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PRAISE THE LORD AND (PLEASE DO) PASS THE AMMUNITION

By Duncan Long

http://duncanlong.com/ammo.html

 

Unfortunately much of the task of disarming the free world is being carried out by many churches and so-called Christian groups. Many of these people claim that their ideas are based on the Bible. However a close look at their most often quoted source, the Bible, can actually turn pacifist arguments against self-defense on their heads. A close look at the Bible will also reveal the moral inadequacy of these groups just as thoroughly as their logical inadequacy was detailed in the previous article. A close look at the Bible actually gives the moral justification in self-defense which many are looking for.

Before launching into even a brief study of the Bible, it's wise to remember that an overview gives a fuller and better idea of what's going on than does a detailed look at a few fragments of the whole. The old joke of the guy who decides to pick out two key verses in the Bible to live by and ends up with "And Judas went and hanged himself" and "Go thou and do likewise" may be funny; unfortunately, those who do this same type of thing by picking and choosing verses to support moral arguments can cause a lot of needless suffering among those foolish enough to pay any mind to them. Nowhere is this more true than when it comes to self-defense.

(By this same token, many liberal theologians like to pick and choose which parts of the Bible were "really inspired" or are factual. Those who argue that some areas of the Bible--which don't support their particular dogma--"don't count" should bare in mind that, by the same logic, those which support their ideas don't necessarily "count" either. If the idea that only part of the Bible "counts" morally is followed, the next logic step is that the whole Bible would then be thrown out and every man will decide morality by his own standards or a when-in-Rome-do-as-the-Romans type of wishy washy value system. And if that's done, the self-defense advocates have won since the majority in the US feel self-defense is justified and the laws support the act as well.)

As to what is actually in the Bible, an overview shows that, far from being an outline of pacifism, the book does support both an individual's--as well as a country's--right to not only defend themselves but to take aggressive action toward enemies. A quick look at Jewish history, as outlined in the early "books" of the Bible, reveals that the Israelis not only went into battle and conquered their enemies, they did so at the COMMAND of God and went with his BLESSINGS.

The Mosaic law (that given to the Jews by Moses and believed by most religious Jews and Christians to have come directly from God) also covers the methods of waging war (in Deuteronomy chapter 20). This chapter makes no mention of NOT killing enemies; rather, it commands the Jews to not destroy the land so that it can't support them after they win the wars they wage.

On the personal level, much the same idea applies. The Bible is NOT inconsistent when it comes to self-defense.

Probably the most misinterpreted passage of the Bible when it comes to persons defending themselves (or countries waging war or capital punishment) is the commandment "Thou shalt not kill." One of the Ten Commandments, this is to be found in Exodus 20: 13.

Unfortunately, what many so-called religious authorities fail to tell when arguing against self-defense by quoting this bit of scripture is that there are several words in the Hebrew language which express the verb "kill." The Hebrew word used in this commandment ALWAYS means "murder" and ONLY in what would now be called a "pre-meditated" murder at that.

Unfortunately, the word "kill" has changed since the time of King James when the first major translation of the Bible into English was carried out. The "kill" would more properly be translated as "murder" as far as modern English usage is concerned and, in fact, many modern translations of the Bible generally use "murder" in this passage. Check it out in a modern language translation of the Bible or--better yet--with someone who knows Hebrew.

This Bible passage deals with murder, not self-defense and it's a grave mistake to interpret is as prohibiting self-defense. Thus the commandment is simply "Thou shalt not MURDER." (And any religious leader using this as an argument against self-defense should be dismissed as a liar or sent back for more theological training.)

Throughout the first few books of the Bible, a basic theme emerges: the Jewish society was to treat crime as a disease to be eliminated. When necessary, criminals were banished from the society or, if they refused to stop their crimes, often even put to death. The idea was to keep the society as pure as humanly possible by purging it of crime.

Where does self-defense fit into the Bibical scheme of things?

In fact, the Bible makes the assumption that men and women will defend themselves against someone intent on harming them. (It's interesting that only in our "enlightened" times do intellectuals start questioning the idea that people have a perfect and natural right to defend themselves.)

However, there's one passage of Mosaic law which does cover accidental killings as well as outlining what constitutes a murder. While it doesn't outline what constitutes self-defense in itself, it does show what it is NOT. The passage is to be found in Deuteronomy, Chapter 19. Here we find that a person who accidentally kills someone has the right to flee to a sanctuary city so that those out to avenge the death of a loved one can't murder the accidental killer before their emotions cool and reason returns.

This Chapter goes on to outline what will be done to a murderer. Anyone who is guilty of premeditated murder and flees to one of these cities was in big trouble. The elders of the city "hold court" and if he was found guilty, he was delivered to the "avenger" (a relative of the person murdered) and put to death with no appeals or pleas of "cruel and unusual punishment."

It is interesting to note the limited specification of just what constitutes murder in this passage. In the 11th verse of this chapter, we find what constitutes murder: "But if any man hate his neighbor, and lie in wait for him, and rise up against him, and smite him mortally that he die..."

Two requirements had to be met BEFORE a man was guilty of murder. First, the murderer had to "hate" his victim. Though this would be hard to prove since it is impossible for a human judge to look into a criminal's mind, it was probably not a point of defense for those charged with murder since their actions would prove hateful intent; undoubtedly this "hate" included hating a victim because he was rich, had something the criminal wanted, was from a certain family or the like.

Second, the murderer had to be waiting somewhere to commit his act; in effect the crime had to be premeditated. (It should be noted that Mosaic law required that at least two witnesses be available to testify against a law breaker and that their testimony agree; consequently, the intent to commit the crime would have to be gleaned from the testimony of the witnesses or the crime would be "thrown out of court" as it were.)

Obviously, someone who is uses lethal force to defend himself against a stranger (who has broken into a home suddenly assaults a citizen on a dark street) doesn't fit into the category of being a murderer. In such a case, a citizen would not be killing out of hate (how could he hate someone he didn't know anything about) and he would not have been lying in wait to commit his act against the criminal who had singled the citizen out. The bottom line is that a person defending himself against criminal attack does so without breaking any Bibical laws or commandments.

Of course there is the "religious" argument that people shouldn't have weapons. What does the Bible say about weapons? Are they evil (as some religious leaders would have us believe)?

There are NO admonitions not to carry weapons in the Bible. In the Old Testament, men carry swords, bows and arrows, spears or whatever freely and without restrictions as long as the nation remained under its own sovereignty. Only when Israel was taken over by enemy nations were the people forced to give up weapons.

All right. But how about Jesus? Wasn't he a meek leader who refused to take any forceful actions on his own?

In fact, this isn't the Jesus portrayed in the New Testament.

The Bibical Jesus is far from meek. He apparently drove those breaking Jewish laws from the temple in Jerusalem once (and possibly twice) and wasn't above risking life and limb to point out very publicly and vocally where things needed to be changed among corrupt religious and government leaders.

During this period of Jewish history, a Roman "ban" on weapons was in place and the average Jew was disarmed with weapons legally allowed in the hands of special Jewish "police" groups charged with enforcing the law (both Roman and Jewish religious law) as well as in the hands of the occupying army.

Even in this situation, the Jews often carried short swords or daggers concealed on their persons. In fact, Jesus tells his disciples on one occasion, "... he that hath no sword, let him sell his garment and buy one." (This is in Luke 22: 36--a passage not often used for sermons in churches advocating pacifism!).

This same Bible passage also tells that the disciples told Jesus that they had two swords with them already (apparently concealed on their persons!). Jesus, who is facing the his own death in a short time, does NOT admonish them that this having weapons is a sin! Rather, he says that two swords are enough.

Later, Peter even went so far as to use one of the swords to attempt to lop of the head of one of the men who had come out with swords and clubs to arrest Jesus; Peter missed taking off a head but did get an ear. Jesus averted a slaughter of his outnumbered disciples by healing the injured man and giving himself over to the group that had come to capture him. His disciples fled into the night, with one even shedding his clothes in the process (Mark 14: 50-52).

Certainly these passages suggest that both Jesus and his disciples were not the timid, passive characters many church leaders would have us believe. Rather they were active men capable to taking action to defend themselves against enemies.

It would, of course, be wrong to think that the New Testament advocates a violent life style. Verses like "Blessed are the peace makers" (this was before any revolver had that title, remember) and "He who lives by the sword dies by the sword," among others would counter any arguments with such a thrust. But the New Testament hardly advocates total pacifism in the face of danger, either.

Another argument often made is that "we should be like Christ" and--according to liberal thinking--be pacifists. Disregarding the nearly (to many) blasphemous idea that a person can be perfect like Christ, those making this argument are guilty of a vary limited view of what the New Testament has to say about Jesus.

While Jesus allowed himself to be killed by his enemies, the whole Bibical account also has him raised up from the dead and finally judging his enemies as well. The conquering Christ that breaks his enemies apart with a rod of iron and has a sword in his mouth (capable of waging war on enemies) is ignored by these people. If anything, the admonition to be "like Christ" would make us more like Rambo than Gandi.

The New Testament teaches that "Christians" should obey the laws of the land they are in, provided the laws aren't immoral according to Bibical principles (Hebrews 13: 17). This has some important ramifications for those interested in self-defense.

While laws may vary slightly from one place to another, generally laws in the US and most Western countries allow a person to defend himself or any member of his family from what he perceives as being an immediate threat of grave bodily harm or death. For those living in such countries, self-defense is legal and, as we've seen, it isn't non-Bibical. Therefore, self-defense is a moral and "Christian" thing to do if we're to take the bibical admonition to obey the laws of the land.

Some thought should be given as to just WHY Judo-Christian laws, as well as those of most other civilized societies, have been so harsh on criminals and have allowed good men to defend themselves against criminal attack. The short answer is that this is the only way to protect the society and--in the long run--protect those unable to protect themselves.

How can this be?

It must be remembered that most criminals are REPEAT offenders. Anyone who would assault or kill a person if he doesn't defend himself will probably commit other serious crimes in the near future. That means that, should you choose to "live and let live", letting a criminal rob and kill you simply allows him to go on to another innocent victim later on. In effect, your lack of action may well cause other innocent people to be hurt or killed.

With this in mind, certainly anyone interested in being "his brother's keeper" should realize that stopping a criminal with force would very possible save a number of other people untold misery and possibly even their lives.

Likewise what kind of "bother's keeper" sits by passively while a criminal robs, beats, or kills and innocent victim? Again, the moral imperative is to take action. The passive bystander is definitely guilty of being immoral when he refuses to defend others or himself.

Everyone must "know himself" and what he believes and feels before deciding to defend himself or others. Failure to give thought to his inner self may cause him to hesitate at a critical moment when he should take decisive action. Such hesitation can spell death in a self-defense situation. But a person should never hesitate because of what misguided religious leaders who wish to rewrite both the Bible and Western law have preached. The Bible doesn't preach becoming a whimp. Rather, it teaches being a good citizen who is capable of defending himself. In the US, those prepared to fight back against a criminal when he has left them no other choice are legally AND morally justified in doing so.

When faced by a criminal who has murder in his eye, a good citizen should just mutter, "Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition."


Copyright 1996 Duncan Long. All rights reserved. Copying of this material is prohibited.

 

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