8/15/08

It's evil, don't touch it!

If you have never seen Time Bandits, you need to run (don't walk) to your local library/video store and get it, bring it home, and prepare to enjoy a fantastic film. Of course, this clip is a bit of a spoiler as it is the ending, but it really doesn't have a ton of bearing on the rest of the movie.

The question I am asking today is, does evil really exist? Is there such a thing as evil? Can evil ever really be "incarnate"?

I was reading a review of The Dark Knight (fantastic by the way... see it in IMAX if you can) and this was the question being asked. There is no such thing as darkness, just the absence of light. There is no "cold" only the absence of heat. Is evil like this? Does it actually not exist in and of itself? What if evil is just the absence of something else?

If that is the case, what is the "something else" that is missing when we experience things that are evil? I think "good" cannot possibly cover it. I have been in plenty of circumstances where good had no presence but I didn't experience evil. Ultimately, evil is the word we attach to anything that lacks love. Love is the thing that, when missing, makes evil seem so real.

But evil has no power of its own. Even if you think of a being like Satan or the devil as being evil, the truth is that he/she/it is actually the absence of God (who defines himself/herself as "Love"). There is no point in combatting evil. It is not a real thing. If we stop focusing on the experience of an absence and simply bring back the presence of that which is missing, evil will cease. As trite as this sounds, love really is the answer. We must choose to respond to the absence of it by bringing it with us rather than simply responding by continuing to dwell in love's absence. War is the absence of love. The way to end war and conflict is through love, not more war.

War: it's evil, don't touch it.

17 comments:

Keith W said...

"There is no point in combatting evil. It is not a real thing."

Huh? I'm with you on the anti-war stance,... but I'm not sure how you get the to the above quote/stance when in the context of the Bible and in the context of the life of Jesus.

Keith

A Modern Ancient said...

because, i see the context not really showing evil as existing as an entity but as simply being the absence of good. if we focus on combatting evil, we miss the point.

it's sort of like living your life trying NOT to sin as opposed to living your life trying to DO good. one is a negative approach and one is positive. the former however keeps your focus on sin while the latter keeps our focus on whatever is true, right, good, pure, etc.

if all we do is "stand up to evil" we continue to give evil power. when we simply focus on doing good, evil loses any power that we give it. without us giving it power, it cannot continue. evil exists because we say it does.

the other reason i say that evil doesn't really exist (like cold doesn't exist, just the absence of heat... and dark doesn't exist, just the absence of light) is that it would imply that God created evil. i don't think that is true. i think things in his creation simply choose to live in the absence of good... and we give it the name "evil". God didn't name it, we did... God didn't create it, we did... God doesn't sustain it, we do.

Keith W said...

Eph 6:10-12 (one of MANY verses clearly giving credence to the existence of evil)

I agree with the perspective of lets not focus on sin management, lets focus on the things of the Kingdom and the sin thing isn't a big deal... Pursue God, Love Others, the devil isn't around every corner... I agree!

With that said, you haven't stated your case (there is no evil) on biblical grounds. It's based on logic. And while it's not bad logic, the same kind of logical argument could be made in favor of the actual presence of evil.

I guess I would love to know your perspective on Scripture (I'm not a fundamentalist by the way, far from it) so I can get an understanding of where you are coming from.

In a previous post you mentioned, when supporting your perspective on infant baptism, "The interesting part is that all of these positions have some biblical support."

When countering a perspective you say things like "Age of accountability is not found anywhere in the Bible."

So, ... I'm confused then where your perspective on evil then comes from as you aren't basing it biblically anywhere yet. I would venture to say, modifying your quote, "D.M.'s view of evil is not found anywhere in the Bible."

Love you man, and I'm challenged by your writings.

Keith

Cody W. said...

hey dave, thought I would join the blog since we don't have discipleships on sunday mornings anymore! (unless you'd like to meet sometime during the week at UNF, I am moving in this friday, so once everything is settle in I'd like to be able to start something like that up if you're up for it)

But anyway to the blog,
I definitely agree on the logic and focus of your thesis in this blog. I actually read an interesting junk e-mail with a story correlating the ideas of "cold is the absence of heat" to God as you have. I'll have to find it. However, I gotta agree with Keith on this and that I am really interested in where the Bible could display a confirmation of this logic. And going back to your Baptism blog, your logic could just be called manipulative bias, where using everyday items (i.e. heat and light) to skew and relate to something as awesome as God and Love vs. Evil and Satan. Just thinkin on the opposite side of the tracks for yah

Now to disagree with BOTH of you on your war sentiments. I gotta say dave, you had me going until the last 3 sentences. All of a sudden you throw in "War is the absence of love. The way to end war and conflict is through love, not more war.

War: it's evil, don't touch it." When even in the bible, War had been common (old testament) but you gotta ask WWJD? and I find myself running in circles about my opinion on the subject. Really I would also love to hear your proof that "War is evil". True the War on Terrorism was started for the wrong reasons, and cannot seem to end on the right, but that does not condemn every war that has ever existed? WWII hosted Hitler, a competitor to the antichrist lol, and yet it is evil? Not entering could have definitely just encouraged that evil to spread throughout Europe and Asia with the fall of Russia. The race that brought about and condemned Jesus Christ, that contains the foundations to Christianity, could've been wiped off the face of the planet.
Maybe your right, War is evil. But its a two way street, a window not a mirror. Is it those who start wars that make it evil? So does that make the participants in it, who may be doing it to protect freedom... of this blog even, evil?

We entered the war to save men, because frankly, people loved those troops, those sailors, those victims in Auschwitz, Yes there is politics. But there isn't a complete absence of love in war.
So is War evil?

A Modern Ancient said...

Keith,
I agree that Ephesians 6 talks about evil. There are actually lots of places that mention evil. In fact, there are over 600 in the NRSV. I guess I should refine my point. It is not so much that evil isn't a "thing" but that it is not a God-created thing. WE are the ones who have given it any power. The way it has power is when we don't do good.

Basically, I would say that anything that is not "good" is evil (scary concept). Paul says that anything that is not done in faith is sin. Does that include sitting an watching ESPN (okay, who am I kidding... HGTV)?

My view of scripture, like yours I guess, is far from fundamentalist. It is not meant to be an exact (or even accurate) history. It is not meant to be taken literally (at least not all of it). I go with John Wesley and Walter Brueggemann in how to interpret scripture: Holy Spirit, tradition, experience, and reason. All 4 must exist to interpret scripture. So, logic is an essential part of understanding what scripture means. That is why, even though the Bible never says that "evil doesn't really exist but is just the absence of good", I can still get that out of scripture. I can see that whenever evil takes place, good is nowhere to be found. I can also see that God is consistently not producing evil. These lead me to believe that evil is not a created thing and therefore can be put into the categories of cold and black. I then can read the over 600 references to the word evil with the idea that it is just a word we have created to easily identify the absence of good.

A Modern Ancient said...

Cody,
I would love to get together on a consistent basis. As soon as I have my schedule finalized (I am wait-listed for a couple of classes still) I'll give you a call.

As for war... to say that "we entered the war to save lives" is a complete oxymoron. How can you save lives by ending lives? It's either choosing to care about someone more than someone else (which God doesn't seem to do) and taking one life and sparing another, or it's choosing to value all life the same... even our enemies (sounds like what Jesus said).

Sure, war is common in the OT (although, historically speaking there is not any evidence that these battles actually happened until we see that the Hebrews were conquered by the Persians... Jericho for example shows NO archaeological of the walls ever falling down). But is it the way God intended? If we read the OT in a way of trying to understand themes and concepts, we see that God never intended for us to war with each other. Jump ahead and we see Isaiah and other prophets (Hosea also) condemning wars and armies. Repeatedly, those who do not rely on God as their shield but instead trust in Kings and rulers (condemned again and again by God) are given over to others to be oppressed as opposed to being protected by God.
Isaiah gives a prophecy about when the messiah comes. He says that at that time, men will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning forks and war no more. We as Christians believe the messiah has come. So why are we not living this prophecy?

You bring up Hitler. I addressed it in my post. Hitler, if we are measuring, killed a little over 6 million people. Stalin killed at least 20 million. So why were we focused on stopping Hitler as opposed to stopping Stalin? Because it was in our national interest. Bottom line is, there is no war that can ever accomplish good because good can never come about through means that utilize the absence of good (i.e. killing).

By Christians entering into war, we reject the teachings of Jesus and try to bring about what we want to see happen with the same means the world uses. So, instead of being salt and light, we taste and look like everyone else. How does that change the world?

Even the Hitler example shows how there is no good war. Love could have prevented that conflict. If the world had cared about Germany following WWI and not oppressed them through the unfair Treaty of Versailles, Hitler would have never risen to power and WWII would not have happened the way it did.

Go back further. If the Czars in Russia hadn't oppressed their people for their own gain, Lenin and the October Revolution would have never happened, directly leading to Stalin, WWII, the Cold War, the arms race, etc.

If the Mongols hadn't been greedy and invaded Russia again and again, the Czars would have never come to power.

If the Christian West hadn't given free range to the Mongols during the Crusades in anticipation of their help to retake the Holy Land and drive out the Muslims, the mongols might not have grown strong enough to have continually oppressed the Russians on the border lands (leading to the Russians unifying under the Czars).

Guess what, I can take this all the way back to Cain killing Abel and being banished and building the first city which then began to conquer others... by war. All war is caused by greed and selfishness and the absence of love and good. The ONLY way to truly combat it and stamp it out is to use means other that war... use love and good.

Cody W. said...

Awesome.

I liked your time traveling monologue. I definitely respect your opinion and come to think of it I agree with it... more than I thought I would lol

Its just hard to apply such a simple concept of love, to a world full of evil...

scratch that

absence of good.

And with that world, comes the complications and here we are in a war that no one seems to like, but also some feel obligated that we must finish.

So in the words of the band hellogoodbye,
"take it back to square one"

but one last thought for me: Is your statement that as Christians enter the war, i.e. John B., are they condemned by God for defending their country? Sure wars are corrupt, but does that make those COMMANDED corrupt?

Have fun in Colorado!

Keith W said...

" I then can read the over 600 references to the word evil with the idea that it is just a word we have created to easily identify the absence of good."

Tradition won't let you make that stance... which is one of your interpretation pillars.

And even if logic gets you there ("It's just a word we created,") it's hard to read those 600 references and come to that conclusion as an underlying theme... being true to the text. While I read scripture with a critical eye, I don't think "logic" can be used to bastardize a text (or 600 texts) either.

Bottom line is seek the Kingdom,... luke 9: 57-62. Absolutely. Evil has no real power apart from God allowing it to exist and from us empowering it to have it's way, ... with that said, it's clear (if scripture is the foundation, even when read with a critical eye) that evil is a real thing.

Keith

A Modern Ancient said...

tradition alone won't let us make a lot of stances. that is why the other three have to be given just as much weight (if not more... Holy Spirit for example). The point in including tradition is that we shouldn't just completely dismiss the thoughts and practices of those who have gone before us.

But, tradition would disagree with us when we say that slavery is evil. Tradition taught differently. Our reason, experience, and interaction with the HS trumps the tradition.

I guess I will just have to disagree. I think i am being true to the themes of scripture. I can't see anywhere that says God created evil. I also see where it says that anything that has come into existence has come from God. We do not have the power to create anything eternal or lasting. Evil is simply the name we give to the absence of good, the absence of God. That is how I get there (simply put as there is not a ton of room in a comment section) scripturally. Just because traditionally humankind has given power to evil by focusing on it (basically the entire focus of the medieval church) doesn't mean my logic is trumped by that tradition... in fact, I think it is obvious we have rejected lots of traditions based on experience, logic, and the leading of the Holy Spirit.

I do agree that we overcome lots of faulty logic based on tradition. The reverse does work.

I guess I also don't see scripture as the sole foundation. Scripture doesn't even see itself that way:
1Timothy 3:
14 I hope to come to you soon, but I am writing these instructions to you so that, 15if I am delayed, you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and bulwark of the truth.

The foundation is Jesus and His body... the community of believers coming together. Scripture is a significant tool (probably the most significant) but it is not the foundation.

Overall, I agree with what you say Keith. Maybe I was speaking in hyperbole, but I do think that evil (whether it truly exists as an entity or just exists in our heads) only gets its power when we give it. If we stop focusing on avoiding evil and begin creating environments where evil cannot live (i.e. environments focused on love, serving, and good) then it doesn't matter whether it did exist or not... it won't exist anymore.

Keith W said...

Yes, we'll disagree on the "existance of evil" as I can't read the 600+ scriptures and come to your conclusion without ignoring basic rules of language and communication.

with that said, YES, SEEK THE KINGDOM. FOCUS OUR EYES ON JESUS AND HIS MISSION, BE SALT AND LIGHT (WHICH IS MORE THAN TRADITIONAL EVANGELISM)... Love Love Love,....

It's fun getting to know you my friend.

Keith

A Modern Ancient said...

Keith,
I have a question for you. If evil does exist, where did it come from? If all of creation comes from God, made by and through Jesus (Colossians), then did God create evil? If so, is he all good? If he is not all good (as C.S. Lewis says of Aslan), then how can we trust him? Why should we trust him?

If God did not create evil, how is it a real thing?

It has been great discussing this stuff with you as well. Know this, I am not 100% set on any of this. It is just stuff that I have been working through. In fact, I find it dangerous when people say they are 100% sure of anything... it sort of sets themselves up as a god and removes the mystery of the one, true God.

Keith W said...

I don't know. How is God three unique yet one? How does man have free will yet clearly there seems to be some sort of election in scripture? I'm ok with mystery (and I'm glad you are too; folks who have God all figured out give me the weebe geebes).

Where does evil come from? I guess to some degree you're right; the standard answer would be: free willed creatures rebelled from God,... hence the requirement of them to be absence from God... hence their evil state.

So there, you're right... Free will beings (seen like you/I and unseen like "spiritual beings in the heavenly realm") absent from God and acting upon the freedom to to evil things.

Yet, there are way too many passages that give evil more flesh and meat than simply "absence of God"

How would you interp. Eph 6:10-12 in light of "evil isn't a real thing?" And as you pointed out, there are hundreds of other verses like the Eph. one I've been posting here in which evil is more than just absence of God.

Maybe it comes down to evil is a state (like ice) vs. a noun.

Maybe it's good creatures (created by God to be good) given free will who choose God rejection and now are in "total depravity" so they are thru and thru wicked (absence of God)... and until they respond to God's prevenient grace they are in a cyclical state of God rebellion, in a evil state.

Crap, did I just support your position? I going to bed, I'm tired.

Seek the Kingdom, Love God, Love People,...

Keith

A Modern Ancient said...

I think it is all a mystery. Like I said before, my statement that evil doesn't really exist was probably more hyperbole... trying to say what you've been saying... that we need to stop focusing on "evil management" and focusing on doing good.

But the actual "existence" of evil mystifies me. How did it come into existence and how will it cease to exist? I am just glad that there is a God who is way bigger than I can understand.

Keith W said...

Amen

Cody W. said...

I am not nearly as educated in the bible, or straight up educated as much as either of you guys haha.

But I agree with dave, that God didn't create evil, it is the mere absence of Him. Evil is just the word we, and the bible use to categorize it. Keith, I checked out the Ephesians verse you earlier suggested, and I became yet confused with my own conviction. However, often times we overthink, or over exert our opinions and manipulate them, especially with scripture. Both of your final conclusions are excellent, that really, somebody up there understands it more... well understands it all. One day we'll know.

However, today I will stick with my convictions in that, God did not create evil, however like cold with water "manifests" ice, I think that the absence of God could manifest into to something as demonic as Satan... and even penetrate the "heavenly realms." Basically just because there is an absence of heat (action), its still cold (the reaction). Perhaps evil, is that "feeling" or that emotional reaction to the absence of God.

"For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction" - Sir Isaac Newton

my scattered, unorganized, hopefully thoughtful yet hard for me to understand.... two cents.

Concerned said...

>>"whenever evil takes place, good is nowhere to be found"

Wrong. He was present for my salvation. I was incapable of choosing any good - I was evil - and God was there.

Secondly, when men and women are afflicted with demons, Jesus confronts the presence of evil. Or was He commanding the "absence of love" to depart from the possessed when he ministered? And was it the "absence of love" that audibly spoke to Jesus and fearfully asked to be cast into the nearby pigs before all running into a lake and drowning?

Regarding dark matter, scientists now believe that it may exist because its effects can be measured. Isn’t that interesting?

And regarding God not creating Evil, He didn't create Love either because he didn't create Himself. And He didn’t create Sin, but he did create freewill agents that choose Him or don't. We are "children of the Devil," Jesus said, if we reject Him. I infer from the Scriptures that Evil is more than just the absence of God.

As a side note, I wouldn't want to be in your church when my family is under attack and you tell me that the problem is my lack of love. Jesus would pray for my family and bind that evil with his authority. You'd tell me to think and act more positive. Your approach sounds to me like the same worldly wish-wash I hear everywhere else.

>>"By Christians entering into war, we reject the teachings of Jesus and try to bring about what we want to see happen with the same means the world uses. So, instead of being salt and light, we taste and look like everyone else.

First, this is an offensive comment that sounds like you are condemning the good men and women who serve in our military and love the Lord their God above all else.

And looking at your which-war-begat-which-war rundown, am I to infer that instead of praying for our soldiers and standing with their families that you would, as their pastor, tell them that they have rejected the teachings of Jesus and shouldn't be serving anyway? Your teachings are doing that now.

If you are going to pastor, Dave, you need to understand what you are teaching. In a university setting where these falsities are taught, there’s not as much harm. As compassionate people we’ve all wished the world could just get along - in love. Unfortunately it doesn’t work that way and what sounds good in a classroom or on a blog doesn’t always jibe with the real world.

We know. Mankind is fallen. We can't change the past. But how can we stand up and be victorious in a fallen world? Walk that out first, then impart to others how you did it, and you'll have a church that's setting captives free. It's more than a mind game of relativism and re-labeling Biblical principles (intellectualism).

Your Gospel According to the Black Eyed Peas ("Where is the Love?") is not grounded in the Scriptures, either. We do not live in a theocracy. Governments do not have the same responsibilities as man, so trying to compare the two is a wrong interpretation of Scripture. If my government "turned its cheek" to the murderers that killed over 3,000 people on our soil on September 11th, I'd be looking for a new country.

As Americans, the people, we are providing relief and “love” in the Middle East. We are sending missionaries and aid, as we should, but to put American's lives at risk while we love them, as you suggest, and wait for them all to come to Jesus just isn't good foreign policy.

Secondly, it sounds to me like you are trying to use the government to achieve your desired religious and political ends. If we had Obama as president, he'd bring about the right change, you say. How is this not using the "same means the world uses," as well, which you formerly criticized?

>>Sure, war is common in the OT (although, historically speaking there is not any evidence that these battles actually happened until we see that the Hebrews were conquered by the Persians... Jericho for example shows NO archaeological of the walls ever falling down).

Since when do we sit in judgment of the Scriptures? You want to be counter-cultural and not look like everyone else but I'm pretty sure I saw this episode on the History Channel, too.

Either the Bible's true or it's not. You choosing which parts to analogize and which parts to take literally is elevating your intellectualism above God's Word. Jesus believed the Old Testament word for word, the same Scriptures we read today, including a literal six-day creation. So before you write another blog entry and reason away another part of the Bible, I'd suggest you go to God and figure out who's sitting in judgment of whom.

And in regards to tracing war all the way back to the Garden of Eden, Jesus knew there will always be war and government, and yet you have spoken more about politics in one blog than we have a record of Jesus saying in the whole New Testament.

Regarding Obama, I'll just say this: How can you criticize government in one breath and in the next say that you want to vote for the guy who wants more of it? More taxes. More bureaucracy. More of the government "loving" our neighbors so we as individuals, communities and Christians don’t have to.

Jesus is the only answer, and by living in the power of His kingdom here on Earth and in true community, we achieve as close to Heaven on Earth as we can. This will never come about by way of government programs. The Chinese Church gets this. I pray we will here in America, too.

In the meantime, I expect my government to keep me safe in the face of terrorists and evil-doers who want to kill me for being born into a free country and worshiping a god different than their own. I am saddened when I read your teachings and hope and pray that you will more critically examine what you are being taught and take more seriously the privilege and responsibility of being free to share your opinions and influence others.

A Modern Ancient said...

concerned,

wow, a lot to respond to on a blog comment board. I'll start by saying two things. 1) I disagree with most of what you said, but I appreciate pushback and while I do express and hold strong opinions, I don't assume to know everything so voices of dissent are most welcome here. 2) I think an easier way of addressing all of your concerns would be through e-mail or even conversation and I would be happy to engage in either with you. I allow all comments (even anonymous) but it is much easier to give credibility to those who will stand by their words with their identity. I clicked on the name "concerned" to see if it led me to your blog or blogger identity but it just kept taking me back to my own blog's homepage.

Now, I will say what I agree with in your comment.

"Jesus is the only answer, and by living in the power of His kingdom here on Earth and in true community, we achieve as close to Heaven on Earth as we can. This will never come about by way of government programs."

Right on! If I came across as believing anything different than this then I apologize. As for my decision to vote for Obama, it is because I feel his policies most reflect the goals that the church should have. I have no hope of perfection or even cures for the world's problems coming from the government and I actually struggle with the idea of voting as a Christian, but I have come to the conclusion that many of our values can be expressed through our vote and that it is a way of standing up and being counted.

Next, your views on evil seem to mirror the early heresy of the Manicheans. Their belief was that there were two equal forces battling against each other... that of good and evil. Good was personified (or deified) in God while evil was personified (and deified since it was put on an equal level with good by being considered its opposite) in Satan. The decision by the early church was that this was heretical. There are not two equal and opposing forces just as there are not two equal and opposing gods. There is one God from whom all things come. Evil (as an adjective) is simply the description of the things that reflect the absence of God's presence and influence. By giving evil an actual existence (speaking of it as a noun rather than as an adjective) is exactly the heresy of the Manicheans (Augustine was originally a Manichean and later converted to Christianity and wrote a lot against their heretical beliefs).

As for the "truthiness" of the Bible... I believe every word of the Bible is true, I just don't believe everything is historical fact. You seem to speak to what Jesus believed, but I don't see how you can (or I can) know what Jesus actually believed. We can guess and infer all we want, but to say we actually know is to presume quite a bit.

The difference between truth and fact is that fact is verifiable and indisputable, while truth is over-arching and transcendent. An example would be that a fact is that two atomic bombs were dropped on Japan at the end of the second World War. A truth would be that what Hitler ordered and organized against the Jews (and other oppressed people thought of as a threat to "true Germany") was wrong. Could we call what he did evil? Yes, but as an adjective not as a noun. Would you call the bombs being dropped evil? They killed thousands of civilians (going completely against any type of just war theory) without discrimination. Is it fact that we were on the right side in that war? That is impossible to ever tell, but many believe it is true. I think it is too difficult to tell when to win the war we sided with a ruler who killed 4 times the amount of people than Hitler (Stalin was notorious for his ruthless behavior).

There are facts in the Bible that are verifiable and there are those that have been verified as not being factual. Does that mean the point of the story (which is how it was thought of by the Jews) is not true? Is God faithful? Does He keep His promises? Does He work in ways that are so far beyond our comprehension that there is no way we could ever attribute the success to ourselves? Yes to all of those... but that doesn't change the fact that Jericho's walls never fell down. Archeologists have dug up the ruins, they have seen it, they can tell much of its history and it is evident that the walls didn't fall down. Now, maybe they haven't dug deep enough and someday it will be evident that the walls did fall down. The point is; either way it doesn't matter because the TRUTH of the story is true whether or not the facts are true. There are too many historical in-discrepancies in scripture to get caught up in facts. Even the gospels disagree on the day that Jesus was crucified. Matthew and Luke have two different accounts of Judas' death and the order in which the money was returned and the field was bought, etc. There are simple facts that different manuscripts of the same book differ on. There is a kind mentioned at the end of 2nd Kings and 2nd Chronicles who is listed as being 18 in some manuscripts and 8 in others. Does this matter in the overall truth of scripture? Not to me it doesn't.

As for the war and the support of the troops... the early church used to excommunicate anyone who joined the military service after baptism. Those had already enlisted before their baptism were allowed to finish their service but were not admitted to the eucharist until their service was finished AND they were forbidden to kill anyone for any reason. Do I condemn those who serve in our military? Well, it is not my place to condemn anyone... I am simply trying to communicate the practice of the earliest Christians (those closest to the time of Christ) and challenge the idea that it is even possible to serve in the military AND serve the Lord "above all else." How can serving God ever call someone to value one life over another? That is what we do when we decide to defend someone by killing someone else. Why is the life of the attacker less important to God than the life of those being attacked? If we are all God's creation, then all life is important. If we have the things of God in mind, then we value all life. Further, if we follow the example of Christ then we lay down our lives not only for our friends but for our enemies as well. The oath that is taken by those who enter the military seems to go against Jesus' teaching on taking oaths... what happens when your oath binds you to obey someone ordering you to do something against the teachings of God? I know there are many in the military that, if they felt they were faced with that decision, would disobey the order they felt was against their faith. The problem is, the oath itself has put them at the mercy of an earthly power where they wouldn't have been in that situation had they simply sought to serve God rather than serving their country as well.

I would not assume to say that I am absolutely right on this issue, but I feel I am being consistent with the original teaching of Christianity and with the example given to us by Jesus. Just because bad things will continue to happen and people will continue to choose to do bad things, doesn't mean we should respond in bad ways.

As for me doing the same thing (using tools of the world the same way as the world) maybe there is truth to that. Maybe I should just not vote at all. That is the path many in Christianity have chosen. I simply think that it is permissible (and perhaps I'm wrong) to vote for the lesser of two evils. I also think community is key... not only in the church but in a country as well. We can support each other even if we have vastly different ideas of God. Government programs can help to serve this purpose... church social programs can serve this purpose as well. My vote to increase social programs performed by the government will hopefully give a glimpse to the world of how the Christian church has acted (or at least attempted to act or has professed to act) since its inception. Again, maybe you are right and that I shouldn't even participate in anything having to do with the government. It's something I do think about.

Finally, as for your characterizations of the differences between Republicans and Democrats... there I believe you are wrong. The government has grown more under Republican leadership than under Democratic. The Democratic platform simply calls for increased spending in social programs but decreased in military and defense while Republicans are the opposite. The last balanced budget happened under a Democratic president (albeit a Republican controlled congress was integral in that as well... part of my point that neither is completely "evil" since evil is a characteristic not an entity). I think social programs are far more important than defense. I think helping people is better than controlling people. I agree that the best work can always be done through the church... again this is why I don't expect perfection or anything close to it from the government, but I do think I am choosing the lesser of two evils. To simply think that leaving "more money in people's pockets" is going to solve the problems facing this country is basically saying, "okay, you have more money so fix your own problems," rather than saying, "hey, we are all going to contribute a little more so that those who need help can get it and so that we all have to depend on each other a little bit... like a community should." It's the difference between saying, "you are on your own," and "we are in this together."

Anyway, sorry about the long response. I am humbled by the idea that I will be pastoring someday. I am sorry that you think I would be a danger to that position, but I (based on the limited amount I know of how you think due to your comment here) sort of think the same as you. I value education and I value the search for fact as well as truth. I also value humility and the ability to know that we don't know and the trait of being open to someone else being right about something.