Thursday, May 01, 2008

Bending My Stiff Neck

Someone once said that Catholics are people who agree on some things and disagree on most every thing else. Nate Wildermuth of The Catholic Blues and Vox Nova and I pretty much fall into the everything else category, but I have never seen him make an unreasoned comment, and he made me rethink a few times.

In Bending My Stiff Neck he comments on the Popes Visit.

Over the past three days, I've had my 1000% daily recommended dose of 'Pope': waving "hi" and "bye" at the National Shrine, attending the mass at Nationals Stadium, reading his flurry of speeches/addresses/homilies over and over again, and most importantly - praying that the Holy Spirit will open my heart to learning from our Church and its leader. But I wasn't quite prepared for the opening salvo of our Holy Spirit, coming in the Pope's words at the White House:

"Freedom is not only a gift, but also a summons to personal responsibility. Americans know this from experience — almost every town in this country has its monuments honoring those who sacrificed their lives in defense of freedom, both at home and abroad."

These words crushed me.

How could the Pope repeat United States propaganda, and express admiration for US bloodshed? I racked my mind for ways to interpret his words in another way, but I couldn't. ...

I have so much to learn.

After a great deal of reflection and prayer, my heart has moved, my neck has bent.

I have seen something startling: we live in a society where "defense of life" and "nonviolence" are mostly mutually exclusive, and because the defense of life must take priority over a commitment to nonviolence, most Christians are duty-bound to defend life with the least amount of violence possible.

Did I just write that? I did. But only after three days of gut-wrenching prayer!
I am not suggesting that violence is good, or even Christian. I am suggesting, however, that the circumstances of our society require us to choose defense of life over nonviolence. In other words - if the only way I can defend life is to use a gun, then I must use a gun.


Strikes will not stop robbers from breaking into our homes. Nonviolent communication will not stop those who do not wish to communicate. We have no nonviolent alternatives to police forces or militaries. We have no nonviolent alternatives to courts and prisons. Nonviolent means of defending life are mostly confined to idealistic exhortations to "love your enemy and trust in God's grace to work miracles."

Go and read the his whole post.

Now, back to my own wrestling with some of the Popes comments. I to have much to learn.

HT: Against the Grain


H said...

I'm not Catholic, nor religious really, but that is a very interesting post. I didn't realize that there was such a pacificst strain in Catholocism. I think I am in the disagree with everything else category, but I am impressed that he took the words of the Pope so seriously and used them as an opportunity for introspection, rather than a reason for distancing himself from the Church. I find this heartening.

Diodotus said...

Espousing just war principles is not the same as validating US propaganda.

hank_F_M said...

Perhaps my excerpt was to short

Nate's post was not about “US propganda” it was about personally resolving one of the “both/ands”

The Churches teaching on the sanctity of life, on one had insists on the right to personal non-violence (CCC 2306) and on the other hand the right to self-defense. (CCC 2263, 2264), and for those charged with the safety of others, not simply a “responsibility to protect” but a “Grave Duty” to protect the lives of others. (CCC 2365, 2311) The Just War Doctrine is a way to resolve these points.

I think Nate was reevaluating his resolution of these contradictory points, not endorsing US Government policy or rejecting just war principles.

One of Benedict XVI’s gifts is to call both sides back to a more common sense middle and realize that people can hold different opinions with in this context.

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