Thursday, June 16, 2005

"By Any Means Necessary"

I saw this phrase on another board, used justify radical change in an area the poster believe had become extremely unjust. I didn’t like that phrase however; it bothered me on a deeper level, and I thought for a while about why that should be.

Don’t misunderstand me, please. I’m a student of History, enough to know that when reforms and corrections are not made within a certain frame of time, a backlash happens. I am also comfortable with sometimes-radical change, especially when the alternative is true disaster. But that phrase is far too easy to use to justify any sort of behavior. In fact, something very like it was used to justify the murder of thousands of innocents on 9/11, something very like it was used to justify napalming villages, something very like it was used to justify countless wars and purges. It was essentially the motive behind both the Jihad that swept across southern Europe in the 7th through 10th Centuries, and also for the Crusades that swept back the other way into the Middle East. It was the excuse for the Salem Witch Trials, and the pogroms against the Jews, Gypsies, Indigenous people in many places, and whenever an opposing force was met.

I simply cannot agree with the phrase; it’s too broad and too bloody. It’s used to justify anyone, anywhere, for anything.

Many people have commented on the unfortunate differences between the early Christians, and modern ones. Three major differences concern me the most. The first century of Christendom went fully after Christ’s example, becoming essentially a tribe of families who shared everything they had and considered each other equals regardless of race, social status or any other superficial element. Second, they went everywhere with the Gospel, spreading it quickly and far; evidence of Christendom spread throughout the Roman empire, as well as Africa and parts of Asia by the end of the 1st Century CE. But most of all, the Christians endured relentless and terrible persecution, dying rather than renouncing their faith, and enduring the worst sorts of torture ever known to man. Compare that to today, when many social Christians appear to begrudge charity, where the Gospel is not often take outside the neighborhood, and then usually by “prayer warriors” more likely to impose the Gospel on someone than share it with them, and the mildest insult becomes a prized battle scar for the contentious advocate. It is a terrible thing to consider that Jesus may have had many modern Christians in mind when He said, “They will do such things because they have not known the Father or me.” (John 16:3).

My point is, a small group of believers, outrageously persecuted through no fault of their own, nearly wiped out simply for being who they were, survived not by retaliation or malice, but through devoted application of their faith, effectively showing the truth of their faith through endurance. Their way was not “by any means necessary”, but only by the means they accepted as right and good. I honestly believe that God protects those people who will not desert their faith in Him, holding fast against the lure of power and influence and wealth, and also against the torment of harassment, the oppression from mortal forces, and the loss of present gain. This is true, whether one is speaking of the Christians or another faith, Jews or another nation, dominant cultures or repressed ones. It is not the ends which matter, but the methods.

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