Posts Tagged ‘dilemma’

An Interesting Dilemma

February 24, 2012

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?