On Charity

“I’m with Mr. Rooney on this one,” Mr. Bates said. “I can’t understand what that guy was thinking.”

Mr. Magundi asked to borrow the newspaper and turned to the article in question. “Well,” he said, “dismissing the first remark, which is standard 9/11 conspiracy nonsense, what did this unhinged football player say?” He pointed to the newspaper.

“Here’s one: ‘I believe in God. I believe we’re ALL his children. And I believe HE is the ONE and ONLY judge.’

“And this one: ‘Those who judge others, will also be judged themselves.’

“And then there’s this one: ‘For those of you who said you want to see Bin Laden burn in hell … I ask how would God feel about your heart?’

“All of this is not only the most unobjectionably orthodox Christian doctrine, but in fact a very clear and straightforward statement of it. Yet we call it ‘hard to explain or even comprehend.’ Now, I’m not usually a dogmatic pacifist, because I think the world is too complicated to make hard and fast rules about most things. But my best theological argument for pacifism is this: that war makes a simple statement of Christian moral principles incomprehensible to people who call themselves Christians. War is a mind-altering drug: when you make your best theological arguments for a ‘just war,’ I must always suspect that, no matter how clever you are, it’s really the drug speaking. And when you say you can’t comprehend a statement like ‘Judge not, lest ye be judged,’ I know you’ve become a helpless addict.”

2 thoughts on “On Charity

  1. By dismissing the first remark, though, you’re setting aside the controversy itself. Although there are, I suppose, plenty of people whose outrage over the atrocity of 9/11 might make them uncomfortable with someone expressing the opinions quoted here, the incendiary comments were not from the apology (quoted here). What raised people’s ire was (1) his statement that we haven’t heard UBL’s side and (2) his insinuation that the September 11th attacks were a cover-up at best, a false flag event at worst.

    Had Mendenhall simply said that, as evil as the September 11th attacks were, he feels that celebrating a death, however justified it may have been, is unseemly and morally suspect, there wouldn’t have been much of a story.

    I would also say, though, that “judge not” seems to be misapplied here, at least if he means it in any way with respect to the disposition of UBL. Surely Christ’s injunction against judgmentalism was not intended to enjoin government action against criminals, especially inasmuch as scripture affirms that governments possess the power of the sword for precisely such purposes. I also suspect that the passage is not meant to suggest that we are never to form any sort of opinion regarding someone’s guilt or culpability. Both interpretations are a distortion of the passage.

    In short, while I agree that war and the specter of attack has an awful tendency to weaken our moral convictions and dissuade us from questioning actions billed as necessary for defense and security (see, e.g., “enhanced interrogation techniques), I think it’s unfair to suggest that those who found Mendenhall’s comments “incomprehensible” were in some way anticipating the largely tangential comments on Christian charity in his apology rather than the 9/11 trutherism and seeming uncertainty about whether UBL was a terrorist.

  2. I agree, it is bizarre and incomprehensible to doubt that UBL was a terrorist. After all, we had a trial, and evidence was presented, and he was convicted by a jury. What is to doubt? Oh wait… We don’t do trials anymore do we? The president declares someone guilty, and we all believe him, end of story.

    Under the circumstances, it is bizarre and incomprehensible to believe anything that the government or mainstream press says without confirmation from a trustworthy source.

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