Matthew Henry John Bartlett

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Thursday 03 May, 02007

by Matthew Bartlett @ 3:03 pm

Sydney Anglicans on 300 and Jesus the violent
Susan Sontag’s “Notes on ‘Camp’”

Day 3: Slight cravings, favourable disposition towards coffee advertisements and packaging.

19 Responses to “”

  1. Rad. Good article. But does this sway you Matt? A LOT of influential critics love this film, and I do too.

  2. Matthew says:

    Are you kidding? I thought the article was rubbish!

  3. Richard D. Bartlett says:

    Interestingly, “Day 3: Slight cravings” is an anagram of “Daylight Savings, c:r3″

    I guess the question is, does anyone know what c:r3 means; will we ever know!?

  4. Matthew says:

    I am going to be UP NIGHTS!

  5. Matt, there is a time for war. And I believe that standing up to those that claim to have Gods actually, physically, running their leadership (as the Persians did) are surely a worthy army to stand up to.

  6. richface says:

    RDB — interestingly i was just thinking that the same phrase is an anagram for “cissy light gravy 3: dang”, which I can only assume will be a futuristic third instalment of one of those great country western music compilations.

  7. Matthew says:

    “I thin 3 glad cars, gvys!”

    By which phrase a green-leaning middle-management type alerts his colleagues that his rationalisation of the company’s vehicle fleet has let him get rid of three currently under-utilised vehicles.

  8. a says:

    i’m with you matt. this phrase “The lives lost at Thermopylae and Golgotha remind us that fulfilling the masculine role of protector may require the sacrifice of more than our modern sensibilities.” grabbed me – where’s the link exactly? and Masculine role of protector? Shudder. The film has been slammed by most good film critics on this side of the tasman as a violent gorefest. christians really seem to get into this when it suits and there’s always the ‘blood’ sacrifice connection made when it’s ‘good’ violence.
    On another note however, love Susan Sontag – she is brilliant. You should read her stuff on photography.

  9. Dennis Bartlett says:

    a book on Thermoplae I highly reccomend is ‘Gates of Fire’ by Steven Pressfield

  10. Matthew says:

    Perhaps there is a time for war, just not for Jesus-followers. We could perform some vigorous protests and cite the ‘cleansing of the temple’ as inspiration, but it would be difficult to go to war in the name of one who is remembered for facing injustice with weakness, rather than sending legions of angels which were apparently available to him to battle.

    Jesus had good cause to start a violent revolution, and there were other groups around suggesting that sort of thing, but preached love of enemies instead.

    Enjoy a John Howard Yoder quote:

    The key to the obedience of God’s people is not their effectiveness but their patience. The triumph of the right is assured not by the might that comes to the aid of the right, which is of course the justification of the use of violence and the other kinds of power in every human conflict; the triumph of the right, although it is assured, is sure because of the power of the resurrection and not because of any calculation of causes and effects, nor because of the inherently greater strength of the good guys. The relationship between the obedience of God’s people and the triumph of God’s cause is not a relationship of cause and effect but one of cross and resurrection.

  11. A just rebuttal. Colour me impressed.

  12. Matthew says:

    Wow, neat! Colour me um appreciative.

  13. Ben Hoyt says:

    Hmmm. War. I guess you disagree with the Lewis quote then?

    “If war is ever lawful, then peace is sometimes sinful. The doctrine that war is always a greater evil seems to imply a materialist ethic, a belief that death and pain are the greatest evils.”

    Why do you disagree? For Christians, pain and death aren’t the greatest evils. Hence Jesus telling that soldier to accept his low wages rather than quit his job. (Oh, and I think this relates the the smacking debate too, and your Dad’s Hebrews 12 — God, strangely enough, sometimes give us pain for our long-term good.)

    Basically, I’m saying that hitting back to defend — not so much yourself but your home or your homeland — does not make you a violent person. Nor a violent country if you go to war in defense. I wouldn’t consider myself a violent person, but would be ashamed (before Christ too, I think) if I did nothing when attackers came near my wife or fam.

    That’s a cliched example, but just the other day some drunks came quite near our bedroom window (Franci’s side) and I very nearly, uh, took action. In this instance I left them alone and nothing happened. But if this was South Africa they could well have been intruders, and intruders almost always mean business, with knives or guns. In that case I think it would be shameful and wrong not to protect by fighting. It’s in that case where pacifism is the greater evil.

  14. Matthew says:

    Hi Ben

    Thanks for your comments.

    Yes, I thought CSL’s quote was bad. It’s not that pacifists (at least the ones I’ve read) see death and pain as absolutely evil, it’s that they see following Jesus as an alternative to war, that they ought to be readier to die than kill. (Ron Sider is very stirring on this point.) A Christian pacifist might say we don’t know if God wants me to still be alive tomorrow, or this nation to still exist tomorrow, but we do know that God wants us to remain faithful, though that might involve pain/death.

    Defense of family seems a more difficult situation to me. But it also seems more like a difficult case/borderline situation rather than a paradigmatic one.

    Enough for now. Read Yoder! (I have leant all mine out at the moment though, sorry)

  15. Ben Hoyt says:

    Finally got around to penning some thoughts on pacifism vs peacemaking. Not quite in the shape I would have liked them, but here they are.

    I love Sider’s points about “isolationist pacifism”. I totally agree that if we are pacifists, then any war is a bad war — whether our boys are fighting it or not. But then if we are pacifists, we’re saying that all of the allies defending countries against the onslaught of the Third Reich were doing wrong. I think many people would (rightly) take a second look at pacifism if it would have meant Hitler taking over the world. (I understand this is simplifying history, but from what I’ve read and heard from eye-witnesses, perhaps not too much.)

    Sider quotes Gandhi (and agrees), “If the only two choices are to kill or to stand quietly by doing nothing while the weak are oppressed and killed, then, of course, we must kill.” I’m glad he agrees to this. But it seems to me it’s not consistent with pacifism. I believe a war (personal or national) should only ever be fought if we’re defending our family, or country, or others who can’t defend themselves.

    Take WWII again. Plenty of people saw or witnessed crazy executions and persecutions of Jews and others. And this on a grand scale. Would they stand quietly by to see the weak murdered? Or would they kill to defend them? It seems to me that this not-merely-a-thought-experiment doesn’t just apply on a personal level, it could and did apply on a national level. Hence Holland was “at war” with Germany. But (as far as I can tell) only after Germany started doing nasty and wrong things to the weak and the oppressed. Apply Gandhi on a national level and you have a right cause to fight back. To fight for the peace you once had.

    I reckon that Jesus, despite being the ultimate peacemaker, was not a pacifist. He was the one who told the soldier to accept his low wages, not quit his job. This would have been a brilliant opportunity for an anti-war demonstration, but he didn’t make one.

    So I believe active peacemaking includes defense of family, perhaps of country, and certainly of the poor and helpless. Fighting must only be in defense.

    But peacemaking is obviously much more than just that. “Making peace”, I reckon, involves getting to know one’s neighbours so you aren’t tempted to get aggro at each other when the going gets tough. Or when they have their stereo booming till 4am (and that after your baby’s been crying every half an hour :-). “Making peace” means living the active obedience Jesus called us to so that we are making war a last resort. “Making peace” means making nice things for people by hand. Helping them with their computer problems ad infinitum. Cooking them meals when they’re moving house, or when they’ve just spent their most recent welfare payout on their huge power bill because they can’t afford a three-times-more-efficient heat pump.

    There’s still sin in the world. We still aren’t perfect. People still do bad stuff. Jesus has brought peace, and continues to bring peace, but it’s not yet The End. So we still need people like the cops doing their job. And yes, their job involves force (and possibly fighting) sometimes. That’s one end of the stick. But the Church should be on the other end (and isn’t really). The end where we are calling society to love each other, to love our neighbours and show them how to do that. Simple stuff. Cliched. But peace-making stuff. War-ending stuff.

  16. Matthew says:

    Thanks for your considered reply Ben. But I think you’re misusing Sider/Gandhi. He is using “kill if there’s no other choice” in a rhetorical way (this is part of a fervently-made speech to an American audience) — after the bit you quote, Sider says “But there is always a third option. We can always prayerfully and nonviolently place ourselves between the weak and the oppressor.”

    Sider wants Christians to follow Jesus by interpolating ourselves between oppressors and oppressed, absorbing the evil w/o retaliation.

    I think that some of the things that the Allies did in WWII disqualified them/us from any superior moral position, such as the bombing of Nagasaki & Hiroshima & Tokyo. Hauerwas would say that it’s not about Christians forcing history to ‘come out right’ (e.g. Hitler was so evil that following Jesus becomes ‘unrealistic’ and some other criteria for action have to be found), it’s about Christians continuing to witness to the new world that God is making, which Jesus’ final sacrifice makes possible, even in impossibly difficult circumstances.

    (and it was John the B who recommended soldiers be content with their wages and not extort)

  17. Tim says:

    ‘Sider wants Christians to follow Jesus by interpolating ourselves between oppressors and oppressed, absorbing the evil w/o retaliation.’ Matt, can you give examples of how that might play out practically?

  18. Matthew says:

    I don’t have any examples of my own, but Sider gives some under the “Die by the thousands” heading in that speech.

  19. Tim says:

    Well it’s certainly an interesting concept but I have my doubts about its effectiveness.

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