Let’s Talk Some War and Peace

tolstoy war quote
“It would not have been possible for us to take power or use it in the way we have without the radio.”

Joseph Goebbels, Nazi propaganda master

Lent Day 1:

I ran across this Goebbels quote yesterday and an image flashed across my mind: a row of men in orange kneeling in front of a row of men in black, about to get their heads severed from their bodies. Why did this quote cause me to think of that horrible image I would give anything never to have seen? Because, like the Nazis, I realized that ISIS must have a master propagandist. I don’t like to think about murderous jihadists any more than I like to meditate on the devil, so I don’t know who they consider to be their target audience. But I am sure this mass execution thing is part of a carefully planned propaganda strategy.

Perhaps setups like this one serve a double purpose: impress your sympathizers with your awesome badassness and terrorize everyone else. You want to get the world cowering in a corner as much as possible before they strike back and fight the Holy War you are trying to start. Once the Holy War begins, you want your enemy as weak and fearful as possible. As the radio was to Goebbels, the Internet is to Isis.

Let’s go back to those Coptic Christian men who were beheaded. This is sad, it is unjust, it is pathetic. These men were the victims of everything that is wretched and evil, and I pray for their souls and for the comfort of their families that only God knows how to provide. The same goes for Kayla Mueller and her family and the other executed hostages and their families. But whoever orchestrated these executions did not personally hate these particular victims for their beliefs – at least any more than they hate everybody for their beliefs. Anyone in an orange jumpsuit would have done the trick. These victims were simply handy tools who were available to advance the ISIS agenda to bully and rule the world according to their sick vision.

I don’t know if they really believe their God directs them to do these things. Probably they do. But whether they believe God directs them to murder innocent people or not, they desire power over others and look for ways to gain as much psychological ground as possible the easy way – by getting the world to capitulate as much as possible before the real fight begins. So what am I saying? Am I saying we need to go to war? No one hates the ideas of war and loves peace as much as I do. I want nothing more than a life of coffee shops, books, art galleries, and long walks along garden paths. I think by jumping into a war we would be stupidly reacting to the ISIS’ carefully laid propaganda trap and letting them pull them strings. But I also know there is no such thing as compromise with evil. If my position is “I should live” and my enemy’s position is “You should die” my choices are limited.

I suspect that unless we are okay with these people continuing to run around the world terrorizing and killing people we unfortunately may have little choice but to defend ourselves. Does anyone still believe that reason and negotiation are going to get them to stop killing people? But perhaps there are ways to get rid of this threat to peaceful humanity on our terms and not theirs. I am no military strategist but I sure hope someone is. At least let’s first realize that these people and their agenda have been around for a very long time and not going away unless we destroy them at the source. Let’s not stupidly react to their propaganda every time they decide to manipulate the media. Let’s try to be smarter than that. Is there anyone in power with a brilliant plan? Anyone?

So the western world with its Judeo-Christian and secular values seems to be in a corner where we have destroy the threat or hope for a divine miracle. Of course there is another option: love and forgive your enemy and if he so desires, let him kill you. Then you can face eternity with a blameless soul. This excellent option is the one that saints and martyrs choose. What would happen if everyone did this? Well if everyone did this it would be a moot point because no one would ever threaten to kill anyone else.

But lets suppose we lived in a violent world like the current one in which certain people insisted on killing other people but with this difference: everyone who claimed to be a  Christian actually loved and forgave their enemies and never responded to violence with more violence. Maybe the love energy would change the game or maybe the world as we know it would be over. If you choose to be a pacifist, you must also be prepared to be martyr. But something tells me humanity is not quite there yet. Saints and martyrs are still the rare exceptions and most mothers and fathers will fight to the death to protect their children and property. Besides only an individual can decide to be martyr. No one, especially a world leader, has the right to make that choice for other people or a whole country.

I’m sorry Leo but if an army of black-hooded murderers marched into my neighborhood with intent to kill my family and friends, I would be on the front lines and would have no problem killing as many of them as I could. If an army of murderers is marching down your street the inevitability of war is not a belief but a fact. Yet I would love to find a way to be a pacifist. I love peace and do not wish to perpetuate the endless cycle of violence. It’s just that in the current world I do not see how. If I would not be a pacifist if killers were attacking my neighborhood I cannot honestly say I am a pacifist when the bad guys are far away murdering other people’s friends and families. Besides, I tend to think God gave us life, that He likes us to have life, and that He is okay with us defending our lives against those who want to end it.

Tomorrow I will take a look at C.S. Lewis’ essay “Why I am Not a Pacifist.” I have read this essay before and am pretty sure I agree with his argument, but I need to review it before I work my way through Leo Tolstoy’s book The Kingdom of God is Within You, in which Tolstoy discusses why he is a pacifist. Perhaps I will see things differently after I read that. Maybe I will see the light or at least see thing differently than I do today. I am getting pretty excited about my Lenten series this year. I do not know where it is going to take me but I feel like it is going to be very interesting.

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