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Good theology is essential when bad things go down. So, to start with some theological preciseness, the question in the title would be better phrased: Is Scott Westerhuis hell-bound? The reason for that clarification is because it isn’t until after the Great White Throne Judgment that the books are opened and each one judged. It is then both Death and Hades are gathered up and together thrown into the Eternal Lake of Fire (aka Hell). The temporary abode for the unredeemed dead is Hades, not Hell. So no, no one is presently burning in hell.
The question was posed yesterday on Facebook by a seasoned journalist friend in South Dakota who, since last September, has been covering the horrible unfoldings in Platte, South Dakota. He took some criticism for even posting the question. Understandably this is still a very tender topic in our small home state.
Scott Westerhuis was husband and father of four, an active member of First Reformed Church and an involved member of a close knit small town community. Made aware he was soon to be in serious trouble for plundering a million dollars from a fund set up to help young Native Americans, late that night he took his shotgun and killed his wife and their four children all in their beds, and then set fire to their house and taking his own life.
For the benefit of others in our state, here were my contributions in the midst of a most interesting string of comments to the question.
Me: One doesn’t spend eternity separated from God for anything they did or didn’t do. The way you end up there is rejecting what Jesus did to make possible eternity with God.
A reply to me: Can someone profess Jesus is their Lord and Savior and then commit multiple murders? Were they lying when they made the profession or did they change their mind? Or did they not even think about it? (a subconscious decision)
Me: People profess Jesus as Lord and then commit adultery or break any of the other Ten Commandments. Our various traditions differ a bit on whether some sin is worse than other sin. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said if we are angry it’s the same as murder. A lawyer friend in Sioux Falls who has/is defended some of those facing the death penalty in South Dakota told me once that every murderer he’s ever met felt justified from their vantage point at that time to do what they did, and he and I agree that includes the State when we kill killers. We do what they do and then have our rationalisations for it. Psychologically suicide and killing occur in when we aren’t thinking clearly and rationally. Killing is irrational. Unless a person decidedly rejects Christ and then kills, I’m not sure we can say they go to hell– at least not for killing. I’m grateful I’m not judged according to the worse thing I’ve done. The Gospel is about what Jesus did, not about what we’ve done. Did he do enough on the Cross to pay the price for all our sin or do we need to add to his finished work by doing more right and less wrong? Reject him and we are on our own to stand before God on our own good merit.
This is pure speculation: perhaps this guy dearly loved his family and couldn’t imagine life without them or imagine ruining their lives and shaming them all so horribly with his crimes and to spare them that greater pain, in a colossal act of misguided mercy, and moment of irrational panic- hardly thinking clearly about anything – believing in Christ and heaven- reasoned to himself that they could all go together and be together and that God would understand.
Good people in society concoct all sorts of justifications for killing to save themselves and others.
I’ll wrap up here with some Gospel basics: Salvation is not genetic or hereditary any more than marriage is– your grandparents being married doesn’t mean you are– your parents being Christians doesn’t automatically make you one– a individual choice to receive what Jesus did for you appropriates salvation to an individual. Salvation is not by ritual or ceremony. Salvation is not by addition– doing more right. It is not by subtraction– doing less wrong. It is not second hand– not mediated by anyone other than Jesus. Salvation is not by comparison– we are less bad than those people down the street – those gays or Muslims or compared to that guy on death-row. It is not universal– you can decidedly reject what Jesus did for you and many do. He doesn’t force people to spend eternity with him when they make it clear they don’t want him part of their lives here. Salvation is not by showing up to church. It can’t be bought or sold. Salvation is not by sincerity. The 9/11 hi-jackers were sincere, sincerely wrong. You get the idea. And, by the way, our loving God doesn’t send anyone to hell. Hell-bound people chose that course themselves by rejecting the only way God set forth for salvation. If all religious paths were viable options, he wouldn’t have sent his only Son to die on a Cross to atone for our sin. Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life.
As hard as it is to accept, I’m doubtful Westerhuis is hell-bound. The reason is because salvation isn’t based on what he did. It is based on what Jesus did. From what I can tell, he was a believing Christian. And yes we aren’t to judge or try to read hearts, but people in my line of work get asked these hard questions– and usually people like me have 2-3 days max to think of something to say at a funeral. It’s not a time to give false assurances. It’s a time to be clear about how it is that Jesus defeats death for us all. God has an amazing way to bring life from death and draw out good from bad. The possibility of salvation for Scott Westerhuis will hopefully result in the assurance of salvation of many others.
Retraction and Correction – Page 228
Please strike over and disregard the entirety of the second full paragraph on page 228 of my Sermon on the Mount book. It is rubbish I wrote in 2003. This book was written over of a couple decades and there are several places where I’d say things differently today. However, the issue I correct here is so central at the very the summit of the mount it cannot stand uncorrected. There is no section of the Bible like here at the summit of the mount (enemy love) where corporately, Christians contort themselves more to get out from underneath its demands. Here we come to the second of the two main issues of interpretation with regard to the Sermon on the Mount. The first being, is it liveable? Is it an obtainable standard? The entire thesis of this book is absolutely, it is liveable and obtainable. The second issue then becomes who is it for, an individual believer or also for Christian’s corporately, including nations seeking to adhere to Judeo-Christian values? If you want a more developed article on non-retaliation go to my essay: Love as a Foreign Policy: September 11 and Turning the Other Cheek (pdf alert, 11,000 words). One of the first questions I get on this is; what about self-defence, what about defending the nation?? This article is about retaliation and to whom the non-retaliation commandment applies. If that is not kept in mind one will misunderstand and misrepresent my argument. The following constitutes the corrections I wish to make in place of the disregarded paragraph.
Christians quickly hide behind Romans 13 arguing God gives governments the power of the sword. Romans 13 does say just that, except the passage does not say God agrees with and sanctions every pagan governments decided use of the sword. And most certainly, Paul was not telling Christians that they are justified to forsake the path of mercy and love if and when they one day assume positions of power. Why then are so many Christians today defending the values of pagan Romans and the ethics of Nero? Perhaps it should be the case that governments in the Christian sectors of the world are based more on the ethics of Jesus rather than on the ethics of Nero. It is remarkable how much weight Christians throughout the centuries have given to this eisegesis of Romans 13:4. Somehow it outweighs fifty verses from Jesus on showing mercy and love.
Retreating to a bifurcated interpretation of “turn the other cheek,” in that it applies to Christians interpersonally but not to Christians corporately and politically, is to entirely miss all that the Apostle Paul underscored in the chapter immediately before Romans 13, chapter twelve. Chapter 12 of Romans reads much like the Sermon on the Mount; “Love must be sincere… Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse… Do not repay anyone evil for evil… Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. On the contrary: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” Those were Paul’s instructions immediately prior to his Romans 13 statement on Christians living submissively under pagan governments (whom God has delegated the power of the sword). There is no caveat that they do not apply to the Christian later, if and when they find themselves in positions of power and political authority.
There is no caveat that these divine strategies of responding to hate and hurt with love and responding to evil with good only work on a small scale. My contention here is those who have been faithful and obedient in smaller situations can be entrusted with the same in larger situations. Jesus never differentiated between loving a neighbour and loving a neighbouring nation.** Effectually it is as if we believe Jesus said “These are some strategies that I commend to you for little matters. Honestly, for the more complex conflicts I have nothing for you in terms of heavenly wisdom or strategy so go ahead and ‘do unto them what they’ve do unto you’ and I’m okay with whatever response seems and feels right for you at the time. Not to worry, forgiveness comes easy with me, and grace cheap.”
**Leo Tolstoy settles this centuries-old, unnecessary uncertainty with a simple appeal to the words Jesus used and what they would have meant to his original hearers. “…[N]eighbour in the Hebrew language meant, invariably and exclusively, ‘a Hebrew.’” Considering the lengths he went to describe the thoroughness of his study of these words, that he seems to imply Jesus spoke this originally in Hebrew, not Aramaic, is peculiar. His justification may be it is the same word and meaning as in Luke 10:29 where the “neighbour” is a Samaritan– someone a Hebrew would have clearly not regarded as a neighbour. Finding the same meaning in Acts 7:27, his conclusion is “‘neighbour’ in Gospel language, means a compatriot, a person belonging to the same nationality…. And so the antithesis used by Jesus in the citation, ‘love thy neighbour, hate thine enemy,’ must be in the distinction between the words ‘compatriot’ and ‘foreigner.’” Tolstoy contended his supposition was further confirmed when seeking the Jewish understanding of enemy. “The word enemy is nearly always employed in the Gospels in the sense, not of a personal enemy, but, in general, of a ‘hostile people.’” His citations are Luke 1:71,74; Matthew 22, Mark 12:36 and Luke 20:43. Based on the words Jesus used, Tolstoy’s conclusion is that it is not possible that Jesus intended his teaching to be applicable only on the interpersonal level. [Source: Tolstoy, Leo. My Religion–What I Believe. (Guildford, UK: White Crow Productions Ltd, 2009 reprint of the 1884 text), 72.]
On March 11, 2016, here at the University of Aberdeen, I asked Stanley Hauerwas the question: What should turn the other cheek mean to a Christian President the morning after September 11? What follows is a verbatim transcript of my recording of his answer. Next week I will be publishing an essay entitled: Love as a Foreign Policy: Hauerwas, Elshtain and a Christ-like Response to September 11th. Part of Hauerwas’ comment below appears in my essay but I’m posting his entire statement here so it is out there for others to use. ______________________________________
Steve Hickey: What should turn the other cheek mean to a Christian President the morning after a September 11?
Stanley Hauerwas: And my answer is, how does a Christian ever get elected President of the United States? I mean I would assume that they would have been interrogated about what it means to turn the other cheek before they ever got to be president. And that would have made them– not ready candidates to be understood as people who would be ready to do anything to defend the American people. So the question itself already presupposes a Constantinian form of Christianity that I do not represent.
In terms of September 11, America is a country whose politics is fundamentally determined by September 11th. When September 11th occurred I said “this is the next fifty years and maybe longer than that” because Americans are determined to find a way to get out of life alive. And we think that if we have the strongest military that will be able to provide that result. And of course, it’s just bullshit.
And this would be kind of a Niebuhrian point…. One of the tensions within the American society is the disconnect between the morality necessary to sustain a serious military and the ethos of the American people. What was the fundamental thing that George Bush said a day after September 11?… what is the moral response of the American people to September 11th? “[Go out and] Shop.” So now you have the American military, which is an honour society, defending a social order whose deepest moral commitment is shopping. How do you do that?
And so those are the deeper questions I think that occur about how Christianity relates to American politics. Reinhold Niebuhr, his thought was committed to trying to figure out what it would look like if as a matter of fact America had a Christian Secretary of State and the primary implication is they have to be planning out how to kill as few as possible and that means you need to be smart in terms of how you act out of American self-interests. Niebuhr never called into question whether a Christian could be a Secretary of State. He wanted that.
Bonhoeffer the Assassin?
Challenging the Myth, Recovering His Call the Peacemaking
by Mark Thiessen Nation, Anthony G. Siegrist
and Daniel P. Umbel
Foreword By Stanley Hauerwas
A Book Review
By Steve Hickey, University of Aberdeen
An intentionally controversial book, as the subtitle suggests, Bonhoeffer the Assassin? by Nation, Siegrist and Umbel is an attempt to challenge what the authors view as an unfortunate but pervasive myth; that by the end of his life Dietrich Bonhoeffer had retreated from his earlier held pacifist convictions in participating directly in plots to assassinate Adolf Hitler. As Bonhoeffer scholars from within the Mennonite tradition, and each deeply committed to pacifism, it could be assumed this book is another biased attempt by yet another group to hijack the Bonhoeffer legacy and turn him into an endorser of their own ideals. Though there is the uncomfortable suspicion of such a subjective vantage point, and some truth to it, the book does challenge long-assumed claims of a compromised Bonhoeffer with some measure of good reason and scholarship.
Siegrist and Umbel are former students of Mark Nation and have each contributed two chapters in the second half of the book devoted to development of Bonhoeffer’s ethic. Nation begins the book himself with three biographical chapters providing a general orientation to the movements, associations and involvements of Bonhoeffer in the Church Struggle. Even more importantly this biographical section provides a closer look at what we actually know and do not know about Bonhoeffer’s time working for the Abwehr, and his remote connections to any conspiracies to stop Hitler, or assassinate him.
The more ill-informed of Bonhoeffer fans today may think any and all working for the Abwehr were resisters however Nation documents that of the 13,000 who worked at the Abwehr, only fifty were known to be connected to the resistance, barely four percent (p. 74). And of the known forty-two separate plots to kill Hitler, only five could have had any possible connection to Bonhoeffer. In taking time to review those five, Nation documents that there were only two of which Bonhoeffer may have been even aware. Drawing from Dramm’s Bonhoeffer and the Resistance, anyone who includes Bonhoeffer in these efforts “greatly exaggerates Bonhoeffer’s role and importance in the resistance.” Nation says “I believe this is Dramm’s way of saying there is not a shred of evidence that Bonhoeffer was linked in any way to these attempts of Hitler’s life” (p. 86).
Bonhoeffer is presented as a chaplain of sorts to the resistance, a spiritual advisor and pastoral counselor providing mental support, not so much moral support or justification (p. 82). In other words, he was in no way an assassin or even an accomplice of one. We are reminded his arrest was because of the role he played in the rescue of fourteen Jews, not because of any connection to assassination attempts. Regardless of the position one takes on the bias of this book, it importantly underscores the point that we are not as sure as we thought we were how directly Bonhoeffer was involved.
Perhaps it could be said that a person who only reads one book on a subject knows only a dangerous little about it. If this is the only book one reads on the matter of Bonhoeffer and pacifism, at least know that what is contained therein is contested strongly by Bonhoeffer scholars who are much closer to Bonhoeffer’s associations, students and his friends than the authors here. Particularly Clifford Green reviews this book expressing obvious agitation over what is conveniently left out of the book. But more so his angst is fuelled by how Nation builds his thesis by dismissing Bethge’s decades-later memories of informal conversations as unreliable, and even perhaps a deliberate attempt to give the world a Bonhoeffer different than the one he actually knew:
Perhaps Bethge desperately wanted his close friend to be perceived as a “Political” activist in the midst of the worst years of the Hitler regime. Bonhoeffer, so Bethge wants us to believe, was one of the Germans who directly tried to stop the massive slaughter that became the Holocaust of the Jews… (p.94)
For Nation, stunningly, Bethge is an unreliable source. Understandably, Green, who knew Bethge personally over several decades finds these insinuations outrageous. All that having been said, the first three chapters remain a generally informative and succinct, though a selective summary of the biographical unfolding of what transpired.
The second half of the book offers an helpful overview of Bonhoeffer’s theological ethic and development. The thesis of the book is that from 1932-1945, Bonhoeffer held a consistent pacifist ethic and did not (as others suggest) repudiate Discipleship by the time he wrote Ethics. There is really no debate that in his 1929 Barcelona lectures, Bonhoeffer was solidly an advocate of just war theory. And there is no debate that around 1932, through his friendship at Union Seminary with Jean Lassarre – a French Tolstoyian pacifist committed to the simple obedience of the Sermon on the Mount – that Bonhoeffer’s thinking on the matter dramatically changed and was the catalyst behind the later writing of Discipleship. The claim of this book is that between Discipleship (1937) and Ethics (1943) there is no repudiation of a strong pacifist ethic for Dietrich Bonhoeffer.
This rather than being a repudiation of Discipleship either in its parts or as a whole, Ethics is a confirmation, as it is its continuation, amendment, clarification and culmination (p. 158).
Using JW for just war, P for pacifist, and upper and lower case for a soft or strong ethic, the basic claims in this book can be depicted as following. The pervasive “myth” in the development of Bonhoeffer’s life and thought could be pictured as:
JW – p – jw
1929 1937 1943
Nation, Siegrist and Umbel challenge this and propose a more accurate reading would be:
JW – P – p
1929 1937 1943
The four chapters in the second section of the book hit the major themes we find in Discipleship and Ethics; cheap grace, simple and paradoxical obedience, the ultimate and penultimate, the this-worldliness of Christianity and, guilt and responsibility. The analysis of the writings of Bonhoeffer show “that Bonhoeffer in no way checked his rigorous ethics at the door of World War II or his involvement in the resistance. Bonhoeffer held to an ethic centered on Christ– uncompromised, though not unaffected, by his circumstances” (p. 209). Readers are encouraged to consider how, to date, Bonhoeffer’s development of thought has been viewed primarily through a Niebuhrian-tainted lens in that loving enemies is an impossibility– “unrealistic and, in a vicious world, is even harmful” (p. 218). The contention is this, in part, is what has been driving significant misreadings of Bonhoeffer’s later work.
Book titles are intended to be catchy and provocative enough to sell books and start conversations but one wonders how Bonhoeffer would react to the use of the term assassin here in the title? Perhaps this important book might be better titled A Pacifist Rereading of Bonhoeffer or A Pacifists Guide to Bonhoeffer. In his conclusion Nation recites Larry Rasmussen’s standard work on the subject, Dietrich Bonhoeffer: Reality and Resistance, to bolster his own thesis: “All the twisting possible cannot make the author of The Cost of Discipleship a volunteer for even assassinating Adolf Hitler” (p. 222).
Why do you lock your doors at night? Fear? Or is it prudence and wisdom? Is it unChristian to thank God for walled cities and for discerning gatekeepers? Is that fear, or prudence?
With regard to the refugees coming in mass from Muslim nations it is easier today to stay quiet and just camp in the Christianliness of hospitality toward the stranger.
We should be hospitable to the stranger, but it’s not that simple. We need to pray for those responsible in government to identify and neutralise threats and not just write them off as lousy Christians. When the Christian left scolds us for being full of fear and xenophobic I only wish it were that simple. It sounds a bit like the echoes of the days when the religious leaders cried Peace, Peace when there really was no peace. Curious that passage (Ezekiel 13:10) mentions building a flimsy wall.
We should love Muslims. We should respond to refugees right now. Foreign aid is sorely needed. Resettlement issues for them are complex. European nations are being destabilised.
Is it fear mongering for me to say I believe there are clear signs of an Islamic invasion of the West, currently underway, particularly in Europe? I do have some measure of fear that Christians and Christian agencies are using the crisis as a cash cow. Resettlement is big business for them.
To invoke Godwin’s Law, no doubt in the 1930s the average churchgoer in Germany had very little sense of what was growing up in their midst. Pastors who did see a threat and said something about it were marginalised and later rounded up and silenced. Others feared reprisal on themselves and said nothing. Is it fear to have fresh discussions about how the Nazi’s used gun control? There are two opposing scholarly views on the question. The one says:
University of Hawaii political scientist Rudolph J. Rummel, one of the leading students of democide (mass murder of civilian populations by governments), has estimated that nearly 170 million people have been murdered by their own governments in our century. The familiar list of mass murderers–Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot–only scratches the surface. The mass slaughter of helpless, unarmed civilian populations continues in Sudan, Rwanda, parts of the former Yugoslavia and East Timor. The reluctance of outside forces to intervene is well documented. And yet the obvious question is strangely absent: Would arms in the hands of average citizens have made a difference? Could the overstretched Nazi war machine have murdered 11 million armed and resisting Europeans while also taking on the Soviet and Anglo-American armies? Could 50,000 to 70,000 Khmer Rouge have butchered 2 million to 3 million armed Cambodians? The answers are by no means clear, but it is unconscionable that they are not being asked.- Robert J. Cottrol is a professor of law and history at George Washington University in The Last Line of Defense: The right to bear arms is a matter of individual safety and ultimately, freedom. The issue goes far beyond gun nuts.
The other view says, no, arms in the hands of average citizens would not have made a difference– that’s NRA propaganda and fear mongering.
I am a product of the gun culture in America and I wouldn’t call my friends our part of the world afraid, at all. There’s a joke among them of an old lady who gets pulled over by a cop and he asked if she has any weapons concealed. She shocks him listing off the various caliber firearms in the trunk and glove box. The cop says, Wow lady, what on earth are you afraid of? She chuckled and said “Not a damn thing.” My gun culture friends and family aren’t afraid of certain people, they are more mad at certain people. Big difference.
Islamophobia doesn’t describe the people I know. But it is frightening what that Koran actually teaches. It is frightening to think of how Islam regards and treats women. It is frightening to hear the rhetoric coming from various Imams. But is that Islamophobia? Perhaps we could say there are two paths before us, wisdom and foolishness. It is a fair game discussion to be asking whether or not it is foolish to have wide open borders right now.
And this irrational fearing goes both ways. Can it be said that those who didn’t grow up around guns live in fear of them today? Sure it can. Hoplophobia is the fear of firearms. Many times I’ve taken friends who have never been near a gun out to target shoot. They get stiff, nervous and are afraid to to even touch it. They jump when it goes off. I can only imagine what the millions of Americans who never been around a gun feel about guns. Is that feeling fear? Those of us who grew up around guns have no such fear. When I went to high school I had a shotgun in my pick up in the school parking lot. No big deal. We don’t have guns because we are afraid.
I thought the caption from a meme says it well… “Seriously. Conservatives own 200+ million guns, 12 trillion rounds of ammo. If we were violent, you’d know it.”
The West doesn’t want to admit it but we find ourselves in the midst of a brutal holy war. As the sun comes up in Paris this morning the world is reeling from last night’s attack on Paris by the Islamic State. Media outlets are still unsure the exact body count. Muslim radicals are engaged in a full-on holy war against the West. The leaders of this holy war aren’t military generals, they are imams. What if the religious leaders of the West took the lead in responding?
The President of France immediately announced France will respond mercilessly. Haven’t we learned since 9/11 this (a merciless response) isn’t working? We’ve mortgaged our future spending trillions on the sword. Selectively fiscal conservatives still think additional trillions in defence spending and ongoing war will make us safer and depopulate the world of bad guys. It has done the opposite. Maybe it’s time we push the leaders espousing those failed solutions aside. Where is the radical leadership of those who hold to the values of Jesus? Is it really nutso to say if they bomb our children we will only work harder to feed their refugees until they can be screened and relocated? There is a demonic spirit in radical Islam. You don’t disarm a demonic spirit with more bloodshed. That feeds it. You dislodge a demonic spirit by moving in the opposite spirit. My pushback here is fuelled by my concern that in Christian circles in America the same spirit of violence in radical Islam is also operating increasingly in us.
My weariness is in all the creative rationales Christians concoct to avoid the mandates of the Sermon on the Mount. For example, turn the other cheek only applies here or there but not every where?!? What is left is that we live none of it because we’ve wiggled out from under all of it. These are questions I raise in my Sermon on the Mount book: What does turn the other cheek mean to a Christian leader the morning after a 9/11? I’m not suggestion police officers or soldiers turn the other cheek. I’m saying what if our Presidents, Prime Ministers and Generals effectually and strategically did? If something is God’s strategy on a small scale, why will it not work on a larger scale? Where has it be tried? Is a bomb really the only thing in our arsenal? The more we kill them, the more they kill us. And who wins? They kill our children and we kill theirs. And Christian leaders essentially baptise all this with their silence and lack of leadership. Baloney that our role is to only comfort the grieving and pray blessing on our soldiers.
Time for some radical alternatives. We need some holy leaders for this holy war. Wouldn’t it be something if 100 Paris imams held a press conference with 100 Paris rabbis and Christian ministers and said – Stop, both sides, this isn’t the way forward and call for a total renouncement of violence from all sides? I’d like to see religious leaders take the helm from the national leaders and navigate our way out of these times. The time for peacemakers is now. A peacemaker is one who stands in the middle of conflict and sets both sides back. National leaders don’t have the tools or the anointing for peacemaking. That’s our job.
Every bomb we drop has proven to be a seed that produces ten more people who hate us. Closing borders is step one. Slowing down the welcome of refugees is step two to vet them properly so radicals aren’t waltzing right in among them. A military response here is more of the same and produces more of the same. We need to use our values not our bombs. Certainly there is a Sermon on the Mount response that will effectually heap burning coals on the heads of our enemies
If you’ve never read Mark Twain’s short War Prayer I commend it to you today. If you think these ideas are worth considering, please forward the link to this post on to others. Maybe it’ll resonate and gain some traction.
For those who wonder, in my growing revulsion of the escalation of violence among people and against animals, I haven’t shifted into pacifism entirely. Though some are now saying so, I’m not sure Bonhoeffer did either. Yes, we all should shift toward a Sermon on the Mount peace ethic and drag our feet very slowly into war. As praying people we should all read Mark Twain’s War Prayer and think long and hard about how we think about our enemy. And we shouldn’t always be at war – war for oil, turf wars, class wars, race wars, holy wars, war for revenge.
If I was preaching this Sunday (the week Obama vetoed a defence spending bill – only the fifth defence spending bill ever vetoed in US History) I would title my message “The Emergency of Peace.” We need to take it more seriously. The UK has capped defence spending at 2% of the GDP. The US should as well. We should figure out how to use communication technology to promote peace and turn the world against violence instead of spending another trillion on a high-tech killing machines. Something is wrong when our headlines read: She kills people from 7,850 miles away.
However, for me, there is some measure of justification for a human rights war – Kurds getting gassed by Saddam…. the Kurds are like the Jews, everyone hates them…
“The Kurds have no friends but the mountains.” -Kurdish Proverb.
My friend Joel Richardson asks in his documentary, shouldn’t Kurdish people have better friends than mountains? Answer, yes.
Or Saddam’s sons driving through the streets of Baghdad looking for happy couples walking hand in hand, a man with a nice looking woman… then grabbing the man, throwing him in a wood chipper and raping his wife.
I was thinking this morning about the ethics of war, on Bonhoeffer and about the first killing of a human being. Imagine… if there were three brothers in the field that day not two; Cain, Abel and their other brother Larry? How would that change our discussion about the ethics of war? If only there were a brother’s keeper in the field that day.
Seems to me, at this point in my thinking, only a brother’s keeper war can even be remotely justified. Perhaps our War for Independence from British oppression and our Civil War could be construed as brother’s keepers wars. Certainly I wouldn’t be here in the UK now typing these things if the Allied Forces didn’t play the role of the brother’s keeper against Hitler’s murderous expansion. Not sure how the Christian sits by in that type of instance.
I’ve been ask to pray at the homecomings of our battalions and shaken the hands of soldiers coming home. I’ve pastored the parents of soldiers and soldiers themselves. The way I say it is: It is a God-like thing to do to send a son or daughter in harm’s way on behalf of the welfare of others. In this brother’s keepers war sense only can war be construed as a greater love… laying down lives for others. Even so, I’ve always said divorce always involves sin and I’ll add so does war. In the case of divorce God made an allowance for the hardness of humans hearts. Maybe there is a similar grace for a brother’s keeper war. And maybe for once we can try to drop relief instead of bombs and see if the Scripture isn’t true that it’s like heaping burning coals on the heads of our enemies.
Before you express frustration with me for taking this matter to another level, consider this: we require our eighth grade health teachers to talk about these things in very vivid but positive ways and so it should be okay for those of us contending against our pornified, over-sexualized and increasingly violent culture to speak up too.
You are flat wrong if you, as many have in the last few days, think I am somehow obsessed with the topic. For twenty-five years my work has been to help people who have been used, abused and hurt and at some point it’s okay to stand up and tell the truth.
If you are fishing for an undercurrent motivating me on this matter it is the degradation of women and the exploitation of children by men who have lost control of their lusts.
Let’s start with some common ground, with several things that are self-evident.
1. Violence and sexuality are unbridled in our culture; entertainment, everyday life and relationships.
2. Women are being degraded, children are being robbed of their innocence.
3. There is enough blame to go around. It’s not just those homosexuals. Heterosexuals and Christians are just as bad.
4. No matter the politicized American Psychological Association has rewritten the DSM-5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Illness) to say what we once said was not good, is now good — regardless… good remains good, and bad remains bad.
The context for this post is a bit of a far-reaching firestorm I got myself into this week with comments relating to gay sex. A gay couple in our state got married in another state and it was front and center news all week about their intent to legally challenge our state’s Constitutional Marriage Amendment. As an elected official I waited a bit, noticed no one else saying a thing, so I wrote a letter to our state’s medical and psychological communities asking them to weigh in.
It is my opinion that like with global warming, a) the science is not settled on any of this that b) there are medical people who feel intimidated and silenced to say anything negative about degrading and destructive perversions of what is self-evident biology and nature.
Within the backlash were many who made the point – Hickey… you are aware heterosexuals practice anal sex too? Certainly, I am aware of that and retort… and what do doctors say about it?
My article here is on my church blog and relates primarily to Christian couples and deviant sex practices. Frankly, we need to look closer at how we can “feel bad” about women being sex trafficked, yet view a guy like me as a bit of a prude for saying men need to treat women with respect, love, and quit with the porn and perversions. Over the years I have come to believe that sodomy and anal sex degrade women and in dynamic ways mix these two unbridled beasts in our culture, sex and violence. Self-respecting women can and should say, No way, buddy.
The Bible says, “keep the marriage be pure or undefiled” (Hebrews 13:4). We traditionally interpret that to mean we should not fornicate before marriage or commit adultery after the wedding day. It means that and it means more. Defilements, both spiritual and physical defilements are a big topic in the Bible.
The Bible says, paraphrasing, don’t take a crap inside the camp. Nothing impure should defile the camp of the people of God. The King James Version (humorously, I think) phrases it this way:
Thou shalt have a place also without the camp, whither thou shalt go forth abroad: And thou shalt have a paddle upon thy weapon; and it shall be, when thou wilt ease thyself abroad, thou shalt dig therewith, and shalt turn back and cover that which cometh from thee. (Deuteronomy 23:12-13)
By any science, health, and religious standard, human excrement is a defilement. The Church in third-world countries teaches these basic Deuteronomic societal health practices to people living in filth. Yet, is it the case our marriage beds here are defiled?
The marriage bed is a place of purity and innocence, love and affection, intimacy and enjoyment. Do I really need to spell this out anymore? Deviant and degrading sexual behaviors have no place in the Christian marriage bed.
For sure there are a myriad of positions and couples can talk though what’s degrading to them or whether sodomy is a subtle or even overt form of abusive submission. It may not be for some couples. For others intimacy is lost when one is pushed down or when one person faces away. In any case, I submit Christian couples need to keep the marriage bed pure and undefiled.
Never before have I been so forthright in such a public manner. You’ll be hard-pressed to find any other example of me talking forthrightly about sex. However, please spare me the faux-shock and outrage that has come in the backlash this week; mainly from those who bring us the shock-value Pride Parades pushing obscenities and vulgarities down our Main Streets in full view of our impressionable elementary kids.
[Sorry, I have turned the comments off on this post because I can’t keep up with the obscene ones that need deleting.]
There are a lot of “firsts” in the Bible, particularly in books like Genesis and Acts as they are books of beginnings. Bible scholars speak of the Law of First Mention to refer to the importance of paying close attention to the first mention of something in the Bible. The reason being, the very first time something is mentioned in the Bible we are usually given God’s original intention or pattern for it.
For example, in Genesis we find the first marriage– one man, one woman, for one life –as God’s pattern for that institution. We also find the first murder and God’s first punishment for that crime.
It’s interesting that God didn’t order Cain killed. In fact, his punishment was to be banished from society to spend his life away from the place of life God gave Adam and Eve.
It’s also interesting Cain replied: “My punishment is more than I can bear” Genesis 4:13). Putting our worst offenders out of their misery is less excruciating than decades of life in a small cell.
It’s also interesting that God marked Cain. He wasn’t allowed to blend back in but he’d forever bear stigma and separation because of his horrific deed.
It’s also interesting how God basically said to the rest of society… don’t anyone lay a finger on him: “...if anyone kills Cain, he will suffer vengeance seven times over” (Genesis 4:15).
Apparently God wants us to leave the vengeance up to Him.
Woke up today with a headache like I got beat up in a cage fight yesterday. Oh wait, I did. My attempt to ban commercial cage fighting in South Dakota failed in a House vote 27-43.
Though I lost, I won. From the beginning I’ve said the conversation on violence in society has to start somewhere – why not with our most violent form of entertainment? In starting that conversation I succeeded. 27 members of the House of Representatives voted for a total ban on commercial cage fighting in South Dakota. Many others said they hate it but figure it’s best to regulate it because it’s going on anyway. Even Rep. Schrempp who was the sponsor of the bill to legitimize it here says he hates cage fighting because it’s too violent. So thank the 27 House members who didn’t walk away from the fight of curtailing violence in society.
It’s funny how people vote. Some who would normally prize themselves on being family values voters were opponents here. My RINO libertarian friends who vote red on every government expansion and spending bill apparently wanted commercial cage fighting more. Amazingly they voted for yet another layer of unfunded government bureaucracy to regulate and save people from themselves. There were stunning moments like when one member said my ban bill would make a criminal out of his five year old grandson who wants to do cage fighting at a school program. I’m pretty sure 95% of the parents of five year olds in our state would object to their kindergartner watching his grandson beat and kick the crap out of another kindergartner at school. Maybe it’s not so ridiculous. CNN did a story last year on five year old cage fighting.
The question I’d like to ask all my colleagues is simply: what is violence? For some it’s apparently not dismembering unborn children. For others it’s apparently not two people beating each other senseless while rubbernecking bloodlusting pay per viewers cheer. But yesterday the same people who said no to those two things as being violent said two gay men getting in a love spat constitutes violent domestic assault. And ‘splain this to me… those who continually harp on putting all extra dollars to teachers decided yesterday to prioritize boxers over teachers.
It’s too early to forecast what the Governor will do with the bill. I’d think he’ll refuse to sign it and let it pass into law without his signature because he does oppose it and there are the votes in the House and Senate to override his veto.
What this means for South Dakota is we now get commercial cage fighting. It’s coming to a county fair near you. We can now host the big sanctioned events and this means big money. It’s a 3.7 billion violent entertainment industry and the VP of the UFC has contacted the Senate sponsor here and hired two lobbyists to educate legislators here on how it only looks violent. Those lobbyists are Justin Bell also represents the Medical Association and Bret Koenecke who represents the Bankers Association. When I see Justin and Bret today do you support they’ll thank me for landing them such an enormous contract? A hospital lobbyist here in the Capitol joked with me that they aren’t backing me in this fight because it’s good for their business.
The safety issue is secondary to the money issue. I prove that when I point to the pay per view stuff like King of the Cage: Greatest Knockouts #19. Here’s the script on that:
King of the Cage: Greatest Knockouts #19 — The Rear Naked Choke and the Fifteen most LETHEL MMA Maneuvers; the Crucifix – brutally intense! The Heel Hook – one fighter is to effective they’ve named his right kick “hospital” and his left kick “graveyard!” The Guillotine Choke. The Flying Knee. Don’t miss the greatest knockouts caught on camera. Now playing on pay per view.
All this about “safety” is a big smokescreen. The knockouts are what they are selling. This is about knocking people unconscious. I realize other sports have injuries but the last thing we want to see with rodeo, cheerleading and football is for someone to get hurt. Yet that IS what people pay to see in cage fighting. The UFC is interested to make videos #20 and #21 and put them on pay per view at $60 and $75.
Despite the justifications and rationalization and propaganda they throw at me that this isn’t as violent as it looks I find the following forthright comments from USF cage fighters themselves evidence enough that it is what it is.
UFC fighter Nate Diaz was quoted in USA Today (12/5/12) in an article titled: “Nate Diaz Says Sportsmanship Doesn’t Describe UFC”… We’re out there trying to damage each other and finish each other. We’re trying to take each other out. We both want to win by knockout or submission or some type of finish rather than a decision. I think it’s pretty unsportsmanlike.
The Associated Press reported UFC championship fighter Jon Jones saying that he’d rather let his arm break than tap out of a fight. [AP: Jones Successfully Defends Title at UFC 152, 9/23/12]
John Musick, another pro cage fighter said “I will never tap out. You can break my arm off and take it home with you, but I will never tap out.” Cage fighter Enson Inoue was quoted saying; “I guarantee the fans two things. One, I will give everything I have – I will move until I cannot move anymore. And two, I will never, every give up. I would rather die than tap out.”
So, it is what it is and South Dakota just commercialized it.
P.S. For those who haven’t heard I have said I regret my shocking remark about cage fighting being over the line with violent entertainment like child porn is over the line with adult entertainment. I’ve apologized for it and said it wasn’t my intent to offend people but I see now I did just that. Sorry. It was merely an analogy which I’ve had to explain to many who apparently have been hit in the head so many times they entirely missed it. Now I say, get back up, get over it, and address my point and answer the question I was raising…. if not here, where should the line be drawn on violence in society? Where should that conversation start?
Amidst the flurry of hysterics coming my way after my recent comments on cage fighting I received some forthright letters from Christians involved in the sport. One in particular is from Seth Falvo, a young fighter and writer for the website CagePotato. Apparently he wrote this lovely piece on me – MMA Is The ‘Child Porn of Sports’, According to South Dakota Porn Expert/State Rep. Steve Hickey [HATE]. Seth wrote me a stinging note and in particular called me out on my insensitivity to the death of a MMA fighter. Here is part of his letter:
I’m here to tell you that as a Christian, I have never been more disgusted to read THIS coming from a pastor’s own blog:”I have to bite my tongue because instead of the passages that comfort the grieving I feel like quoting the great philosopher Forrest Gump: Stupid is as stupid does.”
I was hoping this was just a sick, sick parody account, but upon confirming that this is, in fact, your own blog, I’m at a loss for words. Where do I even begin here? Do I quote the Bible and write “Judge not lest you be judged, For in the way you judge, you will be judged?” Do I quote “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone?” Or do I simply point out that you are a self-proclaimed pastor – a man of God – who essentially writes that a fictional character from a Hollywood movie knows more about how one should live than Jesus Christ, the Man whose message he is supposed to be teaching others. I’ll go with the latter. Wow. A self-proclaimed Man of God decides that God isn’t as smart as a dim-witted Hollywood character, and that he, oh wise and powerful pastor, is perfectly right in judging how law-abiding, church going people spend their spare time. If you’ve ever wondered why people my age have quit going to church, well, do I really need to explain why?
Here’s my reply and I’ll post it here as an open letter to all Christian MMA fans and fighters:
Thanks for your honest note. For starters I’ll say I have a whole lot more experience with death than you do. I’ve been a police chaplain and pastor for years. There have been times when my pager goes off three times a week and I get to go tell people their loved one has died or been killed. I never quote Forrest Gump in those moments. What you read on my blog was the inner life of a pastor who has to sit with grieving people who are sometimes furious at their lost loved ones for doing stupid, reckless things that result in the wasting of their lives and causing such pain to their families and friends. Both my parents are dead and my father died a very violent death at the negligence of another… meaning it was entirely preventable if only one person had not been so reckless. If you don’t like my Forrest Gump thought I can quote you many passages on foolishness resulting in death and destruction. It is foolish for someone to get into an unsanctioned cage and fight in our state. That was my point.
And not for a moment do I receive your judgmental comment that I’m the type of person who is keeping a generation from Christ/Church. I have started and am leading large church with a ministry school and a substantial ministry to young adults. Also I’ve been planting churches around the world and we lead people to Christ all the time. I’m friends with significant church leaders in your state and we may even have mutual friends. The stream I minister within is aggressively evangelistic and fruitful.
I regret my MMA/child porn comment because it was too shocking and people have entirely lost the point I was making. Forgive me for that but I was simply trying to shine a light on something those in the sport don’t want us to see.
It was interesting to me you jumped right to the “judge not” passage in the Sermon on the Mount. I’ve been a student of that passage of Scripture for twenty five years and have written a 400 page book on the topic. Do you know the Sermon on the Mount also trumpets the non-violence, non-retaliation, turn the other cheek message? Why do you pick and choose verses in that sermon and ignore it’s main point? Do you not agree that we have a problem with violence in society? Do you honestly, before God, think your sport isn’t feeding a blood lust in our culture?
As a Christian let me ask you, if the next guy you kick in the head or choke with some guillotine maneuver passes out and doesn’t wake up— who killed him? Let me ask you Seth, who would Jesus elbow in the face? I won’t judge you or the other athletes here and make some blanket statement that you are full of bloodlust but I WILL say that about your fans and the crowds that flock to your sport. The Bible speaks about bloodlust. Greed and bloodlust make the MMA today a multi-billion dollar violent entertainment industry.
I’ll be happy to send you a free copy of my Sermon on the Mount book if you want to study that text fully. There is more than “Judge Not” in that sermon. And, by the way, judge not does not mean we turn off all discernment and stop calling good, good and bad, bad. My calling is certainly not to just smile and say nothing. My calling as a minister of the Gospel is to tell the truth even when it’s unpopular. I was elected in my state to push red and green YES or NO buttons and make decisions everyday about things our state should say YES to and things our state should say NO to. Sometimes I fail in that I don’t do all that in love but I figured your crowd was a tough crowd and strong words would be fine. I was wrong, you all are hyper-sensitive, thin-skinned and full of self-justification for what the average person can see with a naked eye is extreme violence. All these claims that I’m ignorant of the sport are simply smokescreens to mask what is obvious.
I’ll paste below some additional comments that I made in the committee and want to point out to you that my comment on a “seared conscience” is a term from the Bible.
All the best to you.
Rev/Rep Steve Hickey
Here are those additional comments:
They say I’m ignorant of this sport and they make a case that it only looks dangerous. I even had a cage fighter/PhD write me and tell me “elbows are used primarily to cause superficial damage and an elbow doesn’t produce a concussive blow.” That’s ridiculous. My response it that it is what it is – too violent and that is evident to the naked eye and the casual observer. I’ll quickly concede I am no expert on MMA. But as I told one of the fighters this weekend… “just maybe a guy like me can see what you don’t see.” Violence is addictive and people in addiction (including codependents) don’t see or acknowledge any problem until there is a tragedy, or an intervention. I’m intervening here and asking you to join me.
I’ll speak briefly from an area that I do have professional expertise: there is such a thing as a seared conscience which refers to a person who has lost a capacity of innocence whereby they no longer wince. We don’t want to become a society that can’t wince. Ben Franklin said: “Only a virtuous people are capable of freedom. As nations become corrupt and vicious, they have more need of masters.” I submit to you that society is reaching that point and more masters means more laws like this amendment.
I don’t deny the good that is going on in MMA – giving young people confidence and discipline. But MMA is not the only vehicle to accomplish those ends. It doesn’t take that level of violence to develop character, fortitude, confidence, strength and discipline. Any of the other sports overseen by this commission can do all those good things. MMA feeds something in society that we don’t want to feed.
Society was just fine before they figured out to do this and it will be just fine without it again. We aren’t losing ground with my amendment. Actually, we might even be gaining ground that we’ve lost.