An Interesting Dilemma

By Nathan Bergstedt
Originally published in the Grand Rapids Herald-Review
I found myself in a particular situation the other day, and I’m not exactly proud of the way I conducted myself. Because of a few different circumstances, there were some things I didn’t do and didn’t say, and whereas I don’t think anyone would blame me for not saying these things, I feel like I let down my principles, and the principles of others, by keeping my mouth shut. Let me explain:
I heard this guy talking at length about what he felt should be done to those who disagree with him. To drive the point home, he shared an anecdote in which the people who were essentially his enemies were not only to be fought and killed to the point that they were beaten, but they were to be shown no mercy and were to be completely annihilated! He even appeared to take delight in the idea that some of these people would be tortured to death by hornets. That seemed a little barbaric to me. Even in times of war, where some of the most terrible atrocities are capable of taking place, when possible we take prisoners. And even most people who say that they are okay with the idea of torture, or advanced interrogation if you will, should cringe at the idea of using hornets to kill someone.
So the question is whether or not this was some sort of metaphor for intellectual discussion, that if you have a good argument that you should really use it to its full extent and destroy your opponent’s argument, or was this to be meant in a more literal way? I would certainly like to believe that he wasn’t suggesting the mindless slaughter of everyone who isn’t like him! But at the same time, the way he phrased this anecdote didn’t really suggest much along the lines of metaphor. He seemed fairly blatant. And this is what I was referring to above when I said I wasn’t proud of myself. Anyone who hears someone suggesting such barbarism should have the courage to at least ask that person what they think they’re talking about. I don’t think it’s controversial to ask someone such questions.
So yeah, I feel bad about not confronting him. But there was more.
He went on to describe someone who, to a fairly specific degree, resembled me. And he said that this person is the worst type of person in the world. Well, I was certainly taken aback. I always thought of myself as being a pretty decent guy, and especially in comparison to someone who apparently would condone such insanely terrible atrocities, I think I’m a model citizen.
To cap everything off, this guy somehow weaved everything he was saying under the banner of love. He had the cojones to suggest that every vile, vindictive, and horrendous idea that came out of his mouth was the product of love. How does that even make sense?
But through all this, I held my tongue.
I wish I was making all this up, that I didn’t hear someone go on and on about such abhorrent violence and then have the indecency to degrade love by saying it was a form of it. But I did hear this, and I wasn’t the only one who was listening to him. And like everyone else, I didn’t confront him.
I shouldn’t have to convince anyone that this is madness. But what if I said that I heard this in a church and the guy who I was listening to was the preacher? Do I still have my work ahead of me in convincing people that this is madness?
I have no intention of naming the church from which I heard such things. And I have no doubt that many people who read this will agree with me that such ideas are unconscionable, but that is because I went to the wrong church (oh, and I should mention that I was there in the first place because I wanted to do research for a fiction writing project in which one character is a cleric). And I have little doubt that there are no shortage of churches who skip past parables such as in Deuteronomy that are by their nature violent.
I understand that God works in mysterious ways and that people are supposed to believe his word without question, but if he does exist, he certainly endowed us with a questioning intellect that is capable of making judgments on the content of his book. And from just the portion that was read last Sunday, if placed in a modern context, I can’t imagine anyone even condoning such behavior. So why should we call it love if found in an ancient book?

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3 Responses to “An Interesting Dilemma”

  1. William Tucker Says:

    I am going to give the floor over to a man who could put it more boldly than I ever could:

    Whoever we are, wherever we’re from, we shoulda noticed by now our behaviour is dumb
    And if our chances expect to improve it’s gonna take a lot more than tryin’ to remove the other race or the other whatever from the face of the planet altogether
    They call it “The Earth” which is a dumb kinda name but they named it right ’cause we behave the same
    We are dumb all over
    Dumb all over, yes we are, dumb all over, near and far, dumb all over, black ‘n white, people, we is not wrapped tight
    And nerds on the left, nerds on the right
    Religious fanatics on the air every night, sayin’ the bible tells the story and makes the details sound real gory about what to do if the geeks over there don’t believe in the book we got over here
    You can’t run a race without no feet
    And pretty soon there won’t be no street for dummies to jog on or doggies to dog on
    Religious fanatics can make it be all gone
    I mean it won’t blow up and disappear, it’ll just look ugly for a thousand years
    You can’t run a country by a book of religion
    Not by a heap or a lump or a smidgeon of foolish rules of ancient date, designed to make you all feel great while you fold, spindle and mutilate those unbelievers from a neighbouring state
    To arms, to arms
    Hooray! That’s great, two legs ain’t bad
    Unless there’s a crate they ship the parts to mama in
    For souvenirs: two ears (Get down)
    Not his, not hers but what the hey
    The good book says, “It’s gotta be that way”
    But their book says, “Revenge the crusades”
    With whips ‘n chains and hand grenades
    Two arms, two arms
    Have another and another
    Our Cod says, “There ain’t no other”
    Our Cod says, “It’s all ok”
    Our god says “This is the way”
    It says in the book, “Burn and destroy”
    And repent and redeem and revenge and deploy and rumble thee forth to the land of the unbelieving scum on the other side
    ‘Cause they don’t go for what’s in the book and that makes ’em bad
    So verily we must choppeth them up and stompeth them down
    Or rent a nice French bomb to poof them out of existence while leaving their real estate just where we need it to use again for temples in which to praise our god, ’cause he can really take care of business
    And when his humble TV servant with humble white hair and humble glasses and a nice brown suit and maybe a blonde wife who takes phone calls, tells us our god says it’s ok to do this stuff, then we gotta do it
    ‘Cause if we don’t do it we ain’t “Gwine up to hebbin”
    Depending on which book you’re using at the time
    Can’t use theirs, it don’t work, it’s all lies, gotta use mine
    Ain’t that right?
    That’s what they say
    Every night, everyday
    Hey, we can’t really be dumb if we’re just following god’s orders
    Well let’s get serious, god knows what he’s doin’
    He wrote this book here and the book says, “He made us all to be just like him”
    So, if we’re dumb, then god is dumb and maybe even a little ugly on the side
    Dumb all over, a little ugly on the side
    Dumb all over, a little ugly on the side
    Dumb all over, a little ugly on the side
    Dumb all over, a little ugly on the side

    • wodaji Says:

      Thanks for posting that. I’ve never heard/read it before. I found the song on youtube, and do not like what he did with it. The words are so much better than the song, imo.

  2. Michael Anderson Says:

    Awfully educative thank you, It looks like your current visitors would likely want more items like this continue the good content.

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