“If your solution to evil in the world is to “kill the bad guys” you’ve not yet understood Jesus. – Brian Zahnd.
First let me clarify, I’ve never been in favor of the death penalty. I don’t believe the state is morally qualified to execute people, it’s exceedingly expensive and not cost effective, and Jesus was unjustly executed by the governing authorities. So I’ve got many moral, financial, legal, and faith based reasons for being opposed to the death penalty.
Also, I’m not in the habit of running about killing actual bad guys, so this is a purely hypothetical or metaphorical discussion.
Also, I just want to state that Zahnd and I often have opposing worldviews, different politics, different ways of perceiving the world. Can we still be cut from the same loaf? We totally can, we can be snuggled up in Christ together like croutons on a chef’s salad. I have to say that because the tribalism, the cancel culture, the divisiveness of this world has just become an overwhelming force. Resist. The Body is made up of many different parts. Disagreements need not be divisions.
I do believe that too much turning the other cheek, too much pacifism soon becomes immoral. It all reminds me of HG Wells and The Time Machine, with the Eloi now unable or unwilling to identify evil or to intervene and protect others. There are no bad guys in Eloi world……problem solved. Except of course, people drown or get hauled off and eaten by cannibals, but at least no bad guys are injured in the telling of the tale?
Is Pacifism Immoral? I believe so.
You have to kill the bad guys. It is morally necessary. Maybe you’re killing them with kindness? Maybe you’re killing them with redemption and they repent? Maybe you can crush them with grace? Or maybe you’re just left killing their contact with the rest of society and locking them up? Regardless, you have to kill the bad guys. The Bible speaks about how we ourselves were dead in our transgressions, now co-crucified with Christ, new creatures, dying to self. So there must at least be a metaphorical or spiritual death, an attitude of symbolically, “killing the bad guys.” Especially our own bad guys, the ones within us.
We also do a grave injustice to victims, to the community at large, to people’s sense of safety and justice when we are unwilling to acknowledge evil. To refuse to name evil for what it is and to avoid bringing some form of order to our world, is to fail to protect the least of these, because they will always get picked off first.
It’s probably because I now live at ground zero of all moral ambiguity, in the 9th circuit of hell, this liberal utopian paradise of…..chronic and grave injustice, broken people, and never ending confusion. I have literally written about being trapped in the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party and left clinging desperately to Alice because up is down, good is evil, right is wrong, and those in leadership actually think they know what they are doing.
Like, it is exceedingly difficult to go to church, to run a small business, or to participate in any healthy activities. We do however, have needle exchange programs to help keep you safer while you do drugs, a huge homeless population living out on the streets, and an ever growing “pedophilia is just a lifestyle” group.
I can actually get into trouble for not wearing a mask at work, but if I wanted to just go outside and spray paint the side of the building in protest I can probably get the city council to send me free pizza.
That is the fruit of all this moral ambiguity. It tends to build an incredibly unjust system where those who try to do right, those who try to comply, get punished and those who just drain the life energy out of the world are rewarded. Crime really does pay and it often makes the rest of us feel like complete morons for trying a different way.
Where I live we’re currently chattering away about defunding the cops. That is such a disconnected, elitist thing to do. Those of us who have actually dealt with the truth and reality of real human beings, tend to be far more likely to say things like, “Please call the cops. Please do not to handle this yourself.” Why? Because 95% of the time cops are going to be better at diffusing the situation and preventing violence than the individuals involved! To defund the cops is to issue something akin to death sentence to several small time “bad guys.” If you think individuals are more equipped and compassionate towards one another then cops who are not even invested in the situation, you are misinformed.
There is infinitely less violence when cops handle confrontations then when ordinary civilians do.
I think we of the Western church at large have often done a grave disservice to people, by focusing so much on pacifism, mercy, grace, and being “nice.” We have spoken endlessly about being tolerant, inclusive, forgiving, and meek. We have approached the world as if we ourselves are the biggest threat to it, and we have certainly often treated one another accordingly. Again, I’m going to suggest that kind of pacifism is really elitist, that it alienates many people who live in the real world with real human beings in it.
I live in an area pretty much governed by, “there are no bad people only good people who sometimes do bad things and when they do it’s probably someone else’s fault and you just aren’t empathetic enough.”
Such notions have absolutely crushed me, which is okay, that’s how you get the fragrance out of fine herbs, but I could write a victim impact statement about the harm caused by such ideas that would take days to read. And of course, in the motherlode of all hypocrisy it has often been my soul that people are more than willing to put to death in pursuit of their own virtues, their own ideologies of moral ambiguity and pacifism.
It’s not fair to pick on a few words in a tweet, but I’m going to rewrite Zahnd’s words in a way that I find far more pleasing,
“If your solution to evil in the world is not to “put away the bad guys” you’ve not yet understood Jesus.”