Sunday, June 11, 2006

Sunday School Lessons

Yeah, sometimes I get pretty savage-sounding. Last night I was pouring over my Bible – all those beatitudes - and I was thinking to myself, what, is Jesus nuts? Don’t worry about tomorrow? Don’t worry about food? Anger is the same as murder? Hmm. Well, Jesus had those women who provided for him out of the substance of their households. And Jesus was angry with those who doubted him. And Jesus wasn’t planning on being around all that long, anyway. Jesus didn’t have a family to provide for.

It is troubling, because we want to obey, we want to be as literal as possible, but we do have to interpret, and re-interpret, just to make some of it make sense, just to make it do-able. Be perfect, even as your Father in Heaven is perfect. Yeah, right. Even the correct meaning, of be complete, is too bloody hard.

I’ve done my best in my own mind to rationalize all these impossible things, by making a distinction between roles. God the Father provides for his children. We as fathers must provide for our children. This is in conflict with giving away our clothes and never expecting to be repaid for loans: if we are naked and starving, we cannot provide for our children. And we know that we must, because we know that Christians in this world most certainly have starved to death. If our children ask for an egg, we do not give them a stone. But God has been known, frankly, to give his children nothing at all, unto starvation. My solution has been to understand that I may choose to turn my own cheek for that second slap, but I must not turn my child’s cheek, for such abuse. I must protect him. And while I may choose to turn my cheek for a slap, I will not turn my cheek to be beheaded.

Yes, it is pragmatic. And pragmatism is not a function of faith, but of worldly necessity. Is this a sin? I think not – but then again, I have Christian liberty, and so it is not a sin to me. And we must make a point of knowing the whole word of God, not just the pretty parts. As I delight in remembering, Jesus comes again, with a sword. Jesus is the judge who sends the sinner into eternal punishment. This too is a way that we must be like our Father – loving justice as we love mercy. And both of these, justice and mercy, are very dangerous things. The severity of untempered justice is obvious, and makes for dramatic story-telling. The danger of mercy is more subtle – more J.-K. Huysmans than V. Hugo – but we have only to consider decadence and sloth and licentiousness and all such old-fashioned ideas, and we may see the problem.

So it comes down to discernment. It comes down to wisdom. There is no Catalogue of Easy Answers with an encyclopedic index down which we may thumb to find all solutions to every problem. We have to guess, using our experience and understanding. My answer is to look at behaviour. We might forgive those who are unrepentant, but they are not forgiven. Get it? And we may forgive the stone cold murderer, but he still belongs on death row. And more broadly, those who would storm our Embassy must be repelled. If the invaders are undeterred by water cannon and tear gas, then deadly force must be employed. And we cannot constantly second guess ourselves, because such inconstancy will get us killed – or our sons. Violent men lay hold of the kingdom – a troublesome verse, but undoubtedly referring to a vigorous character and a willingness to offend in the cause of righteousness.

We read, then, from Mark Steyn, that “half a decade on from Sept. 11, the Saudis are still allowed to bankroll schools and mosques and think tanks and fast-track imam chaplaincy programs in prisons and armed forces around the world. Oil isn't the principal Saudi export, ideology is; petroleum merely bankrolls it.” It is not only Persians who would take our Embassy. We have more to lose, then an Embassy. Our children can starve in more ways than just physically. They can be taught lies, or be killed by those who have been taught lies. We must be pragmatic in fighting this, and not always the sort of pragmatic that makes accommodations and excuses. Some forms of pragmatism draw a line in the sand and kill all who cross it.

Again, Steyn reminds us, “In Britain, Canada, France, the Netherlands, Scandinavia and elsewhere, second- and third-generation Muslims recognize the vapidity of the modern multicultural state for what it is -- a nullity, a national non-identity -- and so, for their own identity, they look elsewhere. To carry on letting Islamism fill it is to invite the re-primitivization of the world.” What is it that is vapid, in us? Too much mercy. We do not respect soft men, lounging in their palaces. Alas, we have a soft culture, unworthy in so many ways of respect. They are not wrong, these enemies, to disrespect what they know of us. They are wrong in thinking that what they know is all there is. I cannot be sure that we will teach them a fuller, harder lesson.

We have virtually no terrorism here in the US. Some imagine this will continue. Some believe they cannot starve to death. Some think tomorrow is promised. I believe terrorism is promised, and that when it does come America will show the world the iron in its soul. I may be wrong. Perhaps the foolish one-size-fits-all lessons of childhood will prevail, and we will turn a cheek when we could be reaching for a sword. We shall see. What I know is that we must protect our children.


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