By Miguel De La Torre
As a social ethicist, I wrestle with issues concerning the use or rejection of violence.
Should we, as a community, engage in violence when our lives and/or way of life are threatened? Or do we follow the example of Mahatma Gandhi or Martin Luther King’s way of nonviolent resistance?
Is it better to be killed rather than to take a human life? Does the image of God that resides in all of humanity prevent and prohibit us from extinguishing that spark of the Divine? Do we literally employ Jesus’ call to “turn the other check,” or is this admonition reserved for the “City of God,” per Augustine, and not the “City of Man?”
Theological speculation, when kept to the abstract and confined to the safety of the classroom, makes for fascinating conversation. But I wonder how our perspectives might change when faced with reality — when circumstances touch our skin.
Imagine this beautiful land is being invaded by foreigners of a different race, who follow a different religion, speak a different language and hold a different worldview.
Is it moral to take up arms to protect our land, our homes and our way of life? Or, as Christians, do we try to reason and negotiate with them? Do we work to find a compromise? Do we share our land with the unwelcome immigrants?
What if this invading horde is comprised of barbaric savages? What if they employ biological warfare to kill off our people? What if they burn our homes to make way for their own communities? What if they rape our wives and daughters? What if they take away our children and indoctrinate them in their own religion, political systems and worldview?
What if they kill the nonviolent peacemakers among us who advocated appeasement? Do we fight then? Do we engage in acts of sabotage and guerilla-style military operations? Because they are militarily more powerful, do we participate in so-called acts of terror?
Or do we hold to the teaching of Christ and cast our eyes to the heavenly abode when war will be no more? Do we live under oppressive conditions, knowing we belong to another world and thus detach ourselves from this physical existence?
What if this invading multitude instigates a systematic genocidal policy to get rid of us? What if they find our race, religion and way of life satanic and determine the best way for them not to be contaminated by our presence is to wipe us off the land?
What if they succeed, and our numbers are reduced to a minority forced to live in decaying ghettos? What if years and generations go by and our descendants start losing their language, traditions and faith? Do we fight then to protect what we believe is worth dying for?
Or like sheep led to the slaughter, do we accept the cross we must bear? Do we give witness to our God by the way we die without compromising our commitment to nonviolence?
What if centuries later our descendants discover what was lost? A half of a millennium from now, do they have the right to take up arms and rebel? Does our progeny have a right to resort to violence in order to reclaim what was taken away from us?
If it is true that freedom is not free, can they pay the price we did not pay to regain the “old” ways of living according to our faith and traditions? Or do they accept reality, forget about what was and try to make a new life in the world of the invaders?
If you believe that in spite of these kinds of calamities you should remain faithful to your Christian beliefs of not engaging in violence, then you are truly a pacifist, willing to offer up yourself as a living sacrifice.
If, however, you believe you should fight back, you have made a moral case for American Indians and all the violence in which they have previously participated in to kill white Christians.
Furthermore, you have provided moral justification for their continued struggle, employing violence if necessary, to overthrow American rule.
Happy Columbus Day!