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Vengeance, Revenge and Retaliation--Anyone Got Any Better Ideas?

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Dennis Diehl
Message Dennis Diehl

One of the less great "thus sayeth the Lord" moments in the Bible was the imposition of the very well know principle of "an eye for an eye and and a tooth for a tooth." I understand that an apologist can say it just means that people should be paid restitution for losses, but in practice, Governments and most Evangelicals, love the literal translation. I assume that also went on to mean to those who know the deeper meanings of such things that it could also mean, "a leg for a leg", "a spine for a spine," and "a skull for a skull." While God claimed the exclusive right to vengeance in the Old Testament (Psalms 94:1 O Lord, the God who avenges, O God who avenges, shine forth." and in the New Testament, (Romans 12:19 "Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: "It is mine to avenge; I will repay," says the Lord,) the Israelites pretty much did the work for Him,.  The Christians who evolved to make up the Church of history also did a darn nice job of inflicting God's wrath upon both the believer who believed the wrong thing and unbeliever who needed to be pursuaded.

As a child, when hearing this all in Sunday School, I had a picture of all the people in the Old Testament running around blind and toothless and it explained why Jesus may have had so many blind people to heal in the New. I don't recall Jesus restoring any teeth however.

Later I began to think that vengeance was one thing reserved only for God, but retaliation must be somewhat of a more subtle human endeavor. You know, a way around the problem of not being allowed to inflict vengeance per se. But then I find that Jesus nixed the idea of retalaliation with his own example in 1 Peter 2:23. "When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly. " But then I got to thinking about the entire theme of the Book of Revelation, where Jesus, well the Cosmic Jesus at least, wreaks vengeance, revenge and retaliation big time upon the entire planet for not going with the program. The Jesus of the Gospels might be the distant cousin of the Jesus of Revelation, but I don't think the Jesus of the Gospels could actually be the Jesus of Revelation, at least not without a change of brain chemistry and his Meyers-Briggs Personality Profile.

So then I got to thinking that it's not that you can't retaliate or get vengeance, but you have to wait until you have tried everything else before scraping your enemies off the face of the earth. But then I learned from President Bush and my government that trying everything only took a few weeks at most, and never worked so you had to bomb the sh-- out of people quickly and with shock and awe. Yeah, that works and in a very short time people are apologizing for 911 and wondering what were they thinking? 

Now Iran seems to be in the crosshairs, but for the love of God, they only want to put food on their families and coexist with fish like the President tells us we want and can do!  Their OBGYN's want to practice their love for all women too and not be fooled even once much less twice!

At any rate, let's get back to this idea about vengeance, no matter who it belongs to, retaliation and revenge. as far as I can tell it does not seem to promote anything but vengeance, retaliation and revenge, which seems counterproductive.

When the Hatfields and McCoys went at it over decades I believe, all we ended up with was less of each and a great story....all because of a pig I believe. Actually I have lived in Eastern Kentucky and vengeance, retaliation and revenge is what you do in them thar hills because reception of both TV and radio signals is so bad. There is little else to do or talk about after the day is done without those modern conveniences. It is no coincidence that the Hatfield and McCoy thing eased up a bit right about the time you could put that one big ass satellite dish in your front yard! I often saw dishes almost half as broad as the house, but darn it, there was peace in that family and surrounding county. Watching the Dukes of Hazard is safer than BEING the Dukes of Hazard!

I've been to the Middle East where every stone upon the ground has been thrown at sometime, by someone, at someone for some reason and often. The Middle East is the Land of Handy Stones or perhaps we should say the Land of "Oh Yeah? Yeah!, Oh Yeah? Yeah! I know you are but what am I, Oh Yeah? Yeah? Make me! Take that! Doh!"

It's all nuts. Kinda like growing up in the 50's picturing the launch of one missle that lead to two back that lead to twenty that led to a hundred that led to hell. I still vote Rodney King of "Can't we all just get along" fame be head of the UN or at least advise the next President. Getting along is not a lasting quality with the current administration.

Speaking of the current powers that be, it's disturbing just how difficult if not impossibe it is for anyone to get to talk with this guy when sabre's are a rattlin' and agendas are a formin'. Seems the converstaion goes something like this.

The Threatened: "Can we talk?"

The Decider: "No"

The Threatened "Would you like to debate it?"

The Decider "No"

The Threatened "Would you like to come look?"

The Decider "No"

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Dennis Diehl is a former pastor of 26 years,  who outgrew the Literalism of Fundamentalism.  He writes about Pastoral and Church abuse and is available to speak on such topics or be helpful to any church suffering under abusive (more...)

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