Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Fear Not [no. 10-24] & a few problems

I will start by stating my bias: I am a pacifist. I am a pacifist because of the religious tradition I was raised in which comes from years of theological thinking and seeking to understand how Christians are called to live in the world. I know there are plenty of Christians who believe killing people is OK, or a necessary evil, but I simply do not agree. Please don't pose the "what if you could have killed Hitler before he..." problem to me. (Try a current-event extension of this line of arguing and see if you don't sound like a terrorist/murderer yourself.) I'm tired of the Hitler question anyway. I'm tired of all the "what ifs" - I've run them in my head. I was raised on the stories from the Martyr's Mirror: faith should be in God (not humans/capitalism/governments) and it should exist regardless of laws, popularity, or persecution.

Show me the person Jesus killed. He is the example.

So, yes, I have a problem with these:
That's the gist of the above verses, obviously taken out of their contexts. Yet--What to do with these?

I believe we are all God's children and killing any one of them is painful to God -- regardless if they are Christian or not. There are good people not attending church and horrible ones attending regularly... that is not the standard. It matters how we treat people and frankly, killing a person is about as poorly as you can treat one. The idea of God encouraging slaughter/slavery/hamstringing the enemy's horses doesn't square with me.

Verses like these are troublesome. We all throw out parts of the Bible we don't like and justify it. (Puhleeze. Don't pretend you don't, too.) Over time, I have come to a place where I can hold contradictions in the text without throwing out the entire text. Also, I have come to acknowledge there are contradictions.  (Some people don't and it takes them in horrifying circles.) When confronted by opposing ideas in the Bible (i.e. Thou shalt not kill vs. kill the men and take the women as slaves), I look to Jesus and historical context I may have been ignorant of previously. I am also under the impression that our idea of "what God is telling us" has evolved over the years as we have evolved. I think there are some Bible stories where people didn't quite understand what God wanted and I think there are modern instances of this too. Plenty of them.

I am open to the idea of a God that changes (while still remaining 'perfect') and I am open to the idea that God has different expectations for humanity over time. Piano students begin with Hot Cross Buns before they move on to a Mozart Minuet. Likewise, I believe humanity began with the basics love of family, love of one God... and is now working on love of the stranger, love of the enemy... God is love.(1 John 4:8) That's where we're headed: to Love, to God. The broken world we are to mend? It is mended through love; a difficult, ongoing, fraught-with-error task. A war is terror. A war on terror is terror. Somehow, though, are to fear not. Perhaps, too, we need to think create no fear.

For me, these verses mean... Don't be afraid even when your life is on the line--as it surely was in the battles referenced. They are a reminder to me, as they come from the Old Testament, that God has made progress with us in many ways, but that we have a long way to go, yet, before being able to treat each other as Christ treated us.

So, if I err in my understanding of what God is asking of me, I will err on the side of loving too much, rather than killing. May I never fear, even when my life is on the line, to love.

--- Added Later ---
After writing this entry, I saw this video floating around on my fb feed and thought it seemed far more reasoned, researched, and articulated than my above post.

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