VAPORIZING A TERRORIST in a drone attack. Is that Christian?
Clearly, that’s what many Christians would love to do to those IS militants who burned alive a captured Jordanian pilot yesterday.
I got an email with a tough question about that.
Militants apparently wet the pilot in flammable liquid while he stood in a cage. Then they lit him up like a torch – or like Roman Emperor Nero once lit Christians tied to poles in the arena.
I refuse to watch the video, or any like it. But I listened to one reporter describe what she saw. Mid-report she had to pause to compose herself.
Here’s the thoughtful question that came in yesterday’s email.
How do we make sense of intentional cruelty in today’s world? We have ISIS beheading people and now today, burning people alive, all while they videotape it just for the sake of inflicting even more cruelty on those who were not there at the time. Plus we have the Boko Haram group intentionally inflicting cruelty on populations around them in Nigeria.
I know everyone is a sinner, but isn’t this beyond sin? Is there a difference between sin and evil? Does God love the ISIS and Boko Haram people just as he loves the rest of us? How do we conceptualize God’s love when faced with this intentional cruelty?
I don’t for a second think that all sins are equal in God’s eyes. They’re not equal in our eyes. And if God made us in his image, as the Genesis writer reported, I would expect God to treat a person who slaps someone in the face differently than he treats someone who burns people alive in religious genocide.
“How do we conceptualize God’s love when faced with this intentional cruelty?”
Christians conceptualize it differently.
Some see God’s love in the Gatling Gun cannon-fire of an A-10 Warthog, a twin-engine jet custom-made for strafing ground forces and shredding tanks.
Stop the aggressor. That’s what German pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer tried to do: assassinate Hitler.
It makes sense to many Christians. Kill one to save millions.
The math seems right.
Take the Ukraine. Russian President Vladimir Putin probably will if he can.
The math solution works there, too. Assassinate Putin.
By all news reports, it seems as though he’s the infection that’s killing Ukrainians, along with Russian soldiers he’s sending into the battle to set up what looks like another annexation in the resurrection of the Soviet Empire.
Let me confess.
My human nature wants Putin dead.
It wants IS seared to pork rinds in the hellfire of a coalition army from every nation on the planet.
What to do about my spiritual nature?
I read yesterday about people coming out of IS – repulsed by what they saw, and worse, by what they had done. Unspeakable acts.
They come home as souls diminished.
- “Less” in the eyes of their family and friends.
- “Less” in the eyes of their suspicious nation.
- “Less” in the eyes looking back from the mirror.
Are they “less” in the eyes of the Man nailed to a cross for their sins?
My spirit has a mind of its own. It speaks to my human nature, somehow, in ways I don’t understand. And sometimes in ways that seem unnatural, irrational, naïve.
It tries to reason with me.
What should we do about a brainwashed army of souls being misled, caught up in the passion of what has been sold to them as a religious war?
My human nature says to kill them.
My spirit says we don’t need their blood because Jesus gave us his.
There’s a war on the ground in the Middle East and Africa and beyond.
But for many Christians, there’s a war closer home – inside our heads.
We’re not sure what to do.
We want justice for the dead and we want peace for the living.
But we serve a Man whose idea of justice is to forgive and whose idea of peace is to trust his Father.
Paul wrote a letter of warning to Christians in what is now Turkey. It strikes me eerie that today his words sound appropriate not only for Christians, but perhaps even more so for IS.
“Love others as much as you love yourself. But if you keep attacking each other like wild animals, you had better watch out or you will destroy yourselves” (Galatians 5:14-15).
This went along with #9 in your book “100 Tough Questions” that I was reading last night. “Since Jesus told people to turn the other cheek, why aren’t more Christians pacifists?” Thank you once again for this free book I received from you. I am doing one question per day. Lots of prayer needed!
Stephen M. Miller
Brutality and evil for sure exist in our world, far beyond whatever day to day temptations we face to do wrong and err in the sight of God. This is what keeps me slightly at odds with modern Methodism. As we focus on the love of Christ: tolerance, forgiveness and the other positive virtues, we are poorly prepared from the pulpit to deal with terrorism and evil, and to learn how to deal with it on its own terms, which is what we are forced to do when it brushes up against us. How, then, to deal with the horror going on in the world? My belief is to resist it in as spiritually healthy way as possible. When we are told to “turn the other cheek,” I believe that means to work with the other guy as much as possible or reasonable. With those consumed by hatred and evil, sometime a harsh response is necessary. I do no believe God loves us any less than he does a Hitler or Bin Laden, and does not expect us to turn the other cheek so much as to allow ourselves to be destroyed. No good answer here Stephen, a dark world sometimes requires dark responses.
Stephen M. Miller
You’re right. This is no easy matter. Christian pacifism vs. survival instinct.
EXCELLENT, as usual Steve. I have to admit, I struggle GREATLY with 7x7x70. And, I admit, I have always been of the nature that “I will NEVER start the war… But I’ll sure as he__ End It”. It’s my HUGE struggle. So, I really enjoyed what you wrote. But, don’t know how to process it. I am a “Sheepdog”.
Stephen M. Miller
Sheepdogs follow the Shepherd. It’s a good plan, especially when we don’t know where we’re going.
Good post Mr. Miller! I have struggled with the “Christianity vs Pacifism” issue for a while as a former Army infantryman in Iraq, a policeman here in the states, and a seminary graduate.
There are many scenarios that would normally invoke violence, especially in protecting people, that some educated Christian leaders tell me a Christian should not participate in. I think that if a father is morally right in protecting his family in his house, a Christian can be a policeman and then a soldier. Is that “Christian” thinking? I have heard it both ways and would like your opinion.
I really like the “sheepdogs follow the Shepherd” line and think it is helpful in this discussion. I am thinking each person has to be able to live with himself, but where is God in this? Basically, is God ok with some violence?
Also, keep up the great work. I continually reference your books and enjoy them greatly!
Stephen M. Miller
Thanks Joe. Tough question: Is God okay with violence? I know I’m not. I think it stinks. But perhaps the real question is whether or not God is okay with violence as a way to stop violence. “Picking up the sword” sort of a thing. The answer is going to be “I don’t know.” Still, it’s worth thinking about it some more. If not thinking about the “If,” at least thinking about the “When.”