Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Saddam's sentence: another letter to the President

Another small exercise in futility, at least in so far as Mr. Bush is concerned. It sure made me feel better for a few moments, however.

Dear Mr. President:

To adapt a Biblical phrase, "Saddam has slain his thousands, and Bush his ten thousands." (1 Samuel 18: 7)

(Okay, your death toll is only about twice what his was [300,000 according to your statement], but he took 24 years to accumulate that number. Directly and indirectly, you've doubled his tally in only 3 and a half years!)

When will justice be done to his enablers and abettors in the US government at the time Saddam committed his crimes?

What will be the verdict on you for making life for Iraqis even more dangerous than it was under their own dictator?

If hanging is appropriate for Saddam Hussein, I hate to think what would be considered appropriate for George W. Bush.

As for me, I'm opposed to the death penalty in all cases. I'm content with "'Vengeance is mine', says the Lord." Neither do I support torturing anyone. Let's hope that the rest of the world, and history, is as kind to you.

As always, it's repentance time,

Bill Peltz

"Jesus loves you. Then again, he loves everybody."-T-shirt, LarkNews Store
"Jesus loves you. God only knows why."-Brother Billy


Mark said...

"To adapt a Biblical phrase, 'Saddam has slain his thousands, and Bush his ten thousands.' (1 Samuel 18: 7)"

Funny, I seem to remember that "ten thousands" guy being a man after God's own heart... you just compared Saddam Hussein with King Saul and Bush with King David.

Perhaps you should pick a different comparative verse.

I also remember this same man-after-God's-own-heart pulling an interesting stunt just before the ten thousands song in defense of the name of the Lord God of Israel:

"Then David said to the Philistine, 'You come to me with a sword, a spear, and a javelin, but I come to you in the name of the LORD of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have taunted. This day the will deliver you up into my hands, and I will strike you down and remove your head from you. And I will give the dead bodies of the army of the Philistines this day to the birds of the sky and the wild beasts of the earth, that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel, and that all this assembly may know that the LORD does not deliver by sword or by spear; for the battle is the LORD'S and He will give you into our hands.'" (1 Samuel 17:45-47

(I am also opposed to the death penalty, by the way)

Brother Billy said...

I meant to make the Saddam/Saul and Bush/David comparisons.

The point is that it's a reversal. As David exceeded Saul in "good" slaying, so has Bush exceeded Saddam in bad slaying.

(Granted, Bush is not alone. Clinton, through the sanctions, also rates high in the bad slaying of Iraqis. Then, again, neither was Saddam alone. He had support and assistance from Reagan and de facto permission from the first President Bush.)

As for David being a man after God's own heart, evidently God had another change of heart. Not his first.

Mark said...

I don't buy the change-of-heart God in the least bit.

Brother Billy said...

I didn't think you would, Mark.

What, in terms of unchangeableness, do you then make of Genesis 6:6, the first of many Biblical passages that present a changeable God?

"And the Lord was sorry that he had made man on the earth, and he was grieved in his heart."

Now I'm not saying that David didn't stay a man-after-God's own heart. What changed in the Bible later on was God's attitude regarding violence.

It seems to me that non-violence is a foundational notion in Jesus' teaching. If I were writing a "Last Temptation of Christ", a normal life of marriage, sex, and family wouldn't be the temptation. Violent rebellion against the Empire would.

I see the Zealot option as the major alternative for Jesus. I'm partial to the notion that Judas 'Iscariot' is a garbling of Judas 'Sicariot' -- a member of the Sicarii or "dagger-men", assassins of the occupying forces and their collaborators.

So I think that's the context for Jesus' regard for peacemakers and his total abstention from praise for 'redemptive violence'.

In that context, however, defensive violence, both personal and collective, consisting of interposing oneself between aggressors and victims, isn't dealt with.

That might be considered an open question for those who take Jesus as a model -- which is why I say that I'm a pacifist on MWF, not a pacificst on TTS, and I pray about it on Sunday.

Mark said...

Well I wouldn't start out with a bumbling God, making mistakes left and right, changing his mind, lauding something one day and punishing it the next.

The Hebrew word translated "sorry" in Genesis 6:6 is transliterated "nacham," a word with a lot of connotations to it. Along with that sense of sorryness, if you will, there's an element of self-consolation, grief, comfort... I don't take it as God saying, "Well that was one helluva mistake." That does not fit with the Sovereign, immutable God of Scripture.

I would deal with it in an Edwardsian sense, if you will. That is, God sees eternity as well as immediacy. He sees both the individual actions and the ultimate result. So while He may grieve the individual actions in the narrow lens of the event -- expressing that sense of grief and consolation -- His vision and will for eternity does not change in the least. A rueful God is not God.

As far as Christ's stance on violence, He came for a particular reason, choosing the Cross purposefully. Of course He came with love and was not coming as a Zealot. However, He did destroy property at times, He did come to bring the sword (yes, I understand the metaphor), and He is coming back in violence some day. Oh, and He doesn't seem to regret Sodom and Gommorah, in fact promising worse in the future.

I don't EVER think violence is something that will please God. But, again, God sees more than just the immediate event, and the immediate event of one image-bearer killing another is always tragic. Always. But that doesn't mean it's sinful, and the tragedy doesn't mean it always must be abstained from.

Brother Billy said...

"Bumbling" is your word, not mine. "Learning from experience" is a milder alternative that's consistent with rational competence.

God is immutable in atemporal and a priori theological theories, not in Scripture. There, he has feelings and changes his mind from time to time. There, he is indeed rueful and he repents -- not because he sinned but because he has regrets. Even the Ten Commandments get changed -- the visiting of the iniquity of the father upon the children to the 3rd and 4th generations eventually is superseded.

Since Scripture has God explaining that he can't be explained or understood by humans, one could just let it go at that and accept the changeableness and ruefulness displayed in Scripture while thinking that in some "meta" sense, God is eternally immutable. That could give us a picture of change within a pattern of essential continuity, a bit like Darwin's descent with modification. God could also be eternal, and eternally evolving, without being omniscient and omnipotent -- and/or being a personal being. To me, all such speculation is just speculation and is beyond rational understanding, however much one plays with rational formulations. Thus, we're brought back to Scripture again with its evocative stories that are open to endless interpretation.

There, Jesus, besides coming "for a particular reason", lived a life in which Zealotry was an option -- an option he rejected. There, the only property he damaged was in the temple, where he protested an innovation that had brought money-changers into an area that had originally been forbidden for such activities, necessary though they were. That was an act of purification of a ritually sacred place -- no persons were physically struck. And coming back in violence is not recorded as being a teaching of Jesus himself. If Jesus is taken as pioneer, and you take a "red letter" approach to the Gospels, then you get into the Imitation of Christ, which leads away from violence.

As for Sodom and Gomorrah, in Matthew and Luke Jesus used them as an example of what would happen much later, at the final judgment, if towns and villages were inhospitable and rejected his disciples. He didn't advocate pre-emptive strikes against the towns or villages in question. Sodom and Gomorrah were the immutable past. In the present he lamented over Jerusalem's sins -- like a mother hen, not as a destroyer.

Your final paragraph -- about killing being tragic but not necessarily sinful nor always to be abstained from -- brings us back to the comment that was the subject of my original blog entry. From an Imitation of Christ point of view, it doesn't follow that "no one should forfeit their life to an aggressor who is bent on inflicting death." I can think of people I would take a bullet for, or would risk taking a bullet for while trying to take non-lethal action to stop the assailant. Or perhaps lethal, depending on how it worked out.

At the very least, there's a preferential option for avoiding all killing, even unto one's own death.