Thursday, September 11, 2008

Where the power is.

Soldiering has been described as the world's oldest profession. That may not be true. Farming might predate it. But then it depends on what you describe as a profession. True it is though that conflict between humans has existed since the beginning of the human race. The first murder in Biblical history happened in the first generation to be born, when Cain killed Abel. As soon as human beings grew in numbers enough, the individual quarrel grew into a group quarrel. Soldiering itself, the bearing of arms, may serve the noble purpose of protecting those who need it. It is not in itself a bad thing. The issue lies in what is done by soldiers, and why. Watching the events of the world, one of the most enduring things in human history is warfare. In some cases, the background to a conflict can seem to be perfectly ridiculous. That is why Jonathon Swift wrote "Gulliver's Travels" about the peoples of Lilliput going to war over which end you should open an egg. It is just about that stupid sometimes! As we sit here now, there is centuries old bitterness between the Protestant and Catholic communities in Ireland; and every so often someone stirs the pot by celebrating the victory in the Battle Of The Boyne, which was fought in - wait for it - 1690! Over three hundred years, and the feelings are still kept alive. That's not even the worst I've heard. Conflict between the Albanians and Serbs in the province of Kosovar links to a battle which was fought in the 1400s (or was that the 1300s?)
There is a traditional emnity between the Greeks and Turks, dating from a time when Turkey held Greece as part of its empire. And this list could go on.
Stopping a fight is almost like finding the foot of a rainbow. No matter how near you seem to get it's always further off. So blood keeps getting shed, between people who've never personally quarrelled at all, because of what started between the distant ancestors. You can see the problem in microcosm when there is a quarrel or fight between two individual people. Each one feels that they have to get back at the other for something the other did; and each time they get their own back, the other person then has to get square for that; and so it can go on forever.
The only way to stop it is for both parties to agree to stop right there; and that means one side has to let the other get away with the last hit. All this is obvious. I'm not saying anything amazingly deep pointing that out.
The key to it is: someone has to agree not to retaliate, but to forgive. That can be terribly hard when you see cause to be bitter and angry about the hurt done, especially if it involves lives lost and vile cruelties carried out. I know that even from my own relatively safe life. But the inescapeable truth here is that you can only have peace either when both sides have been bled dry, or when they decide to forgive and end it that way.
To some people this is weak talk. They would say that it is cowardly to run away from a fight. And I know myself sometimes the only way to survive, and protect others, IS to fight - defensively. I've done some military service. There may well be a need to take up arms. But sometimes the braver thing may be to find a peaceful way, because the very thing we want to save may be lost otherwise. Now consider this:
if there had been more conciliation, and forgiveness, after the First World War, it is possible the Second World War might have been avoided. Look at the histories written on the subject. At the end of WW 1, those nations on the defeated side were treated very harshly. Some of what was done might have been well and good, but Germany in particular suffered by the Treaty Of Versailles which ended that war; and the seeds were sown in that for World War 2: Germany, among others, regaining national pride.
That is a macro example. Micro examples can be seen in disputes and feuds between individuals. Conflict goes on because one or both, or all sides, will not forgive. People may underestimate the depth of Christian teachings and precepts. They are not just nice things to make life happier and safer for wimps. Lives by the hundreds may depend on them. Forgiving those who offend you does not have to be a forfeiture of your rights. It can be a way to stop a wretched bloodbath that will blight the lives of dozens, or thousands, even those you most care about. The Nazi leaders who led Germany into W.W. 2 managed to bring destruction on the things they loved most: their nation and its people.
Forgiveness does not preclude legitimate justice. If the hunt for Nazi war criminals, or other war criminals such as those from the Yugoslavian war continue, fair thing. People should not feel they can get away with abominations. But the exercise of justice is not the same as revenge, which begets revenge in turn, and becomes vendetta.
The Bible's teachings are more profound than some people ever realize. They are not the easy way out for wimps. They are the way to save everything worth saving.

2 comments:

tlc illustration said...

Thanks for visiting my blog. I read your book excerpt and found it engrossing. I'm also enjoying your very articulate and thoughtful blog entries. Thanks for sharing.

Farrah said...

Hi Andrew! War is a complicated thing for a Christian. Certainly we don't want war, but there are times when it is impossible to avoid. Forgiveness is critical for peace in all of our relations: both with other countries and in our own families.

Yes, these are trying times for the U.S., but it seems there are always trying times. Your prayers are welcome! Our country needs them, as does the whole world. Thankfully, we don't live in a part of the country where there are hurricanes, but econimics affect everyone. I just read an article that says many in the U.S. think we are in a recession, but we aren't. Things aren't quite as bad as it sounds. Here is the article: http://money.cnn.com/2008/09/17/news/economy/colvin_recession.fortune/index.htm

It's an interesting read. I'll be back later to read your post following this one, maybe tomorrow. I've a busy day ahead!

Blessings, my friend! :-)