Sunday, February 7, 2010

Esther versus Ruth: Part 2

The book of Esther is so filled with reprehensible characters and abhorrent behavior, it baffles me as to why Jewish people have celebrated Purim for centuries. The Persian king and his cronies come across as completely evil jerks, but even the heroes, the persecuted Jews seem to descend to their enemies' own sinful levels. When the king establishes a decree for the Jews to kill all their enemies--men, women, and children, the Jews kill 75,000 people.

Instead of getting such revenge, why didn't the Jewish people reject the king's decree? Why didn't they explain to the sovereign that they, as followers of the God of hesed and justice, wouldn't stupe to the evil behavior of their enemies?

Also, what's with the total war? Or did the Jewish killers ignore the evil king's decree and only kill the adult males of the households? But then what happened to all of the women and helpless children?

Lastly, as admirable as Esther is because of her courage, should she be held up as an ideal when she agrees to go into a foreign emperor's haren, especially since she is replacing the heroic queen, who refuses to be treated like a plaything?

There are so many troubling issues and actions in this Jewish Bible story. I wonder how I ever read and heard it lectured on as a kid.

Last but not least, it is puzzling why God isn't avidly involved in the story.

That's the bad news.

Next time, we'll take a look at Ruth, a heroine of so much good news.

In the Light,



kevin roberts said...

God is there, Danny, just not in the foreground in this particular painting.

I had Purim explained to me once by a very outspoken New York Jew who fit so many stereotypes it was always a delight to talk with her. She said the meaning of Purim was this:

"We're Jews. They tried to kill us. They failed. Let's eat."

Daniel Wilcox said...

Hi Kevin,

Thanks for dropping by and leaving a comment.

Unfortunately, like Israel/Palestine in the present(where I used to live in 1974), there is more to the quote:

"We're Jews. They tried to kill us. They failed. [We slaughtered them] Let's eat."

It seems only in the Sermon on the Mount and James, etc. does the love of God shine through. Most of the other time, nice religious people spend most of their time killing others for God:-(

I recently finished reading a biography of Cromwell, a biography of Stonewall Jackson, etc. Interesting, but very depressing.

In the Light,


Hystery said...

As a child, I became determined to read only the biographies of women and people of color. Much more edifying. Of course women can be horrible too but so often, they are not and it is good to remember that people can be un-horrible.

Daniel Wilcox said...

Hello Hystery,

Given the nature of 'w.a.r.' men (white anglo religious) and how even their Christian, pious and dutiful convictions often lead to horrendous evil (as in the case of Robert E. Lee), maybe it's best that children not read about them.

Unfortunately, (as you, too, point out), women "can be horrible too."
The most depressing autobiography I've ever read is probably Carol Christ's where her polytheistic beliefs lead her into tragic sexual affairs on a Greek island and other destructive behavior:-( At least she didn't kill thousands of people like Lee or Grant, etc., but I certainly wouldn't recommend her self-destructive life to anyone.

It's so tragic how our worldviews cause so much wrong and suffering in our lives and in others.

In the Light,


kevin roberts said...

Daniel, if Jesus hands me a map, and says "Follow this to get home," and I choose not to follow it and become lost instead, whose fault is it? Mine or the map?

You said:

Most of the other time, nice religious people spend most of their time killing others for God . .

I suggest that killing others excludes one from the set of "nice religious people."

Daniel Wilcox said...

Hi Kevin,

I wish I could agree with you but nearly all of my historical study has shown just the opposite. So many countless times in history it has been the "nice religious" people who have been the killers. I could give you umpteen examples, but no doubt you know of most if not more cases.

I agree with you that so many, in fact most Christians, haven't followed Jesus' plain words.

That is the tragedy of church history from 2,000 years ago to the present right now. A few sought to follow Jesus such as many of the early church fathers, some middle ages monks, some Anabaptists, some Quakers, some Methodists, etc. but it is disheartening to see how the vast majority of "nice devout" Christians always justify their war against others in the name of Jesus and God:-(

In the Light,


kevin roberts said...

Daniel, I won't belabor the point, but I don't think you completely understand me.

Jesus said this:

A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.

He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him.

He that loveth me not keepeth not my sayings: and the word which ye hear is not mine, but the Father's which sent me.

John, I don't know of any followers of Jesus who killed and made war. By doing so they repudiated the words and commands of Jesus himself, no matter how much they tithed mint and cummin or fasted twice per week. I do know of many people who ignored what Jesus said to do and killed and made war instead. Many of them were devout and faithful followers of the Church, but not of Jesus.

Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock: And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand.

A Christian is someone who follows Christ, not someone who seeks to justify the works of the devil in Jesus's name.

Daniel Wilcox said...

Hi Kevin,

Thanks for stopping by again.

I agree with your points very much. I don't think Jesus would ever call anyone to kill. The act is totally contrary to his words and his actions.

My difficulty is that nearly every Christian I know believes contrary to this. They believe God calls Christians to war.

When the Spirit of God showed me based on the Sermon on the Mount that I shouldn't go to Vietnam and kill, I became a conscientious objector and when drafted worked in a mental hospital.
However, that meant I went contrary to what my Christian youth leader told me I should do, contrary to everyone in my church, contrary to every Christian young man I knew. My best friend (who is now a Lutheran pastor) quit being my friend when I decided to oppose Christians going to war:-(

And remember that according to the Fox quote in "Militant Seedbeds of Early Quakerism" at QUF even George Fox and other early Quakers were pro-war:-( That still shocks me, but Bolton seems to have the evidence to prove it.

And I keep meeting Quakers who think killing is sometimes right:-(

I don't know how to handle these historical/contemporary facts--that Christians, leaders, friends, family much stronger spiritually than me,do think God wants Christians to kill.

Why can't they see the truth when it seems so clear?

I've never been able to solve this contradiction since to me the NT and the Spirit of Jesus clearly say
followers of Jesus shouldn't kill.

How do you deal with all of this, even that many Quakers (early ones and contemporary ones) believe it right in some cases to kill?

I don't have an answer.

In the Light,


kevin roberts said...

Hi Daniel-

I'll have to look up the QUF stuff. They are not necessarily reliable, sincere as they are.
Much of what people have said in the past can be misconstrued by people who bring their own interpretations to the conversation, and refuse to see what is actually being said. I will look.

But a follower of Jesus cannot interpret his words in any way to justify killing and war without ignoring the plain sense of what he has been recorded as saying. Without exception, all the proponents of violence in the name of Christianity use arguments other than the words of Christ to justify the procedure. In the past, similar techniques have been used to justify slavery, torture, pogroms, genocide, and so on. Short snippets of his discourses are sometimes cited. Their contrived interpretations prove the rule.

If "nearly every Christian you know believes God calls Christians to war," then you don't know very many Christians. Ask these people point-blank how they justify their beliefs. Listen to what they say. After they tell you, ask them point-blank how they reconcile their beliefs with the words of Jesus. Listen to their answers. Are they justifying their beliefs according to the recorded words of Jesus, the interpretations of their official church body, the learned and subtle distinctions of their historical or professional theologians, the culture they learned on their daddy's knee, or something else? I do not expect that you will be able to find a "Christian" who will try to justify killing and warfare through the words of Christ.

Your Christian youth leader was not a Christian. The Christian young men you knew were not Christians. Your best friend who is now a Lutheran pastor was not a Christian. The various Christian leaders, friends, and family who urge you to kill for Jesus are not Christians. The fact that they urge you to kill indicates that they are NOT spiritually stronger than you. They are sincere, kind and gentle in many ways no doubt, love their country, their pastors, their church congregation, feed the poor, clothe the widows, house the stranger, and follow someone other than Jesus Christ.

This is not black and white. In many ways, it is possible to excuse someone's error by simply saying they are "bad Christians," or "misguided Christians." But someone who denies the words of the Christ in such a fundamental way has put his faith in something other than the Christ.

This apostasy is very old, and has been repeated so often for so many years that so-called Christians consider it orthodoxy.

It's not. You are immeasureably farther along in your spiritual journey than they are because you have learned not to stop your ears and they have not. You are listening to Jesus. I will not speculate who they are listening to, but it is NOT Jesus.

I know lots of Quakers who consider killing to be a good thing. This is simple evidence that apostasy and folly infects Quakers as much as it infects anybody else.

These are hard words, Daniel, but they need to be said. Jesus himself said the broad easy path of social acceptance was not the Way, and although I do not presume to judge who Jesus will find acceptable when he is done with us, I have no trouble identifying what it is he wants me to do, and to be. Neither do you. The problem here is not in you, and not in Jesus. It is in those who want to be Christian without following Christ.

In Christ,


Daniel Wilcox said...

Hello Kevin,

More good points.
As for this point:
>>If "nearly every Christian you know believes God calls Christians to war," then you don't know very many Christians. Ask these people point-blank how they justify their beliefs. Listen to what they say. After they tell you, ask them point-blank how they reconcile their beliefs with the words of >>Jesus. Listen to their answers.

Christians who claim war is right quote from various places in the Bible. They justify their belief in war by
quoting words of Jesus such as his asking his disciples to find some swords; they point out several of his parables that speak of killing such as where the king kills the men who killed his son, and the fact that Jesus didn't tell the centurion to leave the Roman army.

But mostly they rely on Paul especially Romans 13 where the government is called the "minister of God" who "does not bear the sword for avenger.."

And they quote the bloody images in the Book of Revelation.

Elton Trueblood, the mainline Quaker, had some other reasons, too, but I don't remember them.

Evangelical Friends like Southwest Yearly Meeting of Friends Church (formerly CYM, when my wife and I were members) often justify war via the Old Testament.

I don't understand why "liberal" Quakers such as AFSC justify some war, euthanasia, abortion, etc. Maybe they get it from liberation theology like one Quaker author claims.

Of course, many religionists who believe in a totally different god than I do such as Calvinists also have more arguments, but since I believe in the God of Jesus, I don't pay much attention to their reasoning.

One of their books The Peacemongers
really lashes out at all Christian pacifists.

A book that shows various historical perspectives is IVP's book Four Christian Views of War.

I don't know why Quaker nontheists such as Bolton and Amoss Jr. think violence can be justified, but since I'm a committed theist, I am not influenced by them.

There you have it.

I'm glad you know some Christians who are committed to the love ethic of Jesus.

In the Light,


kevin roberts said...

Daniel, the little bit about "swords" in Jesus's conversation with his disciples is exactly what I meant when I said pro-killing "Christians" search out "snippets of his discourses" to justify their views. I had that example in mind.

I will challenge any "Christian" to explain away its ambiguities. What everybody forgets is after Jesus makes this cryptic remark about "two swords," his bumbling disciples, as usual, take him literally and show up with a couple of weapons. Jesus looks at them, looks at the swords, and says "That's enough."

I see no vastly clear support for Just War Theory in this parable.

And there isn't room here, but I see no vastly clear support for Just War Theory in other snippets carefully extracted from the examples Jesus selected for his audience in his parables, or even in the minor quote from Paul. These people have already decided that Killing is Good, and they're looking for support.

For every Scripture passage that they distort into a vague support for warfare and killing, I will provide five that clearly say the exact opposite.

Revelation is irrelevant. How much is metaphor? I hear on the news occasionally that one football team "slaughtered" another. Were guns involved?

The Old Testament is irrelevant. How many Friends say they obey its commands to practice war, while ignoring its commands not to eat bacon? They cannot have it both ways, but that is what they want you to accept.

Consistent life practices on war, capital punishment, abortion, and euthanasia are where Friends differ, and show the influences of their culture as it overpowers the influences of the Light.

The questions are simple, and the answers are clear. Not easy, but clear. People confuse the two.

You think about this a lot. I encourage you to keep thinking about it, and to keep pushing the problem in front of people who would like to accept the expedient answers.

But don't ever let them tell you that Jesus said for them to be that way, no matter how respected they are.

Daniel Wilcox said...

Hi Kevin,

Thanks for the encouragement.

In Christ,


kevin roberts said...

You betchum, Daniel.

You have it right.