.

I have been monitoring the news during the last few days and becoming more horrified with each passing day.  The news stories from Charlottesville, Virginia, and now from Spain have not ceased to develop, but I have collected enough information to make a few informed and moral statements.

Racism is a sin, one that I learned by societal osmosis.  Fortunately, my parents raised me well, to reject racism.

Whenever the sin of racism raises its ugly head in my thoughts (which is to say, often), I reject it and take it to God in confessional mode.  I make no excuses for racism in myself or anyone else.  Related to that ethic, I reject all biases directed at people–on the basis of religion, sexual orientation, national origin, ethnicity, gender, et cetera.  Each of us bears the image of God, and therefore carries inherent dignity.  This is a morally consistent position, regardless of the mixed political labels attached to it.

Furthermore, I condemn almost all violence, for most of it is unnecessary and morally wrong.  I do understand defense of oneself and others, however.  Human nature is flawed and the world is imperfect, after all.  Certainly I condemn the violence of the racist thugs at Charlottesville last Saturday and the terrorists in Spain yesterday.  I do so without any hesitation and backtracking.  The political causes differ, but the problem of violent radicalization is the same.  The reality of the killing and injuring of innocent people is also consistent, as is the use of vehicles as deadly weapons.

Contrary to the unscripted words of the increasingly politically isolated inhabitant of the White House, he who has professed to care about getting facts straight then who, in the wake of the attacks in Spain, has tweeted a lie about General John J. Pershing killing Muslims with bullets dipped in the blood of pigs, there was no moral equivalence between Klansmen and neo-Nazis on one side and anti-racist protesters on the other.  One of the chants of the violent racists at Charlottesville was

The Jews will not replace us.

How could there, in Trump’s words, have been

very fine people

on both sides?  This week Trump seems to have prompted many prominent Republicans in Congress to do what I had thought impossible:  grow spines.  True, based on news reports, the Vice President, based on his public comments, seems to remain an invertebrate, but the list of prominent Republican vertebrates grows longer with each passing day.

I propose a simple test for one’s denunciations of neo-Nazis and Klansmen, the sort of people who chant

The Jews will not replace us.

The condemnation must be unequivocal and focused.  Klansmen and neo-Nazis must hear it and find in it no reason to agree with any of it or take comfort in it.  None of this describes Trump’s unscripted remarks, the ones that preceded his scripted remarks, the ones he retracted.

Trump could have averted this Charlottesville-related political firestorm easily.  All he had to do was make an unequivocal statement condemning Klansmen, neo-Nazis, and other white supremacists as well as their violence then be consistent.  But he did not do that.  He has also blamed others for the mess he made for himself.  Trump has also been more eager to condemn journalists (calling them enemies) and CEOs with social consciences (accusing them of grandstanding) than Klansmen and neo-Nazis.

Everything is wrong with this picture.





Five Minutes of Heaven (2009)   1 comment


Above:  James Nesbitt and Liam Neeson from Five Minutes of Heaven

A screen capture which I found in several places on the Internet, including:



Liam Neeson as Alistair Little (2008)

James Nesbitt as Joe Griffin (2008)

Mark Ryder as Alistair Little (1975)

Kevin O’Neill as Joe Griffin (1975)

Directed by Oliver Hirschbiegel

Rated R

Five Minutes of Heaven is a character movie and a thought provoking story of guilt, forgiveness, and reconciliation set in Northern Ireland.  It is really a two-man drama with supporting characters.  The actors play their roles so well that words are frequently unnecessary to convey the characters’ thoughts; a look into the eyes suffices.

The first part of the movie occurs in 1975.  Alistair Little, a radicalized seventeen-year-old Protestant, wants to kill a Roman Catholic.  It is the thing which his friends and peers tell him is right to do.  Are not Catholics killing Protestants, after all?  So he shoots one James Griffin while the victim watches television at home.  Little does this in front of Griffin’s eleven-year-old brother, Joe, whom the grief-stricken mother blames for not preventing the shooting.

Then the movie skips to 2008, a quieter time in Northern Ireland.  Little, who served a twelve-year prison sentence, has reformed.  He lives alone in a Belfast flat and travels the world to promote nonviolence.  Someone must tell people, he says, that it is not right to kill people because they are different.  Someone should have told him that when he was a young man, he says.  Little, a broken and guilt-racked man, carries the face of the eleven-year-old Joe Griffin with him mentally.  It has been with him every day for thirty-three years.  The burden of it has become almost too heavy to continue to bear.

Griffin, who works in an egg carton factory, is married with two daughters.  As much as Little wants to let go of the events of 1975 and their consequences, Griffin clings to them.  His attitude poisons his family life.  So he is apprehensive and vengeful when the crew of a reality television series asks him to meet Little, who is concerned that this will be too difficult and painful for Griffin.  It is.

I choose not to reveal the entire plot of the movie or its ending, for a good film review should leave much for the viewer to discover firsthand.   But I do choose to focus on the spiritual side of the movie’s content:  the necessity to forgive–at least for one’s own sake–and, if possible, to reconcile.  Friendship might remain impossible after the offense, but the dropping of grudges is crucial.  Also, violence harms not only its intended victim(s) but its perpetrator(s).  What we do to others we do also to ourselves.  Therefore, if we do not act compassionately, we might wind up like Little and Griffin, two emotionally and spiritually scarred men facing the common past which entraps them as they struggle together in the ruins of the scene of a thirty-three-year-old crime.








Published originally at BLOGA THEOLOGICA