Saturday, September 12, 2009

Putting yourself in harms way

'Jonah's reader alluded to it, but the passage in question (Luke 22:35-38) really does represent a setback for the people who think Christians waive the right to self-defense. Here it is in full (emphasis mine):

And Jesus said to them, “When I sent you out with no moneybag or knapsack or sandals, did you lack anything?” They said, “Nothing.” He said to them, “But now let the one who has a moneybag take it, and likewise a knapsack. And let the one who has no sword sell his cloak and buy one. For I tell you that this Scripture must be fulfilled in me: ‘And he was numbered with the transgressors.’ For what is written about me has its fulfillment.” And they said, “Look, Lord, here are two swords.” And he said to them, “It is enough.”

Some will try to get around this by claiming, "Oh, but Jesus meant a metaphorical sword!" This argument is weak, though, because it's obvious that the moneybag, knapsack, and sandals are meant literally, not metaphorically.

Now, I can think of at least one character in the Bible who makes the argument, "Put yourself in danger; after all, God will take care of you!" That character is Satan, in Matt 4:5-7:

Then the devil took him to the holy city and set him on the pinnacle of the temple and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down, for it is written, "‘He will command his angels concerning you,’ and “‘On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.’” Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’”'

My parents were dedicated pacifists. Despite living for almost six years in the middle of a shooting war, my father would not own or keep a gun. I fundamentally disagreed with them at the time, and still do. The idea of not protecting yourself from harm seemed to me morally wrong; as DH Lawrence would say, I felt it was wrong in my solar plexus.

I found this discussion very persuasive, and wish I'd had it to hand twenty five years ago. Surprisingly (or perhaps not) I've heard numerous Christians make the 'Put yourself in danger; after all, God will take care of you!' argument. I never realised before its true derivation. This has particular relevance given the recent rescue effort to save the moronic Irish journalist which cost the precious life of one of our paras. If your journalism is so important to you, by all means go into deepest darkest Afghanistan. But don't expect our soldiers and marines to come and extract you if the virtually inevitable happens.

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