Fixing America In 500 Words Or Less


Chapter 23

SHOULD WE PUT
OUR SWORDS AWAY?


       Pacifism is more complex than it may appear.  One form of pacifism is to never strike back, which was practiced personally by Martin Luther King, Jr. While King was giving a speech, a man jumped on stage and repeatedly punched him.  King refused to strike back while instructing others surrounding the man to not harm him. ¹

       Another form of pacifism allows for the defense of one's own physical person and immediate family or small group.  This form is possibly, but not necessarily in agreement with Jesus, when taken in context of several of his teachings.  It is never accurate, as religious charlatans often do, to extrapolate part of what someone says out of context of the whole. ²

       From an accurate historical perspective, war is invariably about either protecting wealth or taking wealth and almost always, war is about both.  War traces from human greed and what causes it and is not the same as self defense, which is protecting one's physical person. ³

       Soldiers are compelled to obey orders from the top down, regardless of how right or wrong they personally believe them to be.  Following such orders in WWII, military pilots dropped two atomic weapons on large civilian populations.

       In war, conflicts typically traces to previous conflicts, one side rarely if ever being an innocent victim.  Seeds of WWII trace to WWI and back even before the American Revolution, which was clearly about wealth, taxation being a primary motivation.  The Crusades, often very wrongly blamed on belief in God, clearly trace to the taking and attempted retaking of land and other wealth.

       Sometimes WWII is called a “justified” war, because Japan attacked the United States.  The problem with this theory is, long before Pearl Harbor, we gained substantially monetarily by supplying Japan and Germany's enemies with weapons.  And at the time, we were attempting to blockade supplies coming into Japan, a significant threat to her population's survival.

       It is not that Japan was right but rather, war is inevitably about both sides being wrong.  No nation profiting from a war is guiltless concerning that war and, attempting to blockade a nation has been long used historically as a military advantage maneuver and deliberate act of war.
4

       Perhaps the best American historical example of justifiable self defense relating to war, is when Colonel Chivington attacked and massacred a tribe of natives sleeping inside their homes with white flag raised.  If there was ever a justified response, it is how American natives responded to Sand Creek.
5

       Jesus taught the way to achieve peace is to put our swords away.
6 Though apparently too profound for many preachers and educators to grasp, this remains the obvious solution to war, which a small child can easily understand.  This is repeated in the book of Revelation and, those who resort to violence as a means to an end, are placed on the wrong side of God, human rights and human history. 7

       Should We put our swords away?  Are you smarter than Jesus?
8  You decide.


{ See Does Science Really Know What is True? for related information. }



NOTES:

1. In 1962 while giving a speech in Birmingham, Alabama, Martin Luther King, Jr. was physically attacked by Roy James, a member of the American Nazi Party, who repeatedly struck King in the face and elsewhere.  King not only refused to strike back, he instructed others quickly coming to his aid not to touch James.  Captured on film, what occurred that day is indisputable and remains one of the best living examples of "turn the other cheek" extreme pacifism.

2. Luke; 22:35-38.  It is not necessarily true that this teaching of Jesus refers to self-defense, as it appears rather, to have been an "off-hand" comment and matter of fact statement to his followers, that when he was no longer with them they would endure significant persecution, which history has repeatedly and continues to confirm.  It is important to note Jesus said that the only two swords available for a group of at least eleven people and possibly considerably larger, were "enough", which is hardly cause to rip this out of context to justify a so-called "pre-emptive" strike or any other war, like American conservative Christians do.  Obviously two swords for a group of eleven or more people would be absurd in reference to being "enough" for any kind of offensive attack.  Jesus clearly draws a line against war in Matthew Ch. 26 and again in Revelation Ch. 13, similar language is used, placing those who take up the sword as a means to an end on the wrong side of God, human rights and human history.

In the historical context of the time of Jesus, in a society without the kind of police protection we take for granted today, it was probably common to openly display a sword while traveling, as a warning "alarm" protection against highwaymen and other common thieves, similar to how a car alarm is used today to hopefully scare away an auto thief.  Based on the reality of his society, this is possibly what Jesus is referring to in this passage in Luke.  It perhaps pays to study a little history before drawing erroneous conclusions that obviously contradict the teachings of Jesus elsewhere.  It remains indisputable based on the existing contents of the New Testament, that Jesus is strongly opposed to using violence as a means to an end.  And it is likewise indisputable that taking up the sword as a means to an end, has never secured either human rights, justice or peace on earth.  Rather, taking up the sword has consistently added to a very long historical trail of tears nightmare of destruction, hunger, pain, sorrow, death and other immense human suffering.

Jesus strongly speaks out against violence and physical retaliation in several places in the New Testament, including the so-called sermon on the mount, where he specifically warns that those who teach otherwise are against both God and their own flesh and blood. According to the Bible itself, scripture is not of any "private interpretation", meaning among other things, that a small passage cannot be used to shore up an out of context hypocritical position, in disregard of the larger whole.  No one who has studied the teachings of Jesus can fairly and honestly justify the war in Iraq or, any other war that the United States has participated in.  Much of what modern Christianity pretends is based on the Bible, is rather instead, based on an extrapolated texts used in this type of hypocritical fashion, where conclusions are drawn to "fit" a preconceived conservative or other traditional bias; conclusions that are clearly wrong in the light of other passages found elsewhere.

It is extremely misleading to ever refer to the teachings of Jesus as a "sermon".  Unlike the incredibly arrogant, boring and just plain ignorant sermons one may have had the misfortune to endure here in modern-day America, the "sinners and common people" heard the words of Jesus gladly.  It is a safe bet that if the people who watch late night talk shows and "Saturday Night Live" do not like the religion you are promoting, then it is the wrong religion, as ALL religions are.  Jesus often spoke caustically and vehemently against conservative fundamentalists, calling them all manner of vile names known to his society to their face, which is a primary reason why the sinners and common people liked him; i.e., consider "The Church Lady", one of the most popular skits from "Saturday Night Live".  God obviously has no need of or use for a religion, nor does God need anyone to apologize for or otherwise defend him; creation and the words and deeds of Jesus speak for God, as well as does humanity's shared "endowed" conscience.

3. According to Jesus and James in the New Testament and, according to modern science evidence, war and other violence arises from what is within all people (Encyclopedia Britannica; "Human Sexuality" & related).  This conclusion of modern behavioral science, unknown even as late as Freud, agrees with ALL of the known historical, scientific and other evidence.  Those who blame war on religion clearly have no idea what they are talking about. Mussolini and Pol Pot were avowed atheists and most historians agree Joseph Stalin was an atheist.  There is overwhelming evidence that both religious and non-religious people engage in war, as well as engage in war research and related technology and the manufacture of weapons.  And, both religious and non-religious people profit handsomely from war and weapons sales.

While tracing to the taking and defending of land, gold and other forms of wealth at their root, many wars have been fought in the name of nationalism, fascism, democracy, freedom, communism, socialism, anarchism and other ideals, rather than primarily in the name of religion; such wars include but are by no means limited to the American, French, Russian and Chinese revolutions, War of 1812, Civil War, Mexican War, WWI, WWII, Korean War, Vietnam War and the first and second Gulf Wars.  It is fair to say that both religious and non-religious beliefs and ideals are used as tools to stir up the masses to support and engage in war, while it is also fair to say that human science has been in bed with the global war machine, tracing back into the mists of historical time.  Both the historical and scientific evidence clearly demonstrate it is irrational to blame war on religion, science, idealism or any other external entity.  While it is overwhelmingly rational to blame war on what arises from what is within all people, just as Jesus taught us.  As a sixties folk singer once sang, it is very hard to argue with Jesus, "even though it's often tried".

4. In the ancient world, blockading a city into submission was often a preferred battle tactic, as it could be highly effective while at the same time, sparing the lives of the troops of the attacking army.  Cities cut off from water and/or food supplies were soon forced to capitulate and, populations in such circumstances are known to have eaten each other and their own children.  Sometimes "laying siege" to a city referred to physically attacking it, while other times an attacking army instead would surrounded a city, cutting off access to the city's water and/or food supplies.  And sometimes of course, like the Roman army's siege against the fortress of Masada for example, an opposing army would both set up a blockade and physically attack.

Today, in spite of a so-called age of "enlightenment", in spite of modern theories and lofty ideals like democracy, socialism, capitalism, communism, anarchism, nationalism and fascism and, in spite of ten thousand years of moral and other education to the contrary, many university graduates today, often educated in full or in part on the taxpayer's dime, use their education as a ticket into well-paying jobs working for the global war machine, working for corrupt politicians and working for crooked Wall Street corporations.  Rather than using what they have learned to help humanity, instead their knowledge and skill is used to create ever-worse weapons of war and, ever more deceptive financial scams bilking the common people out of life, liberty, jobs, homes, savings and any and all hope of a pursuit of happiness.  As the author of Ecclesiastes says, there truly is "nothing new under the sun"; names, dates, borders, lofty ideals and human language terminology, technology and weapons of war may change, but the end results of sin--greed, avarice, inequality of wealth, slavery, disease, destruction, hunger, sorrow and death--remains the same.

While it is true that we all sinners and we all contribute to what is wrong with human society, this does not make it okay to teach our children and other people wrongly concerning what Jesus and the authors of the Bible actually said and more importantly did.  There isn't a single instance in the entire New Testament record of a single follower of Jesus ever either promoting the use of or using violence as a means to an end.  We should all strive to help rather than hurt each other, to promote love rather than hatred and peace rather than war, which in essence is the central message of Jesus and his original followers, who in no way, shape or form were the founders of Christianity or anything remotely like Christianity.  The focus of Jesus is on having "love, one for another" in the reality of our daily lives.  Jesus is clearly not the founder of either Christianity or any other religion.  Rather, Jesus is clearly about human relations, about learning to care about each other in the reality of our daily lives.

One of the more interesting things about Jesus is that in spite of his pacifistic words and deeds, he went out of his way to be kind to and befriend soldiers.  In addition to caring about them personally, perhaps this is because Jesus understood the potential of many soldiers. One of the most unfortunate realities of human history is that often some of our most dedicated, courageous and well-meaning people, many undoubtedly sincere within their own motivations, are soldiers.  Historians interviewing Germans soldiers who participated in WWII report that among both the ranks of enlisted men and officers in the German army, their was a commonly held belief among them that they were doing what was right for their country, very much on par with the commonly held belief of American and other soldiers on the opposing side.  In a very real and tragic way, war often represents some of the most courageous, dedicated and well-meaning people on earth fighting to the death against some of the other most courageous, dedicated and well-meaning people on earth.  While it takes courage to volunteer for war, it also takes courage to put our swords away in the face of peer-pressure, criticism and persecution from others within our own society.

5. Sand Creek Massacre.

6. Matthew 26:52, repeated in Revelation, Ch. 13, also agreeing with several other teachings of Jesus found elsewhere.  And, in agreement with what the angels sang at the birth of Jesus, "Peace on earth, goodwill towards the people" (all of the people on our planet), as well as with the prophets Isaiah, Joel, Micah and several others.  This is a good example of why ripping a small incident related in Luke 22 out of context, leads to the utter hypocrisy and blindness of conservative religion; religious fundamentalism itself clearly being the opposite of everything Jesus ever said and did.

7. Revelation Ch. 13.  Modern conservative Christians often attempt to justify supporting the worst kind of wars, like the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq, by taking a passage from Paul's letter to the Romans completely out of context with the meaning of the actual chapter and, completely out of context with the teachings of Jesus and the rest of Paul's writings.  This in spite of the fact that the Old Testament expressly warns God will in particular, punish nations for engaging in wars of external aggression.  To not resist "the power", as described in Paul's letter to the Romans, is to not attempt to violently overthrow established police and other authority within a society; in Paul's society the established Roman and Jewish authority.  This is the opposite of what the United States did in the 2003 invasion of Iraq, where the established order was violently overthrown, leaving chaos and lawlessness in it's place.

As a result according to The Guardian newspaper, apparently more people died from wanton looting, raping, pillaging, gang and other violence and lawlessness, then died from the military actions of both sides of the conflict combined.  Overthrowing the existing power of Saddam Hussein by military force is clearly the opposite of what Paul teaches in Romans and, clearly against everything Jesus ever said and did.  Christians also try to pretend that Jesus told his followers to put their swords away only because it was meant for Jesus to be crucified.  This position completely ignores what Jesus says in Matthew: "Put your sword in its place, for all who take the sword will perish by the sword."  It completely ignores what is stated in Revelation, written long after Jesus was crucified: "He who leads into captivity shall go into captivity; he who kills with the sword must be killed with the sword."  And, it likewise completely ignores several other well known teachings of Jesus.

Not surprisingly, when passages of the Bible are taken out of context of the whole, the result is an old time sham religion based on lies upon lies heaped upon more lies, tracing back many hundreds of years.  According to Peter in the New Testament book of Acts, "We ought to obey God rather than people".  And, this was the frequent practice of early followers of Jesus, who repeatedly disobeyed the Jewish and Roman authorities when their laws conflicted with the teachings of Jesus and spread of his message.  As Paul says in the same letter to the Romans, "Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good", which is entirely consistent with the teachings of Jesus.

8. A sword in 1st Century Palestine symbolized the strength and might of Rome and was THE weapon of choice of the Roman army; Roman soldiers were renowned and feared for their great sword wielding ability.  Thus, the command to put away one's sword had exceptional military significance to the people Jesus was addressing, as well as violent zealots of his time. Jesus admonishing his followers to put their swords away, in a land controlled and policed by the Roman army, after he had already been taken captive by Roman soldiers, represents one of the most radical and bravest stances known in the history of human civilization.

It is fair to conclude, given the very similar repetition of this in the book of Revelation and in the context of several of his other teachings, that followers of Jesus, regardless of what their own governments choose to do, are to refrain from practicing war and other violence, instead promoting love, peace and goodwill.  A central message of Paul's letter to the Romans (also quoted in note #7 above), a message central to the focus of the entire Bible is, "Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good."  And, as Peter says in Acts (also quoted in note #7 above), "We ought to obey God rather than people."

It is important to understand that when the King James or another English translation refers to "man" as it does in the quotation above, the Greek translation is more accurately rendered as "people".  And in particular, the book of John is more accurately rendered as "for God so loved the "people", rather than so loved the world, the more impersonal and commonly known translation today.  References to Jesus as being a "carpenter" apparently refer to a common laborer in the First Century world, someone who may have carried heavy stones from a quarry or otherwise aided in the construction of housing and other buildings or, someone who may have labored in the fields or otherwise was engaged in a common "lowly" occupation, unlike how "carpenter" today often infers a skilled and far better compensated craftsman; the word "carpenter" today can imply a relatively comfortable American middle-class existence, most likely very far from the reality of Jesus and his family.

Often lost in modern translations and completely absent in modern sermons, is the very deliberate identity of Jesus with the "sinners and common people", the outcast and lowly people of his society.  The overwhelming focus of Jesus is on people and, how people should treat other people, today what is commonly referred to as "human rights", "morality", "ethics" and "human behavior", rather than religion.  Unlike many modern intellectuals and others who think they know better, Jesus insists we need help from "our Father in heaven" to overcome evil with good and, "have love, one for another".

It is never accurate to obey governmental authorities rather than God, as conservative Christians habitually both promote and practice, twisting what Paul says in Romans completely and entirely out of context (as described in note #6 above).  According to the Old Testament, there are two ways for a nation to truly anger our Creator: 1) To ignore and otherwise make worse the plight of the sick and poor; and 2) To engage in an offensive, unprovoked attack against another nation.  American Christian fundamentalism completely strikes out concerning both, supporting wars of aggression while voting for leaders who not only ignore the plight of the sick and poor, they consistently pass legislation beneficial to the wealthy at the expense of the working class and poor, while increasing their lack of living wages, affordable housing, health care, affordable education and availability of clean water and clean air, choosing instead to pour trillions of utterly wasted dollars down the black hole sewer of war without end.

Conservative Christians who pretend it is "Godly" to support a war like our illegal and grossly immoral invasion of Iraq, while voting for leaders who oppose living wages, universal health care and other programs clearly beneficial to the poor and common people, are hypocrites beyond any and all known conception of hypocrisy.  The price for religious hypocrisy is very, very high, filled with the blood of Jesus and the prophets and martyrs of human rights, rising up to and beyond the saddles of history's twisted and violent horseman of untold apocalypse, which may indeed be why Jesus was so strongly opposed to religious and other hypocrisy.




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Copyright © August 20th, 2003 by Richard Aberdeen.
Copyright © Jaunary 7th, 2014 by Richard Aberdeen.
Copyright © February 1st, 2014 by Freedom Tracks Records.

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