Tuesday, April 14, 2009

God of War

I really do find myself struggling with my own human tendency to violence lately. That doesn't mean I've been getting into brawls at my session meetings or picking random fights with Baptists.

It's that I've bothered comparing my feelings towards the Somalian piracy issue with my Christian faith. On the one hand, I have no patience whatsoever towards individuals who are willing to threaten others for material gain. That is, quite simply, evil. But that's not the only ethos that I have trouble with.

The idea that somehow seizing ships and holding individual sailors as hostages should be viewed primarily in terms of cost/benefit analyses is equally alien. Those ship owners and insurance actuaries who'd rather just pay ransoms seem to just be enabling ongoing violence. Their marketized morality couldn't care less about the terror inflicted on captive sailors and their families. It's all about acceptable risk and maintaining profitability.

I freely admit to desiring an aggressive response to the narced up and heavily armed men who've been seizing ships, and to having taken some satisfaction in the Special Forces action that freed the captain of the Mersk Alabama. For all of the reporting on the anarchy, poverty, and tribalism in Somalia, my willingness to accept varying cultural norms runs out well before I'm willing to tolerate hostage taking and the armed seizure of goods. At some level, I'd like to see more intense responses, in the form of a multilateral effort to both take out the land bases that have been supporting pirate activity and re-establish the rule of law.

On the other hand, I'm troubled that I have such a strong positive reaction to the application of coercive power. I'm reasonably sure that the only authentic Christian response to three perfectly synchronized headshots should be sorrow at the loss of life. Here, I tend to fall back on St. Augustine's City of God for my theological framework. Are Christians permitted to use force? Augustine thought so, but only in defense of an innocent. That use of force can't be vengeful, or driven by blood lust. It needs to be guided not by a desire to destroy, but a desire to build up and restore.