This conversation did not really happen, but it could be easily had:
Them: Jesus would want us to show kindness to Muslims (eg., ‘refugees’) and if that means making ourselves vulnerable to extremists, so be it. That is part of the Christian message. We should be people of peace.
Me: So, you’re saying that if a Muslim takes actions to kill you, you should basically let him.
Them: Maybe, yea. We should never turn to violence as a solution to our problems.
Me: And if a Muslim takes action to kill your neighbor, you should basically let him?
Them: Yes. Oh, wait. Uh…. no. Obviously not.
Me: How would you stop him? Without using violence?
Them: Well I’d call the police, I suppose.
Me: Does the ‘Christian message’ apply to every human, or just to Christians?
Them: Obviously, ultimately, to everyone.
Me: So, if we should never turn to violence as a solution to our problems, what were you expecting the police officer to do to stop the attack? Shout loudly at him? According to what you said before, shouldn’t the police officer let the Muslim kill him, too? Remember, Jesus wants us to be vulnerable to our aggressors.
Them: [Insert various versions of hemming and hawing here].
I debated having this essay as part of my “Once and For All” series, because it is mostly directed towards Christians, whereas the rest of the series targets (if it targets anyone) so-called ‘moderates’ of all stripes. The point of the earlier essays was to try to explain just what it was about Islam that makes it intrinsically dangerous. It has nothing to do with global inequalities, poverty, low unemployment, or whatever other rationalization is put forward. The bad news is that it has everything to do with theology, ideology, and politics.
Islam, on its own telling, is a religion that is hell bent on world domination, setting itself apart from other religions, just as Communism set itself apart from other ‘economic systems.’ (ie, Communism ‘only works’ if ‘EVERYBODY’ participates.)
Not comprehending this can only lead to more bloodshed; most likely, it will be our blood that is shed.
Which brings us back to my faux-dialog I began with. [But see the comments on this post of mine as an illustration of what I mean.]
It may be Christian to sacrifice yourself, but it it not Christian at all to sacrifice others.
In fact, if you stand by and allow others to be killed, when it is in your power to do something about it, that is evil.
It’s not Christian, Jim. I can tell you that.
With the continued growth of the Islamic State, we see two problems coming together, working towards an inevitable flash point. 1., A basic ignorance, or willful denial, of what Islam is all about, and 2., the inability to distinguish between an individual’s responsibility and a government’s responsibility.
Remember, I’m not talking to non-Christians here. I’m talking about Christians.
And it seems to me that most Christians have never stopped to even consider the possibility that the Bible has anything to say about the government’s proper role. As I said to the person in the comments on the other post, linked above,
Didn’t we just have resounding agreement that Romans 13 applied?
One of the things that I’ve always found interesting is how little Christians have thought to evaluate that very question. So many times we get a line of argument that is very similar to the one that you raised, where passages clearly applicable to individuals are uncritically applied to groups or governments. I’ve already addressed that. On the other hand, more ‘conservative’-leaning Christians have committed a similar error, but from the other direction.
A friend of mine once put it this way: conservatives tend to legislate morality while liberals tend to legislate compassion. Both think they are justified, and both appeal to the Scriptures to make their case. But, in both cases, the selected passages usually have limited scope; ie, Christians are clearly prohibited from engaging in homosexual behavior, but whether or not it is appropriate to impose that legislatively is an entirely different matter (see 1 Corinthians 5:12).
There is a reason why I classify myself as a ‘Constitutional-libertarian’, in a somewhat vain attempt to capture such nuances.
But as soon as one does sit down to see what the Scriptures say about the purpose of the government, and the areas where we do right to ‘impose’ on others, we find that there is more to go on than we may suppose. For example, Romans 13 is patently clear about what God perceives one purpose of the government is–to protect the people governed from wrongdoers.
This is a first-order responsibility, plainly and explicitly spelled out. It is therefore completely within my rights as a citizen and as a Christian to demand that my government fulfill this basic responsibility.
The distinction between an individual’s responsibility and the government’s responsibility is clearly referenced throughout the Bible. As an example, from my quote: “Romans 13 is patently clear about what God perceives one purpose of the government is–to protect the people governed from wrongdoers.”
The individual may be called to ‘turn the other cheek’ but to say that this applies to a government, as well, requires a complete disregard for basic reading principles and terrible logic. Conversely, Romans 13 clearly states that people should be protected from wrongdoers, but it doesn’t follow from this passage that it is my job, as an individual, to fulfill that role in every conceivable fashion.
I could go on and on about the wisdom of this arrangement, but that would lead me into a fuller defense of the Christian faith than I intend for this post. 🙂 However, this distinction is well known to anyone who has ever bothered to really examine Christian theology. You may find it described in systematic theology books perhaps as ‘Two Kingdom’ theology. Time to bone up, my friend.
Instead, what I’d like to call attention to is the fact that governments are not mere abstractions. They consist of people. I used my question above about the Muslim attacking your neighbor to highlight the fact that it cannot possibly be the case that violence is never the solution, and that agents of a government could never use violence, or even that an individual Christian could never, actually, use violence. (Would you like to imagine a police force consisting solely of atheists? Of Muslims? I know I wouldn’t.)
And this is a big BUT.
The role of protecting the populace, by the government, does not at all, in any universe, encompass using the government to spread Christianity or preach the Gospel.
Not according to the Bible. And, by the way, the same principle that precludes that, precludes all sorts of other ‘roles’ that ‘moderates’ like to give the government, such as health care, education, and so on. Just sayin’.
And this puts us (Christians) in a bit of a bind, because Islam is such a force that it can never be defeated by force. It must be taken out at the ideological knees. (This is a theme of the three previous posts in this series). True Believing Islamicists number in the hundreds of millions, and, given time and opportunity, THEY WILL COME FOR YOU. They are COMING FOR US. Where ‘us’ equals Christian, Jew, atheist, Buddhist, and so on. It’s part of their doctrine. Thus, the ‘doctrine’ itself must be crushed. What other ideological system can do this job?
Not secular humanism, I can tell you that. (And I will, and explain more, in another installment).
Christianity certainly can do the job… but the government is not to be used as an evangelistic tool.
So, just what should the Christian be advocating?
It is not an easy question to answer because it must be answered at a variety of levels (eg, individual vs. government). I’m writing this post and including it in this series because, as I observe the public discourse on this issue, especially by Christians themselves, there seems to be hardly any consideration of the different ‘levels’ it must be considered.
What we might be obligated to do if an Islamicist catches you on the street and puts a knife to your throat may be different based on whether or not you are alone, or with your family. (BREAKING NEWS: Fathers–even Christian ones–have a BIBLICAL DUTY AND OBLIGATION to DEFEND THEIR FAMILY. WITH VIOLENCE IF NECESSARY AND APPROPRIATE). Like I said, it is one thing to sacrifice yourself, and quite another to sacrifice others, especially if they are within your immediate sphere of responsibility.
Then again, how we task our government to deal with one kind of problem, say, jaywalking, might be different than what is needed to deal with another kind of problem, say, an internationally popular religio-political group hell-bent on world domination who will not stop, EVER.
Resolving this ‘bind’ is not an easy thing to do, but there is no point to it if I’m the only one that appreciates it. The Christian community needs to start asking itself what its obligation to their fellow man is to provide for his physical security, and attempt to ground such thinking on what the Bible specifically says about the government and its proper role.
A conversation like this was had once in America. The result was the U.S. Constitution, and, importantly, the Bill of Rights. They attempted to delay the inevitable as long as they could, but eventually, despite what they wanted, war came. War is coming again (Islamicists declared it more than a thousand years ago and never retracted the declaration) and we’re going to have to face reality. If we get our act together in time, maybe we will be as fortunate to come up with a way forward that has the kind of positive impact that the Constitution did.
If not, it could, literally, be our heads.
And if that doesn’t particularly bother you, then think about your neighbor’s head, and what your responsibility might be to that.