Sunday, March 25, 2007

‘Tis the Time’s Plague

I am against the Bill Kristol-George Bush war for reasons I have stated often enough. And call me irresponsible, I do not subscribe to the “It was wrong to start with, but now we must not leave,” philosophy. Shedding more Iraqi blood and sacrificing more American blood will not magically make wrong right. Besides, we have a real enemy on our border that has declared war on the United States. Why not, if you’re going to ask soldiers to risk their lives, ask them to risk their lives in defense of their homeland, instead of corporate American’s bragging rights in the Middle East?

Although against the current war, I am not, like the late John Paul II and the Quakers, a pacifist. I do believe there are times when a Christian must kill. But I am in disagreement with the modern, post-Christian justifications for the shedding of blood. The moderns, such as George Bush, believe as Robespierre believed, that if blood is shed in the name of democracy and liberty, the men who shed that blood are absolved from all guilt. I’ll go further. They believe that they have performed a holy act and are beyond the ken of mortal men who do not have the courage or vision to perform such sanctified massacres.

Well, ‘tis the time’s plague when madmen lead the blind. There is currently no Christian organization in existence that wants to give genuine guidance on the important question: When should a Christian kill? The Catholics are Quakers, the Protestants are all over the board, and Catholic traditionalists take the Muslim view of war – kill them all.

Nor are the old Catholic catechisms any help in deciding the difficult question of when a Christian should kill, because they all assume conditions which no longer exist – a sound Church and a moral government – and hence, prohibit an individual taking arms against the state or involving himself in acts of private retribution. But in the absence of Christian government, following the old catechisms, which are based on Aquinas, means there can be no counter-revolutions and no justice against those who prey on the innocent, such as state-sanctioned abortion doctors and black murderers.

As always, it is the Christian poets to whom we can turn for guidance. Hamlet is faced with a situation analogous to that facing a modern European and the modern European America. Hamlet has only an abstracted faith with which to face a situation that calls for a real faith. He must face what Miguel de Unamuno called the agony of Christianity: he must either become human by following the way of the cross or forever remain in the rank of the Gnostics, who would play upon man as if he were a musical instrument.

Hamlet. Why, look you now, how unworthy a thing you make of me! You would play upon me, you would seem to know my stops, you would pluck out the heart of my mystery, you would sound me from my lowest note to the top of my compass; and
there is much music, excellent voice, in this little organ, yet cannot you make it speak. ‘Sblood, do you think that I am easier to be play’d on that a pipe? Call me what instrument you will, though you can fret me, you cannot play upon me.
And later, Hamlet, having made his declaration to the world, “This is I, Hamlet, the Dane,” shows us that it doesn’t matter whether the augurers are right in their predictions. A Christian doesn’t heed them. His duty is determined by what’s in his blood and his heart, and he must do his duty in spite of dungeon, fire, sword, and augury. Therein lies the great Christianity of Hamlet. And as a Christian, Hamlet fights and kills because the treacherous sword of the Gnostics is “unbated and evenom’d” with that which kills not only the body but the soul as well.

We should note that Shakespeare presents the conflict as it is really played out in modern life. Claudius has the Catholic Faith, if mere adherence to outward forms counts as having the Faith. But the Christian hero, having stripped the false layers of Gnostic skin from his own soul, recognizes the evil beneath Claudius’ pious exterior. The Poloniuses of the world who have settled for a false view of existence do not have the ability to recognize evil; hence, they side with men who are evil but who have achieved success in the Darwinian jungle, for that is the only objective standard they have. And when there is no longer a hero who can recognize evil and fight it, we have a situation analogous to present day America and Europe.

The English author P. C. Wren is anti-modern because he takes the concept of the hero seriously. His heroes are not anti-heroes. Wren often places his heroes in situations where an evil person is able to wreak havoc because conventional society has lost the ability to identify evil. In Beggars’ Horses, Captain Bartholomew Hazelrigg is faced with a dilemma that would force the computer-trained brains of modern, moral theologians to combust. A thoroughly evil woman has murdered, maimed and destroyed a great number of men who have gotten in the way of her evil designs. Yet conventional society regards the woman as the paragon of virtue. Only Hazelrigg knows what she is and what she is still capable of doing if she is not stopped. He arranges to meet the woman on the moor one day and quickly ends her career in crime.

In The Man the Devil Didn’t Want, also by Wren, the hero of the novel is faced, like Hazelrigg, with a villainous antagonist whose villainy has not been recognized by conventional society. He is a murderer and a blackmailer. The hero of the novel forces the villain into the Foreign Legion and then takes him into the desert.

“Yrotavál,” said I, you attempted to murder me yesterday. Silence! You are doing something worse than murder to my brother. You have driven him to insanity, perhaps suicide. You actually did murder Corporal Bjelavitch and Sergeant Paggallini, and by your own account you have murdered other men. Any Court of Law before which you were tried would convict you and sentence you to death. I am now going to take the Law into my own hands. I sentence you to death.”

“It is murder!” shouted Yrotavál, as I drew my revolver from its holster.

“Silence! Stand back!” And I leveled my revolver at his face. “Murder or not, I’m going to kill you—as you tried to kill me.”

“You can’t prove…” began Yrotavál, his voice high and hoarse.

“No, I can’t. Though I know it; and you know it. But I am not killing you for that. I…”

“It is murder! Murder…” screamed Yrotavál. “You talk about me being a murderer and…”

“Murder or execution, Yrotavál, I’m going to kill you now… Even if it brings me down to your level. I have warned you. I have tried to stop you. You’ve been blackmailing my brother again…”

“It’s a lie. It’s a lie. I haven’t written a word since…”

“That’s enough. I know that you have. It was you who persuaded him to sham blindness and you’ve blackmailed him ever since.”

“It’s a lie. He began it. He asked me to sham deaf and dumb and…”

“You yourself admitted that it was your idea. You yourself admitted blackmailing him and…”

“I stopped. I stopped when you…”

“About turn!” I roared, and, so strong was the habit of years, the force of mechanical instinct, that Yrotavál almost instantly obeyed.

Should I bid him kneel? Should I bid him pray?

Yrotavál kneel! Yrotavál pray! I thought of Luke. I thought of Rosanne—and pulled the trigger.

With a convulsive jerk and jump he fell forward. Placing the muzzle of my revolver to his ear, I shot him again.

With the entrenching tools I made a shallow grave, thrust his body into it, shoveled the earth and gravel back into the hole, and covered the place with large loose stones.

I was cool, nay cold, collected in mind and calm in spirit.

Having finished my task, I marched back to the poste, taking with me the light pick and shovel.

On the way, I visited the sentry-groups posted to guard the passage of the water-fatigue party to the stream.

“Did you hear a shot?” I asked Corporal Mallen, the American tough guy and Bad Man, for whom I had much admiration and a high regard.

“Sure, Sergeant,” he said. “Two.”

“Legionaire Yrotavál has been shot,” I informed him.

Corporal Mallen appeared to bear the bad news bravely.

“Isn’t that just too bad!” he said.

As I
turned away and he saluted, a smile flickered for an instant across his grim

--from The Man the Devil Didn’t Want by P. C. Wren
In reading both accounts of the killing of a human being, my heart soared. Why? The obvious answer would be that I am a heartless, bloodthirsty brut. Well, the reader is entitled to his opinion, but that is not really the reason. My heart soared within me because Wren depicts so well the type of Christianity I believe in. I believe that charity demands sometimes that we must kill. And we cannot hide behind catechisms or social conventions to excuse us from our duty. It sickens me to see the old fairy tales being written without the traditional destruction of the villain at the end. This robs the tale of its Christian content. Evil is real, the devil is the source of it, and human beings, of their own free will, do his bidding. Such individuals must be confronted and in some cases, killed. Charity demands it. Such, I believe, is the express command of our Christian Faith. I will have no part of a Christianity that denies that central charitable tenet.

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