Monday, May 19, 2014

Quote & Commentary- The Hardest Question

"There's a point, far out there when the structures fail you, and the rules aren't weapons anymore, they're... shackles letting the bad guy get ahead. One day... you may face such a moment of crisis. And in that moment, I hope you have a friend like I did, to plunge their hands into the filth so that you can keep yours clean" Gary Oldman, Playing James Gordon In DARK KNIGHT RISES

On Saturday, at my ministry school, we were discussing whether or not a person could consistently be both a soldier or police officer and a Christian, given the centrality of caritas in the Christian virtues tradition. As I heard the people debate what it meant to live into the image of Christ, I couldn't help but think about the passage above.

The problem with Christian ethics, and the attempt to reduce Christianity to some ethical project, is that Christianity says that God gave up his divine place to take on the sinful nature of mankind. God's taking on of human form is described as a 'curse' in the Bible. A Christian can have no easy conscience, anywhere, at any time. In fact the search for such a place, for an island of ethical comfort in the sea of sin and suffering is paradoxically a sinful quest. Bonhoeffer talks extensively of 'taking on the guilt' of tyrannicide in order to serve God. He had no illusions, he KNEW what he was doing was sinful before God. He took on this sin so others could be protected from greater sin.

Can't the image of taking up violence as a sacrifice of one's own soul for the good of another, be an image that conforms to the image that Christ's life projects? I think so. To put it another way, consider this question: would you condemn yourself to Hell if you knew it meant no one else would ever have to go there? Would you give up your highest values, and sacrifice all you believed in, if it meant no one would ever have to undertake the horror of that situation ever again?

In a real sense I think this is exactly what God was doing on the Cross. Taking on Hell so we don't have to. Becoming condemned so no condemnation falls on us. So I'm going to say unequivocally that a Christian can be both a soldier or an officer of the law, with all the commitment to violence as methodology those jobs entail, and also be true to Jesus Christ. They can NOT, however, choose to do these jobs and be comfortable, be certain and sure of their moral status, and be true to Christ. But this is true of the pacifist as well as the soldier. There is no 'right' way. There is no place of morally assurance, and no comfort can be found in knowing one is living the will of God. There is only the uneasy soul of repentance, and reliance on Christ alone as one's salvation. Peace can only be found in that place, in the place of Grace. To seek it in other places is to lose it altogether.

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