There’s an old joke about the minister who is part of a golfing four playing the Old Course at St. Andrew’s, a special privilege. He is the first to tee off, his shot is short but straight, and he watches his friends follow him with some dismay. The first one shanks his shot into the rough. “******* missed” he shouts and is rebuked by the minister. The second trundles his drive into a burn. “******** missed,” he cries, and the minister says, “now really, men, you have to respect my position and not embarrass me with swearing!” The third takes his shot and fails to make contact with the ball altogether. “***********. missed” he howls. In a split second there is a terrifying flash as a thunderbolt shoots down and burns the minister to a crisp.
And then the three survivors hear a voice from heaven, ” ***************** missed!” it says.
The idea that someone possessed of terrifying power might be as incompetent as a Saturday golfer is not actually amusing, especially in the light of the latest collateral damage done by US led forces in AfghanIstan, which destroyed a Medicins Sans Frontieres hospital, killing some staff and patients, while rendering it unusable. The US general admitted there may have been collateral damage, because he is unable to say the human sentence,” We have killed some people by mistake.”
The folly of this sort of war is yet again illustrated. Sensible people have reacted to the war with courage, by putting their medical skills at the service of the wounded, while cowardly clowns bring incompetent violence to add to the human misery already present.
Jesus warned that those who use violence will die by violence.
Who is to say that the conviction of the USA that violence is always a good answer abroad, has not fuelled the violence seen this week again in the slaughter of students in Oregon? Who is to say that the creepy UK involvement in the The Middle East and Afghanistan which adds its own pathetic underfunded violence to that of the USA, has not fuelled the violence of Jihadists in the UK?
And yet we have our idiot foreign secretary saying yesterday that aiding US bombing of ISIL will “make our streets safer”!
We have to get back to the resolute extremism of Jesus, who was not at all impressed with the vast violence of Rome nor with the small violence of Jewish Jihadists. He taught that his followers must be ready to break the cycle of violence. Clearly that’s not easy, especially in international conflict. But surely MSF have the right approach. If from the start we had refused to be partisan in such conflicts but had put all our resources into forms of humanitarian aid, such as MSF, Food Aid, Education, and safe havens for peaceful people, it seems certain to me, that we would have done more good than has been achieved by killing, including the killing of many of our own young men and women.
Of course, such an approach might not bring all conflict to an end, but where do we get the idea that we, especially we, with our dirty hands, could achieve such a thing? Our desire to fix the world according to our wishes comes from both the past and the future: we are reluctant to forego all the privileges of our imperial past, and terrified by a future in which nations may have to compete for short resources.
It has often been thought that Jesus’ teaching about violence was extreme and only for saints. It looks to me now like the merest common sense for nations as well as citizens.