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Sunday, May 12, 2013

Idealism's Bankruptcy

What is your view on the call to Christians to defend, with force, certain human rights or freedoms? (Serendipity Bible 10th Anniversary Edition, page 1239).

Idealism: Impracticality by virtue of thinking of things in their ideal form rather than as they really are (WordWeb Pro). 

When I was a young man in prison for opposing the Vietnam War, a prison official in a cordial way once told me that I was an idealist. Despite our comity, his comment burned me to the core. I perceived it as an inaccurate description of my true stance and was in a sense dismissive of me as a person and what I stood for.

The reader will no doubt tire of me referring to the “Little Joke”*, but I must do so as it is very much aligned with my perception of reality. In this schematic are the words “A structure like this will please the dogs in muddy rainy weather.” Muddy rainy weather is a very precise description of the world as we find it. From my experience, this world of necessity is replete with paradox and irony. The Prince of Peace himself said: “Do you think I came to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but division. From now on there will be five in one family divided against each other, three against two and two against three. They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law” (Luke 12:51-53). 

From idealism’s point of view, life is absolutely precious on principle without any provision for irony or paradox. Yet clearly the realm of muddy rainy is filled with square holes. Say my job is a policeman in Saint Petersburg. I entered the profession as an idealist dedicated to upholding peace and security and protecting life and property in my home town. I embody in a limited way the sword of the state and the police power of the state. We can without any effort whatever readily think of a plethora of circumstances in which paradoxically I would have to use deadly force to uphold the principle that life is precious. On a national/international level the military finds itself in comparable circumstances. Clearly idealism represents a form of intellectual bankruptcy to the extent that it is uncompromising absolute and dismissive of life’s heavy ironies.

Now that said, I will always honor my Uncle Calhoun for his unqualified opposition to war. I simply feel the world would be a much drearier and hopeless place if not graced by men of his conviction. I frankly cannot resolve the conflict of Christ’s crucifixion vis-à-vis the necessity of proactive deadly force. Yet I know without doubt that the Trinity stands for holiness not in some abstract gauzy world of unreality, but in our world of muddy rainy weather. I cannot explain why Hitler’s ilk would spread hatred and death upon the innocent. We all know only too well the human heart and its capacity for depravity. It is my view that the police power of the state has a holy mission and that this can entail deadly force. God grant discernment.

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