Friday, October 15, 2004

Render unto Caesar the Police Power...

...and pray that Caesar knows what to do with it.

On 10/13, Rantburgers opined vociferously and ferociously about Ossetians in Beslan arming themselves to exact vengeance on the neighboring Muslims for their roles, both active and passive, in the murders at the school. Some comments were reasonable, some went beyond viciousness; reading the hateful ones was a glimpse into the pit of hell.

Somebody asked what the Christian response would be, as the Ossetians are (officially) Christian. The fact that an ethnic group identifies its culture with that of a given church does not necessarily make it Christian. Northern Ireland and Serbia prove this point tragically. To find out what Jesus would do, read The Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 5-7 (this was like a stump speech; Jesus preached it many times, which is why it appears a little differently in the Gospel of Luke). Personal vengeance is unacceptable to the Christian: "Vengeance," says the Lord, "is mine, I Will repay." Elsewhere in the Bible, scripture makes it clear that police power and justice belong to the state:

Therefore submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord's sake, whether to the king as supreme, or to governors (even the crooked Roman ones in Peter's time) as to those who are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and for the praise of those who do good. I Peter 2:13-14

Kings and Judges in the Old Testament were given strict instructions about waging war in order to establish the kingdom of Israel and to protect the Israelites from the horrific practices, such as ritual orgies and child sacrifice, of the Canaanite tribes they supplanted. Both going beyond one's mandate and failing to perform the task as given come under God's censure and judgment. Atrocities mentioned in the Bible, such as the civil war against the Benjamites at the end of the book of Judges, show the failure of the Israelites to obey God, and resulting disaster.

When the state itself condones personal vengeance, or cannot control it, that country is doomed.

The Liberian War of 1990 gives an excellent illustration of the failure of personal vengeance. Personal vengeance practiced on a tribal scale has led to a failed state and complete devastation (Haiti is more of the same). These countries need a stronger power to impose order and spend 20 or 40 or 100 years teaching people how to live together as decent neighbors. One can only hope and pray that the UN, or some power, will be effective in these areas.

The Americo-Liberians, descendants of the freed American slaves, ran Liberia as any other less than competent colonial power did during the 19th and 20th centuries. They did accomplish one useful thing: they squelched intertribal wars. Liberia has 31 tribes speaking 17 languages in an area less than the size of Wisconsin; and most of the tribes have hated each other's guts since the dawn of time. By the end of the Tubman presidency for life, in 1971, tribal people were demanding greater opportunities. President Tolbert, who genuinely tried to help tribal people, didn't go fast enough to meet the demand. Soldiers of the Krahn tribe, led by Samuel K. Doe, killed Tolbert and some of the ossified old guard Americo-Liberians. Doe spent the next 11 years putting down 29 coup attempts, mostly launched by the Krahn's tribal rivals, the Mano and Gio. The Krahn were most of the army--they had the guns, they killed Mano and Gio. The Mano and Gio supported Charles Taylor and Prince Johnson duing 1989 and 1990, retaliating against Krahn villagers as well as the army.

One Krahn man in Monrovia heard that Mano had raided his home village and killed his family. So when the Krahn government officials declared open season on Mano and Gio, this man took a gun and shot his neighbor and his neighbor's 9 month old son. Gee, that didn't make him feel much better. So he joined the army and help massacre more Mano and Gio. Now he really felt horrid. He gave up his gun and walked to Cote d'Ivoire. In the refugee camp, he found himself across the road and face to face daily with the widow of the neighbor he'd killed. He saw that she went to a tent church in the camp. He went to church himself. He went before the congregation, confessed his murders, and asked the widow for forgiveness. She forgave him.

Individuals who forgive and help heal are a nation's hope. Governments that effectively serve the people and maintain order have hope. People determined to play by hell's rules bring hell on earth.

But to the wicked God says, "What right have you to declare My statutes, or take My covenant in your mouth?" Seeing you hate instruction and cast My words behind you? When you saw a thief, you consented with him, and have been a partaker with adulterers. You give your mouth to evil, and your tongue frames deceit....Now consider this, you who forget God, lest I tear you in pieces, and there be none to deliver. Psalm 50:16-22

Posted by Mrs. James

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