American Christian Jailed For His Beliefs
January 1, 2005 7:39 AM   Subscribe

Marine Refuses to Use Guns ... Marine Cpl. Joel D. Klimkewicz converted to the Church of Jesus Christ and Latter Day saints while in the Marines, and now believes that killing is against Jesus' teachings. As such, he refused to train with a gun though he says he would be willing to clear mines and work the front lines. The result is that the military has jailed him for his religious beliefs, convicting him of disobeying a direct order. Anyone think that Bill O'Reilly is going to say the military is trying to destroy Christianity?
posted by nathanrudy (71 comments total)

 

posted by squirrel at 7:46 AM on January 1, 2005


I wasn't aware that the Mormons were pacifists. Certainly Joe Smith wasn't a pacifist. Blood atonement anyone? (Not that the Mormons hold to that doctrine anymore, but I believe that some hard-line fundie Mormons still agree with it.) If pacifism isn't one of the official tenets of his church, then I can see how the military might not buy his story. Maybe he should have become a Quaker instead.
posted by goatdog at 7:57 AM on January 1, 2005


OK, I think we all agree that killing is against Jesus' techings. But what about training with a gun? Why is that against Jesus' teachings too? Or clearing land mines to make way for a tank (which he is apparently willing to do)? And why is being a soldier *not* against Jesus' techings?

Seems to me, the guy is a little inconsequential here in not quitting the Marines entirely (and suffering the consequences).

I mean seriously, what would Jesus do?
posted by sour cream at 8:01 AM on January 1, 2005


Wow, he picked the *wrong* service to try that with. One of the core tenets (corps tenets?) of the USMC is "All Marines Are Riflemen." They're not going to accept "All Marine Are Riflemen, Except Bob."
posted by eriko at 8:02 AM on January 1, 2005


Did you read it before posting? The story says he became a "Seventh-Day Adventist," not a Mormon. The "Jailed for his beliefs" line is just silly. Is there anything to discuss?
posted by planetkyoto at 8:02 AM on January 1, 2005


Eek. Note to self: read carefully before commenting. Thanks planetkyoto.
posted by goatdog at 8:04 AM on January 1, 2005


They're not going to accept "All Marine Are Riflemen, Except Bob."

Yeah, but do you realize how cool it would be if that were one of their core tenets? I'd love to see that slogan on official Marines regalia.
posted by Bugbread at 8:06 AM on January 1, 2005 [1 favorite]


Church of Jesus Christ and Latter Day saints

You sound like my mom trying to remember the names of professional athletes. And he isn't a member of the church whose name you mangled ("The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints"). He's an Adventist, which is a totally different cult.
posted by Mayor Curley at 8:06 AM on January 1, 2005


On Mormons Adventists and their diminishing commitment to pacifism.
posted by goatdog at 8:11 AM on January 1, 2005


In defense of the Marines: the intial article notes that he recently reenlisted, and did not initially offer any religions rationale for refusing to pick up a weapon. The military is not designed for sensitivity to individual circumstances, so it's unsurprising that a later offer to perform only noncombat tasks wasn't well received.

All that said, 7 months in jail seems quite a harsh response.
posted by ibmcginty at 8:12 AM on January 1, 2005


This strikes me as an anti-religion post disguised as a pro-religion post. Not to mention loose with the facts.
posted by tommasz at 8:13 AM on January 1, 2005


Or clearing land mines to make way for a tank (which he is apparently willing to do)?

I think it's pretty admirable... I mean, a guy offering to clear mines clearly isn't a coward. But one action (shooting people) destroys life, while another (removing mines) saves it. Seems pretty morally consistent to me.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 8:26 AM on January 1, 2005


Easy to fix: just annopunce hat he is gay.
You don't make a contract and then decide that you have new beliefs and so the contract is now null and void...that is why both sides lose in divorces.
posted by Postroad at 8:29 AM on January 1, 2005


C_D: I agree, it doesn't look like he's a coward.
But I don't see how the action he's refusing to do (training with a gun, which supposedly doesn't involve shooting people) destroys any more life than clearing land mines. In both cases, no lives are taken as an immediate consequence.

In fact, on a more abstract level, doesn't being part of a military machine contribute to the taking of lives?
posted by sour cream at 8:35 AM on January 1, 2005


It seems to me (after reading the nested linked articles) that its more likely that the Marine didn't have a flash of faith so much as finding a faith that would get him out of the work he didn't want to do with the least amount of personal sacrifice.
posted by forforf at 8:41 AM on January 1, 2005


What always gets me is how my parents and pastor are able to read, so clearly, into the most arcane and disputed passages in the Bible. Of COURSE women can't teach in the church, of COURSE homosexuals go to hell, it's all right there, plain as day, son!

Yet when it comes to death and war, gee, those could be read in so many ways. It's really open for debate, you know?
"Thou shalt not kill."
"Some will tell you, an eye for an eye, but I say no: If a man should strike you, turn the other cheek."
"In this one law, all of the laws of the prophets are summed: Love thy neighbor as thyself."

The guy was the pacifist activist that suffered more and did less than Ghandi, and affected more change with it. His followers gave themself without struggle to an oppressive, anti-Christian world government, and through their passivism, did more good than the Christian church have ever done since. But, somehow, no one has ANY PROBLEM WHATSOEVER justifying violence in Jesus' name.

Goatdog, as a poor example, I had a Mormon roommate in college, and he was a hundred times more pure and devout than the Campus Ministry crowd he hung out with (and, well, me). They were drunk three times a week, and he never drank a drop. They fraternized constantly, he stayed in our room and blasted "Got Your Money," etc. In some cases, it seems that because Christianity is the American "default" religion, similar but more specific faiths are able to affect followers' behaviors in greater ways.
posted by dougunderscorenelso at 8:49 AM on January 1, 2005


My screwup on the church name. Should have gotten that right.

It's not an anti-religion post, but an anti-O'Relly and his ilk post. This post was an effort to mimic the folks who scream, "Declaration of Independence Forbidden in School Because It Mentions God" and the like. It was intentionally loose with the facts as satire, but not the church name. Again, my bad.

I agree with ibmcginty that this guy went about it all wrong. He just disobeyed an order without rationale. He must have known he would be asked to train with a rifle and planned the refusal. Premediated refusal to follow orders is a pretty bad thing in the Marines.

The right thing would have been to apply for conscientious objector status as soon as he made the decision that he could not kill. It's been done before, and granted. Instead he decided to make a point, which was a pretty stupid way to go about it.
posted by nathanrudy at 8:50 AM on January 1, 2005


Well, sour cream, I think CivDis drew a sensible distinction. Guns are used to shoot people, while getting rid of mines is supposed to not kill people. How far do we want to take things? What if he were a secretary at the Pentagon? I park my car at a low rate in a garage in Northern Virginia in a building that rents office space to the Department of Defense-- would that violate the tenets of a hypothetical Church of Jesus Christ and Latter Day saints? Or paying taxes?

Just saying, there are sound philosophical grounds for refusing to train with a weapon but being OK with clearing mines.

On the facts of this case, though, some punishment, even if not 7 months imprisonment, is not unwarranted.
posted by ibmcginty at 8:52 AM on January 1, 2005


Clearing mines so that your comrades will have a clear field to cross and kill people is hardly pacifistic. What would Jesus do? He would (as he did) like a lamb. A Christian should not kill. Not to save him or herself. Not to save a child. Not to prevent a rape. Not to save democracy and free speech. Not to prevent the Holocaust. If you believe in an eternal soul, you cannot want to commit the crime of murder in order to gain the temporary advantage of a longer physical life for yourself or another. It's no different from killing for money, or oil. If there is an essence to Christianity it is this: You don't kill. Period. If you are in a situation where killing is going on, you are either a non-participant, or you are the one who gets killed. Those are you choices.
posted by Faze at 9:07 AM on January 1, 2005


Well-said, Faze. It's a fairly obvious point that fairly no one sees.
Your examples sting a little because things like Killing To Prevent Holocaust sound pretty rational. But one has to remember that the ideal Christian would do everything in his/her power to stop the Holocaust another way; be it smuggling out Jews or politically influencing leaders or....whatever. It's a tough situation.
The other thing to remember in the situation of Killing To Prevent Loss Of Life is that it's impossible to know. What we're in right now is technically KTPLOL, only some people think it's preventing and some don't. There's always going to be debate, so it seems like an almost-rational decision to avoid it altogether.
posted by dougunderscorenelso at 9:14 AM on January 1, 2005


Anyone think that Bill O'Reilly is going to say the military is trying to destroy Christianity?

No, just Christmas. :-)
You have a valid point about the so-called "christians" in the media and their hypocrisy.
Try and imagine James Dobson saying that war is bad for children. Or Rush saying that his lack of talent is not on loan from the White House bush-gods. How about Falwell saying it is wrong to kill, even "Islamists." Ain't gonna happen.

If these are the folks who will be in heaven then reserve my spot in hell please.
posted by nofundy at 9:15 AM on January 1, 2005


I would very much like an annopunce hat.

In other news, why on earth wouldn't he try to be a chaplain, a cook, a quartermaster, a refueling station operator on a tanker, or any of a million other jobs in the military that don't involve pointing a gun? There are jobs in the military whose connection with killing the enemy is tenuous. If this guy is sincere, then I feel for him, because he picked the wrong line of work in which to have this revelation. If he's not sincere, then he's like all those post-election Democrats (my team) spouting off about God just to sound relevant.

WWJD? Probably suffer the jail time as Caesar's will, thereby inspiring billions of believers (who would talk a lot about it but rarely attain His level of moral consistency).
posted by socratic at 9:22 AM on January 1, 2005


Wait a second.

Faze's blanket "a Christian should not kill" and claim that killing to defend the lives of others is no different than killing for money is absurd, false, and not part of the doctrine of the vast majority of mainstream Christianity. Dougunderscorenelso's apparent edorsement of such an absurd claim is also quite worrisome.

That simply isn't true, guys. I was raised Catholic and I can quite positively tell you that you don't speak for me. the Church I grew up in, or the vast majority of Christians.

Go peddle your dangerous heresy somewhere else.
posted by Justinian at 9:27 AM on January 1, 2005


I had an uncle who was refused to go to Vietnam for religious reasons. He was Catholic.

The case was in court and then the war ended.
posted by xammerboy at 9:30 AM on January 1, 2005


In fact, on a more abstract level, doesn't being part of a military machine contribute to the taking of lives?

Or just being a taxpayer?
posted by 327.ca at 9:31 AM on January 1, 2005


Justinian - There are a lot of people who think the Catholic interpretation of Jesus' pacifism and the whole "just war" paradigm are themselves heretical in light of what Jesus actually taught. Of course, the Catholic Church's (or Episcopalian or Presbyterian) view of pacifism isn't entirely relevant here; the real question is "What is the official position of the Seventh Day Adventists with respect to killing by Christians, directly or indirectly, and what is the Marines' position with respect to in-service conversions to a pacifist faith?"

That's two questions, ack.

If we want to talk about the thousands of competing and often incompatible interpretations of Christ's teachings, someone should post (another) discussion about JPII's possible replacement and the implications that a new pope will have for core beliefs of the Church (and not just the Catholics).
posted by socratic at 9:35 AM on January 1, 2005


I wish I had something cool to say but I'm torn.

I don't like the war, I don't like religion so is using religion to get out of the war an appropriate course of action?

Yeah, it'll work. Just don't start trying to convert me.

And yes, I will mention that the battlefield conversions, just like jailhouse conversions, are kind of suspect to me. If it were me in the situation, I'd likely find God too if it might get me the hell out of that mess.

On Preview: Quite right 327.ca. If you don't want to have any blood on your hands then don't pay taxes and expect to sit the revolution out in prison (The only place for a just person in unjust times......).
posted by fenriq at 9:35 AM on January 1, 2005


When they re-instate the Draft this year, I think the number of 18 year olds converting to <insert religion here> is gonna skyrocket. Wait a minute, maybe that's what they want: war increases religious conversion. Hmmmm......
posted by camworld at 9:45 AM on January 1, 2005


War is money.

He was jailed less for his religious beliefs and more for refusing to be profitable for Haliburton et al.

A Marine that doesn't kill is bad for business.
posted by orange clock at 10:08 AM on January 1, 2005


1. Please remember, all, that there is a very clear separation of Church and Christ in any christian denomination. The Denominations all ignore different pieces of Jesus' teachings as written in the gospels and interpret what they don't ignore differently. This is because Christ spoke in parables and allegory, so different things he said are interpreted non-literally by some people and literally by others. For instance, Franciscan, Dominican and Benedictine monks all wear simple robes of only one type of fabric because in the literal sense you're supposed to wear clothing of whole cloth. The pope's hat, on the other hand...

2. There is no point in the gospels where Jesus says that you can kill for him or even kill at all.

3. The Catholic church has intentionally called for killing and even offered straight-shot tickets to heaven for people who killed for them in the Crusades. Decrees like this are, as I see it, normally rationalized later by interpreting this or that line of scripture differently.

4. It is entirely possible that this soldier "converted" to Adventism because it conveniently allowed him to object. It is, however, entirely possible that the war has disturbed him so much that he can't help but feel like he's sinning if he kills in it.

5. As far as filing for objector status... If he really converted, then it's not something you ask permission for. If, for instance, while your file is being processed, you're still expected to go shoot people, then he still has to refuse. Chances are St. Peter won't accept the "But my petition was still being processed!" excuse. But I don't know if that's the case.

6. Semper Fidelis Absque Bob.

7. Bill O'Reilly would no doubt paint this story as a sinner abusing Christ's faith for his own ends. He nevers deviates from the party line.
posted by shmegegge at 10:14 AM on January 1, 2005


i never met a jarhead i liked anyway.
posted by quonsar at 10:14 AM on January 1, 2005


I was raised Catholic and I can quite positively tell you that you don't speak for me. the Church I grew up in, or the vast majority of Christians.

No kidding.
posted by Faze at 10:22 AM on January 1, 2005


FYI, the Seventh Day Adventists, as I understand it, got their start right here in the state of New Hampshire! They used to be called the Millerites, because they followed a preacher named Miller who unsuccessfully predicted the end of the world using math and the bible. He then repredicted and was wrong again, but the struggle continues.
posted by crazy finger at 10:48 AM on January 1, 2005


Exodus 20:13

King James Version (the one generally known and quoted)

"Thou shalt not kill."

New International Version (one of several more recent translations used in many of todays churches)

"You shall not murder."

Interesting distinction.

On the one hand the more recent, and presumably better informed linguistically, hebrew to english translation seems much more rational. Fer instance, depending on what you think murder means maybe it's ok to kill to prevent further killings, such as a cop might in the line of duty.

On the other, maybe this opens the door to any behavior one finds convenient based on manipulating the concept of murder or 'illegal' killing. What's legal and what's not and who decides?
posted by scheptech at 11:09 AM on January 1, 2005


If you are in a situation where killing is going on, you are either a non-participant, or you are the one who gets killed. Those are you choices.

I disagree. A possible religious explanation:

1. Morally: saving the life of someone, even someone who is a murderer, is morally correct. Therefor, disarming mines, even if it allows your troops to live longer and kill more people, is still a correct decision. Who's to say they won't have a calling of faith and put down their rifles?

2. Practically: more than just Marines get killed by landmines. I invite you to visit Cambodia or Laos if you've got the time and money and take a look around. Most of the vicitims of landmines are innocents caught in the fray.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 11:17 AM on January 1, 2005


Ahm, he's in the army (or Marines, whatever). He volunteered. The job of the military is to kill people. HIS job in the military is whatever the military says it is, not what he prefers it to be (and that is really the whole point). He knew all that before joining. If he thinks killing is wrong, he should have not joined.
posted by c13 at 11:27 AM on January 1, 2005


It seems to me (after reading the nested linked articles) that its more likely that the Marine didn't have a flash of faith so much as finding a faith that would get him out of the work he didn't want to do with the least amount of personal sacrifice.

So he took a course that got him seven months in a Marine Corps brig and a bad-conduct discharge? That's ridiculous.

I served with a man who took a similar course in Vietnam. He'd enlisted and been sent over there, then decided he couldn't participate, and applied for C.O. status. He spent the rest of his abnormally long tour of duty doing all the worst jobs available. Eventually, the Army granted him a discharge and let him go home. It would have been easier for him to go with the flow, but he stuck by his principles and refused to pick up a weapon.

If you don't believe this Marine made his life harder by refusing rifle training, you have no inkling of what life in the military is like.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 11:31 AM on January 1, 2005


Before he could be drafted for the Korean War, my father enlisted as a conscientious objector. He wanted to help his country fight, do his duty, but could not bring himself to pick up a gun and kill someone.

We've not spoken about it a lot, so I'm not sure the entirety of his moral reasoning on the subject, but I know he hates guns.

I think the review board was a little taken aback when he enlisted, but he went through the review process, was enlisted and rose to the rank of corporal in a MASH unit driving an ambulance and doing morbidity statistics for the base, amongst other things.

It sounds like he was accepted by most of the other soldiers, but still had some run-ins with people who just didn't get it. The military, understandably, can be a very hard place for a CO to be.

I have a regular customer who was in Vietnam (I don't recall if he was drafted or enlisted). He often tells the anecdote of going over there in the transport. He was a medic. They were traveling with a bunch of conscientious objectors who still had the large red cross on their helmets.

The COs (they really need a different abbreviation) received different training than normal soldiers. Apparently the regular medics were told, unofficially, to scrub the red cross off of their helmets with a scouring pad and take their medic patches off because they would simply become targets to the Viet Cong. So these regular medics in the transport did the COs a favour and took care of that for them.

Leading into the larger moral quandary of being not willing to kill people personally, but helping an army do it, it seems a thing of circumstance. Clearly the Marine above did not approach this properly if he was being truthful or was being untruthful. Smart, I believe, took this up in one of his wandering philosophical analyses at some point and came to no discernible conclusion.

on preview: c13, never say army (or Marines, whatever) to a Marine. :)
posted by Captaintripps at 11:33 AM on January 1, 2005


You sound like my mom trying to remember the names of professional athletes

speaking of which, what would Johnny Damon do?
posted by matteo at 12:24 PM on January 1, 2005


MetaFilter: Go peddle your dangerous heresy somewhere else.
posted by homunculus at 12:30 PM on January 1, 2005


Hey matteo, here's another, even more appropriate Johnny Damon pic.
posted by ibmcginty at 1:07 PM on January 1, 2005


Civil_Disobedient -- Those are both good points. Especially number two. Clearing mines is not a black and white situation.
posted by Faze at 1:07 PM on January 1, 2005


Jesus was a pacifist? Bullshit extraordinaire.

"Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword." Matthew 10:34


I'm all for pacifism (though I'm not a pacifist myself), but the vast majority of Christians are not pacifists. I say hooray for the Society of Friends (a/k/a Quakers) and the Seventh-Day Adventist Church and anyone else who's inspired by their Christian beliefs to be a pacifist, but pacifism is not a necessary element of Christianity.
posted by Sidhedevil at 1:14 PM on January 1, 2005


Doesn't anyone think it is wrong that just because he's making a religious a claim it is more important than someone actually having the belief themselves without being associated with a religion. To give extra rights to religious to people is not fair. Either everyone is allowed to be a pacifist in the Marines or No one. It is hypocritical and inconsistent to have a gradient of rights based on association with a group.
posted by abez at 1:17 PM on January 1, 2005


I wasn't aware that the Mormons were pacifists...If pacifism isn't one of the official tenets of his church, then I can see how the military might not buy his story.

It's not one of the official tenets, and in fact, there are certain segments of the LDS population that I'm sure would be questioning the good corporal's dedication to God and country.

However, there really are a number of threads of warning about war throughout the canon and even one outright pacifist story that's prominent. In the Book of Mormon, there's a tale of a group of people who convert whose past includes lots of killing. They're sufficiently horrified at their own pasts that in addition to the usual Christian commitments, they take a vow that they will *never* take another human life, not even in defense of their own, and bury all the weapons they have. Later they're attacked, and have to live up to the consequences of that vow, although the story ends with the attackers, after an initial wave of killing, are stung with guilt over killing people who refuse to fight back, and lay down their own weapons (see here if you're interested). Among other things, it's really a classic illustration of the idea that refusal to participate in violence stops a chain of violence, and it's conceivable that an LDS member or convert could read this story and be inspired by it.

There are also warnings in some of the more modern canon that war is a last result, to be taken to only with God's approval after several attempts at diplomatic negotiation. While I'm sure many (perhaps most) Mormons feel that requirement was met with Iraq, I'm also sure that a number don't, and it's concievable that could be a principle under which a soldier might feel uncomfortable participating.

Of course, there's also a number of illustrations in LDS canon of people who kill or go to war to protect their land, family, and principles. The overarching message seems to be more of the "to every thing there is a season" kind when it comes to killing. Overally, the pacifist label doesn't apply.

To some extent, this is common to most faiths. On one hand, there's definitely "Thou shalt not kill/murder." On the other hand, there sure is a lot of killing, some of it apparently divinely ordained. I don't know of a single religion that doesn't have to deal with dichotomy in some way or another, though, and it takes persistence to try and develop a whole philosophy that even makes partial sense. Life is precious, death is real, and is not infrequently required in some form or another to sustain other life. Integrating that with compassion and empathy is not an easy job.
posted by weston at 1:28 PM on January 1, 2005


abez, "conscientious objectors" in the US military do not have to show adherence to an organized religion; they do, however, need to state a philosophical basis for their objections to fighting, which might be a religious philosophy or a secular ethical decision.

This page summarizes US law and precedent on this matter.
The reason religion is germane to this particular case is that this man's decision, according to him, was inspired by his religious beliefs.
posted by Sidhedevil at 1:32 PM on January 1, 2005


Doesn't anyone think it is wrong that just because he's making a religious a claim it is more important than someone actually having the belief themselves without being associated with a religion. To give extra rights to religious to people is not fair. Either everyone is allowed to be a pacifist in the Marines or No one. It is hypocritical and inconsistent to have a gradient of rights based on association with a group.

there's no double standard, abez:

WHO QUALIFIES?
Beliefs which qualify a registrant for CO status may be religious in nature, but don't have to be.

posted by juv3nal at 1:32 PM on January 1, 2005


Oops. Given that he's a seventh day adventist, Mormon belief/canon probably has nothing to do with his objections.

Well, there goes 20 minutes.
posted by weston at 1:34 PM on January 1, 2005


there are certain segments of the LDS population that I'm sure would be questioning the good corporal's dedication to God and country.

The actual church in question here, though, is the Seventh-Day Adventist Church, not the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (the poster got it wrong).
posted by Sidhedevil at 1:34 PM on January 1, 2005


weston, your thoughts were very interesting, even though not germane to this particular case.
posted by Sidhedevil at 1:35 PM on January 1, 2005


"Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword." Matthew 10:34

From what I understand the sword here indeed means something very significant and central to Christian teaching, however it is not a reference to killing but rather something even more closely relevant to the Marine's situation.

The context is a description of the nature of discipleship. The following verses talk about, radically, what it means to become a follower in a household where the rest of the family isn't. The sword referred to is a warning about what can happen, that families may be divided, the follower may feel the sting of familial rejection or worse. It is a call to put one's relationship with God first, even over family. This, in the larger sense of family, is apparently what the man is doing and experiencing.
posted by scheptech at 2:32 PM on January 1, 2005


WWBBJD?
posted by The God Complex at 3:21 PM on January 1, 2005


You got it scheptech.
Sidhedevil is incorrect in thinking Jesus advocated violence with that statement.
Its called speaking metaphorically!
posted by nofundy at 3:23 PM on January 1, 2005


Sidhedevil is incorrect in thinking Jesus advocated violence with that statement. Its called speaking metaphorically!

Well then, what about when he physically threw the moneylenders out of the temple and screamed "My father's house is not a bank!"
posted by Mayor Curley at 3:38 PM on January 1, 2005


Metaphorical throwing, hypothetical moneylenders, rhetorical bank.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 4:46 PM on January 1, 2005


Not the same thing as killing in any case, and not prohibited by the 10 commandments interestingly, unlike killing of course. None of the translations say 'screamed', it's all like 'and said unto them', or 'he said', or 'he told them'.
posted by scheptech at 6:35 PM on January 1, 2005


Metaphorical throwing, hypothetical moneylenders, rhetorical bank.

Non-literally speaking, of course.

This sentence void in... well, everwhere.
posted by namespan at 6:41 PM on January 1, 2005


Regardless of your interpretation of the sixth commandment, God is clearly a fan of killing. Take a moment to read Numbers 31 and tell me that God was innocent of bloodthirsty atrocities rivaling Hitler. For those of you who don't feel like following the link and finding out for yourselves, in Numbers 31 God instructs the Hebrews to slaughter their captives (including the children). Except, that is, for the female virgins. Consider this: how do you determine if a girl is a virgin, and why would you only let virgins live? I'll give you a hint, it's not so you can set them free or let them retain their virginity.

Based on my understanding of the Bible, and I studied it on a regular basis for 17 years, I've come to the conclusion that you can use it to rationalize virtually any course of action. You can use it to rationalize the murder of abortion clinic doctors, you can use it to rationalize the refusal to pick up arms during wartime, you can use it to rationalize polygamy. The [insert holy text here] is like a painting which leaves you free to interpret as you please, or as you are instructed to.


Well then, what about when he physically threw the moneylenders out of the temple and screamed "My father's house is not a bank!"

...and three days later, despite an enormouse public following, he was executed. Coincidence?
posted by mullingitover at 6:57 PM on January 1, 2005


Numbers 31

I've talked to God at length about this passage. He said it was bullshit that a bunch of assholes made up to justify their bullshit behavior. He was in Chicago that weekend.
posted by squirrel at 8:14 PM on January 1, 2005


mullingitover - Interesting point about calling out moneychangers followed by crowd abandonment followed by execution. In my limited understanding, (and yes we're getting way off-topic) the majority of the crowd were expecting a political solution to the Roman occupation and were disappointed and became afraid for their lives when they realized he was not a political but rather a spiritual leader. The leadership of the day were threatened by his radical teaching but had no way to deal with it within their own legal system and so bumped it up to the Romans. Many regular people decided at the crucial moment they were better off showing solidarity with the existing powers since apparently no political revolution was about to happen, the Romans weren't going anywhere anytime soon, and going against them could have very unpleasant consequences.
posted by scheptech at 8:36 PM on January 1, 2005


scheptech, I'm not sure I agree with your interpretation of the sword thing. Although, that's part of the problem, isn't it? Anyway, I figured that what he meant was that peace on Earth wasn't his goal because he was preparing people for Heaven. The sword is that of Judgement Day, methinks. Could be wrong, though. Either way, it's an assy quote to disfigure in the name of murder, and I'm glad you made a good point against it.
posted by shmegegge at 11:28 PM on January 1, 2005


Civil_Disobedient, you're my hero.
posted by shmegegge at 11:30 PM on January 1, 2005


Mullingitover: The Old Testament is supposed to have been superceded by the New Testament, where God goes from being an angry god, and an eye for an eye is the norm... to God being one of love, and turning the other cheek.
That's how my religion class teacher explained it in HS(I thought it was a pretty good explanation). Emphasis must be placed on the New Testament.
posted by MrMulan at 6:00 AM on January 2, 2005


Whatever the Bible says, or doesn't say, you shouldn't kill people for any reason. It's wrong. So stop it. All of you.
posted by Faze at 8:15 AM on January 2, 2005


As far as the actions of any of the parties involved here, there doesn't seem to be any argument that they were inappropriate, just that the marine in question had poor timing.

As far as killing and Christianity go, as a practicing Christian, I believe it's a day by day thing. As in "I won't kill anybody today." Theorizing about what I would do in some hypothetical situation is simply a waste of time.

In regards to what the media will do with this story? I choose to not care.
posted by boymilo at 10:27 AM on January 2, 2005


boymilo -- "I won't commit adultery today." Theorizing about what I would do in some hypothetical situation is entirely a waste of time. Especially if she's really good looking and no one would find out. Is that the sort of thing you mean?
posted by Faze at 11:34 AM on January 2, 2005


The Old Testament is supposed to have been superceded by the New Testament

Yes, old covenant / new covenant. When you see something in the Old Testament that makes you think 'what's with that', keep reading, you haven't finished the book yet.

It's called 'Christianity' for a reason, it's about what Christ said and did in context of all that had gone before.
posted by scheptech at 12:40 PM on January 2, 2005


Jesus said, "I come not to send peace, but a sword." He may have meant it metaphorically; he may have meant it literally; he may have meant it as a joke; Matthew may have recorded it incorrectly; it may have been a later scribal interpretation.

The thing is that we only know what Jesus said, and through a centuries-long game of "telephone" at that--if it was easy to figure out exactly what he meant, there wouldn't be so many denominations of Christianity.

scheptech and nofundy think he meant the "sword" metaphorically. In that they agree with the Society of Friends and the Seventh-Day Adventist Church and other pacifist denominations. However, they disagree with other denominations. That's what makes horse races, and religious diversity.
posted by Sidhedevil at 2:35 PM on January 2, 2005


I'm surprised Desmond Doss hasn't been mentioned in this thread yet. The Conscientious Objector, a documentary about his service, is well worth watching if you can catch it somewhere.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 4:14 PM on January 2, 2005


Faze -- Essentially I agree with your blanket statement that killing is wrong, period. But at the same time, I can't analyze the situation of a intruder entering my home and threatening to kill my wife and child and what I would do. Anybody who has never been in that situation or a similar one that says they would not take whatever steps necessary to protect their loved ones is deluding themselves.

As for adultery, I'm not making the connection between my "Theorizing about what I would do in some hypothetical situation is entirely a waste of time." and your "Especially if she's really good looking and no one would find out." Could you elaborate?
posted by boymilo at 5:28 PM on January 2, 2005


Whatever the Bible says, or doesn't say, you shouldn't kill people for any reason. It's wrong. So stop it. All of you.

faze - I'd like to agree, but don't think it's that easy or is meant to be. I believe we are meant to struggle with the ambiguities of life, and trying to stay on-topic, that's what our man is doing. He's in a more obviously difficult position than most of us, I hope it comes out well for all concerned whatever happens.

boymilo - I think what you're saying is 'keep it real', if so I agree, the more I focus on today and today's problems the better off I am as in Matthew 6:34 'Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.'

For anyone doubting that metaphor is used in the Bible check Ephesians 6:11-17 which uses several of them. It talks about 'the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God', 'the belt of truth', and 'the shield of faith' to be used in spiritual battle, not physical. Specifically stated in verse 12 is 'For our struggle is not against flesh and blood'. Clearly these objects are being used as metaphor.
posted by scheptech at 9:02 PM on January 2, 2005


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