Tuesday, May 18, 2010

ReMix: Weapons of Our Warfare*

This phrase, "weapons of our warfare" is ripped from the New Testament passage of St. Paul in I Corinthians 10. The immediate context is that the author feels that he's being ripped, betrayed and gossiped about. But he calls on his friends at this church to not get into such 'worldly' ways of fighting. I like how the Message puts verses 3-6:

The world is unprincipled. It's dog-eat-dog out there! The world doesn't fight fair. But we don't live or fight our battles that way—never have and never will. The tools of our trade aren't for marketing or manipulation, but they are for demolishing that entire massively corrupt culture. We use our powerful God-tools for smashing warped philosophies, tearing down barriers erected against the truth of God, fitting every loose thought and emotion and impulse into the structure of life shaped by Christ. Our tools are ready at hand for clearing the ground of every obstruction and building lives of obedience into maturity.

I read some of the most inane comments by fellow Christians in the span of a week. Here's a sampling:

Unless you are an absolute pacifist, ie you will not raise a hand to defend yourself or your loved ones, being merely "anti-war" is nothing but moral cowardice.
If you, (generically speaking), are a true pacifist I can respect that, but that is a choice one must make for themselves. I don't believe it is right or fair to impose pacifisim on others.
But if you believe *something* is worth fighting for then the argument is merely about *what* is worth fighting for. Assuming the morally superior tone in such an argument is nothing but vanity.

Nobody likes war.

I know, we'll follow the train of thought that says lets give to those that don't work, not only that we will reward them for not working!... Is [Lt. Gov Andre Bauer] wrong to want drug testing for recipients of assistance? No. I support helping those who need a hand up. But I am not in support of that hand as a way of life.... and you should not force those that earned to give up what they worked for... What I have been given, I also should not be forced to give up. If my family did well, and wished to pass that on to me, why should I be forced to give that up, or my family be forced to give their earnings up to someone else?

Let's just chop off [potential terrorists'] heads like they did to our guys.

Etc., etc., ad infinitum and on. And on.

And it gets weary. A year of fighting (in admittedly little ways, mostly electronically with those who disagree. Lot of good that did, eh?) for health care reform, pointing out that most Western countries are doing it much more effectively and cheaper than us and still offering universal health care. And then hearing lie upon lie delivered not just by the monied interests and their political allies, but by otherwise fine, outstanding people.

I say, and deliberately so, "otherwise" because in this sense they are not fine, loving, generous, considerate, or in any manner outstanding. While one is fighting against the poor, against the afflicted, against the downtrodden, against the minority voices, against immigrants, then one has made a conscious - if temporary - decision to not be good, to not be moral, and it affects the person's own personhood - at least for that moment. It's one thing to declare that solutions are much more complex than what we could possibly hope for (True. But who contends this?). But to come up with so many reasons Why things can't be done when it's obvious that it is the only Right thing to do strikes me as not just being particularly obstructionist, but as fighting for the literally Wrong side.**

In Surprised by Hope, New Testament scholar, author, professor, and pastor NT Wright likens the arguments that align themselves against social justice (in his case, Third World debt remission) to those offered against the end of the slave trade in Britain. I would add that, in the US, the same can be said for those opposed to abolition, the civil rights movement, and now health care reform (not to mention financial equity, unjust wars, pro-immigrant immigration reform, etc.).

It's against these types of arguments that I banged my head hard against this desk. And, much like a lady, it was once, twice, three times. I felt so cynical. And it was tearing me apart.

After getting me some sleep, I was able to look in a more even-keeled way. No longer in vigilante mode, I started to regain my composure. I was ready for a more 'Christian' approach.

I won't say it's a discovery of mine, but I'm beginning to see four different yet beneficial ways to confront enemies and combat the lies. These four are not mutually exclusive, nor are they in any manner exhaustive (indeed, the choices here are awfully selective). The other posts this week will introduce these weapons. And I'd like to hear your thoughts on them.

*I generally steer away from war metaphors/speech. But the point I wanted to make here is a reference to the New Testament passage saying that, "the weapons of our warfare are not of this world." Which tells me a few things: 1) It's not about violence; 2) the things of God v. the things of 'this world' are always presented as life-transforming v. life-ending (or conforming, which hits me as meaning an end-run on free life); 3) the language of war was used as a means of undermining the contemporary war/imperialism culture. Unfortunately, the subversion has been co-opted by the empire...

**I do recognize that many conservatives/moderates/liberals/etc/whatever will have different opinions on how to fix the problems. My contention is not with those that hold different perspectives on what is best for all. My problem is with those who feel that it's not our responsibility to try to fix the problems - after all, it's working for them...

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